Chittoor is a drought prone district situated in the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. The major part of the district is covered by red soils. Agriculture is the main occupation here with the main crops being rice, sugarcane, ragi, and groundnuts.
The district is well endowed with a vast network of tanks. Many of them were constructed during the times of the Vijayanagara Empire, and later, by the British and the Zamindars. Unfortunately, the amount of rainfall in recent years has not been enough to fill these tanks. Therefore, the need has arisen for some smaller structures to collect and store the rain.
Rationale for Project
Farm ponds have been found to be an ideal solution to water scarcity in these conditions and have been well accepted by farmers in similar areas. They are relatively small in size, which allows them to be filled by even small amounts of rain, and to fit well in the small plots of land owned by marginal farmers.
Farmers can use the water to meet various needs including crop irrigation, water for cattle, and domestic water supply. It can also act as an additional source of income by supporting activities like fish rearing and brick making. Farm ponds can also help relieve the burden of walking for miles to fetch water, which is most often the duty of women and children in the community. Farmers have control over their own ponds, and even if they receive less than normal rainfall they are able to harvest it and utilize it effectively and efficiently.
Plan of Action
After witnessing the benefits of farm ponds, many farmers are shifting from tank-based irrigation to pond-based irrigation. To help meet the farmers’ needs, plans have been developed to construct more ponds in the district.
The farm ponds that can be constructed in this region are of two types, an ordinary dug out pond and a more advanced version called an MPT (mini percolation tank). The cost of construction varies from Rs.20,000 – Rs.30,000 for a dug out pond and Rs.50,000 – Rs.60,000 for an MPT.
Ramnad, or Ramanathapuram, is a drought prone district in Tamil Nadu. Most of the area is covered by black soil.
Since the ground water here is saline, farmers depend solely on stored surface rainwater.
Rationale for Project
Farm ponds have been found to be a very useful and cost effective method to sustain agriculture in Ramnad. Farmers can use farm ponds both to drain runoff during heavy rains and to store water for the critical growth periods, helping to eliminate problems of both water logging and water scarcity. Saved water can be used later for planting a second round of crops after the first harvest, thus increasing the variety of crops grown throughout the year and improving the productivity of the land. All of these benefits of farm ponds will lead to increased incomes for the people.
After witnessing the benefits of the ooranis in their village and subsequently the farm ponds constructed by some farmers, many people in Ramnad have been inspired to build farm ponds on their own land. However, these people need assistance.
Plan of Action
The project aims to support approximately 50 farm ponds in this region. The farmers are looking forward to working with DHAN to make this vision a reality. The first phase includes the construction of 25 farm ponds.
The farm ponds constructed in this region are around 15- 20m wide, 20-25 m long and 2 m deep, and cost between Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 30,000 each.
Pudurnadu is a tribal pocket of the Javadhu hills in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. The mild climate, good rainfall and fertile soil of Pudurnadu are ideal for growing crops like rain-fed banana (native to Pudurnadu) and other banana varieties, mango, jasmine and few vegetables like Lablab, beans, and chili.
However, despite being endowed with rich natural resources, fertile land, and high rainfall it is an underdeveloped area. As is the case with most tribal communities in India, the people here live in deprivation and poverty.
Most of the families in this area rely on rain-fed agriculture as their main source of income, making the entire tribal economy dependent on rain. This presents the inhabitants of Pudurnadu with serious problems. The money made by monsoon farming is quite low, and due to the uncertainties of rainfall, the farmers can never be assured of even a meagre income. Furthermore, the people face unemployment for four to six months of the year when there is no rain for their fields.
Rationale for the project
The remoteness of the place has preserved the tribal people’s traditional agricultural practices, which are organic by default. As the niche market for organically produced horticultural products is quickly expanding, the traditional knowledge of the tribal farmers can be capitalised on to secure better prices for their produce and act as a means of social and economic empowerment.
However, before they can try to get better prices for their produce, the tribal people must find a solution to their main obstacle in growing horticultural crops, which is the lack of a steady source of water. This is where the farm ponds can be useful, as the ponds can help the farmers not only to catch and store the rainwater but also to tap the subsurface water that is available for a major part of the year.
Unfortunately, efforts by some farmers to excavate farm ponds have not been successful. They were unable to construct strong stonewalls on the sides, which are necessary features of a farm pond. If the farmers receive assistance in the digging of farm ponds and/or the construction of stone retaining walls, they are far more likely to have enough water to start horticulture production.
Plan of Action
DHAN’s present project is intended to benefit 30 poor tribal families by helping them to build or renovate farm ponds. The water from these ponds will significantly increase the farm incomes of the households and improve their nutritional security. Higher incomes will likely induce further investment by the farmers, in projects such as land levelling and bund creation.
© Copright DHAN 2006.