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.
‘Gairaan’ treated with vegetational and soil conservation treatments
--------- Continued in Part II-------