27 November, 2018

Conserving soil and water for a sustainable living

Govind and Raosaheb are among the many farmers who have benefitted from the de-silting activities undertaken in Kirtangali village of Maharashtra. The Trusts, through their concerted efforts, have helped the villagers secure water and follow sustainable farming practices in the area

Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy. However, farmers in many areas of the country face problems due to the decreasing soil fertility, unavailability of water for irrigation, low production, fluctuation in market prices, etc. The farmers in Kirtangali village, located in Sinnar taluka of Maharashtra’s Nashik district, were going through a similar situation. Lack of water harvesting structures had led to a water crisis. In order to resolve their problem, Tata Trusts and Yuva Mitra, a development partner of the Trusts, joined hands with the Government of Maharashtra and began working on the Galmukta Dharan-Galyukta Shivar scheme. The initiative aims at securing water for agriculture and fulfilling the drinking needs of villagers in Nashik district of Maharashtra.

Raosaheb happily exhibiting his green fodder plot

The team began its work of restoring the water storage capacity of old structures and water bodies in Kirtangali, a by de-silting them. The project kicked off with the field coordinator conducting meetings with the villagers, explaining them about the scheme and asking them to identify structures, where the project could be implemented. Based on their suggestions and after conducting a site visit, the team began intervention in Kasari nala. However, there were many challenges of working on that site. Farmer encroachment in the nala area was high and the nala was full of bushes. With more than 100 pipelines crossing it, the nala bed was silted up to the ground level.

The team followed a systematic approach and convinced the village sarpanch to be involved in the activity. Gradually, other community leaders also became positive and readily extended their help. A de-silting committee was formed to look after all the work. Regular meetings were conducted to solve the problems pertaining to encroachment, silt transportation and the obstructing pipelines.

Recharge shaft placed by GSDA in Kasari nala bed

Young farmers were explained about the initiative and were asked to cooperate with the project team. Govind Suryabhan Chavanke is one such farmer whose land encroached on the nala. When the committee had a discussion with his father, he refused to support the activity. However, Govind understood the benefits of the project and asked his father to remove encroachment. His father eventually agreed. He developed his one-acre land by applying silt and his well is now full of water that ensures irrigation to his field.

To deal with the issue of pipelines crossing through the nala, the de-silting committee held discussions with the pipeline owners. Consequently, over 125 farmers removed their pipelines. For transporting the silt, the committee negotiated with a transportation vendor so that the farmers got the best rates.

With the combined efforts of the project team and the villagers, the de-silting activity was completed. Kasari nala was deepened by 2 metres and widened by 30 to 35 metres, as a result of which its storage has increased by 71.457 TCM or 71,45,660 litres. After surveying the improved nala, the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA) found that the area is a good recharge zone. Using a recharge shaft, high percolation can be achieved and this can help restore the water table of the area. Therefore, 10 recharge shafts were placed in the nala bed. This nala and percolation tank has a natural way to get filled and the nearby Kadwa canal helps in filling the structure. In order to look after the maintenance of the structure and to take care of water management, the project team has helped the villagers form a Water User Association (WUA). The recharge shafts are helping in fast ground water recharge and hence the wells are filled with water.

Conserving soil and water for a sustainable living
Recharge shaft placed by GSDA in Kasari nala bed

Earlier, farmers in the area used to grow only rain fed crops. Since the completion of the de-silting activity, they are now assured of irrigation and have started growing corn, onion, tomato, etc. This intervention has helped in recharging 106 wells around the structure and impacted over 300 farmers spread across four villages. It has not only helped in agriculture transformation, but also driven farmers to start farm allied activities like cow rearing. Raosaheb Vitthal Chavanke, a farmer in the area, has developed his unused land by applying silt removed from the nala bed. He has planted onion on that land and is expecting produce of over 50 quintals. He has also increased his green fodder area and added three cows in his cattle shed. This project has helped farmers in the area have a sustainable livelihood in many ways.