The traditional practice of rainfed agriculture, prevalent across rural India, carries serious livelihood-related risks. Rainfall anomalies and extreme events like droughts or heatwaves often expose millions of farmers to crop failures and economic loss. Sashmita Nayak, a resident of Batamaha village in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, used to be one of those affected farmers.
With mechanised irrigation systems priced out of their reach, farmers like Ms Nayak would spend hours manually watering their fields during the June-to-November Kharif season, in case of shortage of water. If the monsoon was inadequate, their yields—and incomes—suffered. “After the rains, we wouldn’t be able to harvest any significant crops. Hence our earnings were very low,” says Ms Nayak, who has two acres of land, both of which stayed unirrigated for large parts of the year.
Her troubles, though, are a thing of the past. With assistance from the Tata Trusts and its associate organisation - Livolink Foundation, ten tribal families from Batamaha, including the Nayaks, today have access to solar-powered water pumps. These pumps provide irrigation water all year round and have greatly reduced the families’ manual drudgery and money-related worries. Ms Nayak now grows potatoes, chillies, cabbage, tomatoes, Maize and brinjals on her two-acre farm. “We sell the surplus vegetables and make around Rs20,000 every season.” she says happily.
The solar lift pumps are just one facet of an irrigation-augmentation programme launched by Tata Trusts and Livolink Foundation in Kandhamal. The Trusts work extensively across the areas of livelihoods, capacity-building, women’s empowerment and more. It launched the irrigation project in the year 2022 for 10 households in Batamaha, a village with tribal households, most of which are economically and socially disadvantaged.
“Our goal is to help these marginal farmers access alternative sources of irrigation in the face of droughts and flooding, and to support sustainable livelihoods for them,” says Binod Bihari Das, Livolink Foundation.
Livolink’s solar lift irrigation system, provide a regular and reliable supply of water to the fields in Batamaha, leading to higher crop yields and incomes for the farmers. The lifts are powered on solar panels which are constructed near the farms itself. Additionally, a lot of time and effort have been saved by the systems. The pumps are ecologically sustainable, operationally simple and effective, and easy to maintain.
Besides installing the solar lift system, the Livolink Foundation has also set up a water user group (WUG) in Batamaha. Comprising of local residents, the WUG maintains and assists in the operations of the different solar lift irrigation unit s. Livolink has installed nine more such units across different villages in the Kotagarh block.
The WUG was trained and capacity built to ensure they are able to undertake maintenance and operations of the solar powered water system. The team at Livolink also provides inputs regarding quality seeds, fencing materials and ways to build the capacity and enhance overall productivity of the farming practices.
The interventions by Tata Trusts and Livolink Foundation in the tribal belt of Kandhamal are erasing the woes of the farmers. By reducing their dependence on rainfed agriculture and enhancing their financial security, the initiative is seeding prosperity across the region.