Thursday, 18 July 2013

Visit to Kadvanchi Part II

18 June 2013

Continued from Part I

We pass through the main village habitation locally called Gavthan. To our initial surprise the Gavthan is full with dilapidated abandoned houses. Only a few houses are open with some old ladies moving around and doing some chores. Some are seen in extremely poor condition. We ask Nandu, the local volunteer youth who is accompanying us, why it was so. “Most of the villagers have gone into their field for staying. They have built houses there and abandoned their main houses in the village. You have to give proper attention to your farm which has very high value assets.” He told. That sounded great sense.

I asked Nandu how much would be the average income of the grape farmers. He said, “average net income per year goes to about 1 million Rupees per farming household in this village. Even the landless labourers here are skilled ones and earn about 2 lakhs in a year. One needs skilled labour for pruning and harvesting of grapes. Most of these labourers are part of the labour groups who take the work on contract basis. Some have gone further and have purchased lands in the village from this income and they are no longe landless. Some of the poor houses which you saw in the Gavthan are actually recent migrants came here in search of work and not the original villagers.”

We visit one farm of Mr. Chandrakant Kshirsagar. The house was completely empty since the entire family had gone somewhere out. Here you can not just go to a house and expect that they would be there available to meet you.This farmer has more than 25 acres of land half of which has been developed into orchards of grape and pomegranate. There is also a greenhouse where he cultivates bell peppers. He has a very big pond which has a storage capacity of 20 million litres. The water is drawn from his 4 wells during the rainy season whenever it is available and stored in the ponds. The irrigation is then given to the land through drip pipelines.

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A lined farm pond with 1 million litre capacity

My scepticism was not completely gone away. I asked Nandu, “What about the small farmers having 2-3 acres of land. How do they manage.” Nandu himself was a young farmer with small holding. He and his brother together manage their 5 acres of land, 2 acres of which is irrigated. On about 0.5 acre, there was a small farm pond. There was about 0.5 acres of grapes. About 0.5 of acre is devoted to Pomegranate and 1/4th of an acre has one shednet covered greenhouse standing on it. Rest of ¼ acre is used for house and animal barns etc. But that did not complete picture. The interspaces in pomegranate had neat rows of rainfed Soybean and we also spotted a patch of vegetables near house. I peeked into the shed net structure. There was a green uniformly grown stand of sorghum. That was sweet sorghum. It gives higher fodder yields under shed net. They would also get some grains for home use. After harvesting he will be planting chillies in there. He showed me an arrangement where all the waste water from the house was getting collected in a tank and then pumped into drip lines. He first started using that in this year’s drought and he could save his pomegranate plot with it. After seeing this, large number of farmers made this arrangement on their own for themselves. That was really a ‘wow’ moment for me as the last bit of my scepticism had vanished then.

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Nandu with his 2 acre land

This much is the physical part of the story. There is a great philosophical and theoretical angle to it about which I shall post in coming two days. Keep reading. Your comments are most welcome.

Continued in Part III

Visit to Kadvanchi Part I

18 July 2013

I visited Kadvanchi village in Jalna district of Maharashtra yesterday. The village has been in the news especially since its success of showing Maharashtra how a large number of farmers in a single village can have millionaire farmers. It is not just the simple money brought in through grape farming but how community based efforts for soil and water conservation work have helped to develop and sustain that prosperity in the village.

I visited the village with Mr. Pandit Vasare, Agricultural engineer from a local NGO, Marathwada Sheti Sahayak Mandal. In spite of watching the video documentary on YouTube, I was very much sceptic about it. “It might be just the story of some few handfuls of rich farmers in the village who have prospered due to improved water availability”, I was thinking.

As we entered the village boundary, Mr. Vasare started explaining me about the watershed, its ridge lines, drainage lines and where do they start. Nicely done and well maintained field bunds had not allowed water and soil to go out of the fields. Many of the cotton plots were seen with vigorous plants with drip irrigation lines provided to them. Then he showed me one distant grape farm. Near to the farm is one farm pond which has been lined with plastic. My scepticism was still persisting. But as we moved further this scheme of grape plots accompanied by plastic lined ponds seemed to be just scattered all across the area.

While we were standing there, some farmers stopped by as they are passing by. More than greeting an outside officer like me, that was to say hello to Mr. Vasare. They start talking about grape and cotton crops and recent weather advisories. I ask them about how their watershed is doing these days. They tell me the story of how they could maintain their grape farms during the drought period this year in even lesser water quantities than the ones recommended to them. The village has about 500 households of which approximately 300 have grape plantation of at least half acre. There are few who have grapes planted on more than 20 acres. Every farmer having grape is also having a farm pond as per its own requirement. They told me about the periodic work they undertake through their watershed committee. They want to undertake some major maintenance work with the funds available with the committee. One person who is active in the committee tells Mr. Vasare, “This time We do not want anything from you, no funding support or even your technical expertise. But please just be there when we start the work.”

We finally reached one last highest spot in the village which is a large stretch of sloping land and is community owned grazing land locally called as ‘Gairaan.’ Mr. Vasare showed us the treatments done in that area and how it has helped to increase the ground water levels downstream. The treatments have not just helped percolation of water in the ground but it has improved the vegetation in the area. Apart from the plantation done, due to proper protection a large number of native plants and trees have started to grow in spite of the free grazing allowed in the area these days.

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‘Gairaan’ treated with vegetational and soil conservation treatments 

--------- Continued in Part II-------