Agri Business

No sour grapes: How Kadwanchi’s farmers went against the flow and tasted success

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on May 31, 2019 Published on May 31, 2019

With deft water management, villagers from drought-hit region of Maharashtra reap a bumper crop year after year

Doubling of farmers’ income is one of the poll promises of the BJP government and ryots in the country are hoping that the new government headed by Modi will make good its promise. But farmers in Kadwanchi have no such expectation as they already earn four times as much as the average income of farmers in the country.

Without any government help, these farmers in the drought-hit region of Maharashtra have been cultivating grapes, and the annual income of the village has increased to ₹40-45 crore from a mere ₹74 lakh a few years ago.

“It is not a miracle. We get 350 mm rainfall and save every single drop of it. We ensure no water or soil flows out of the village,” Kadwanchi’s sarpanch Chandrakant Kshirsagar told BusinessLine.

But Kadwanchi is not an isolated example. There are many villages in Maharashtra where farmers are experimenting with water conservation, rainwater harvesting and watershed management to make agriculture a profitable venture.

“Farmers must not depend on government schemes and committees. We have to find our own ways. Kadwanchi falls in Jalna district of Marathwada, which faces frequent droughts. About 20 years ago, the villagers realised that they have to find a solution to the perennial drought and poverty. They then started water conservation works. Since then, we have saved every drop of water. Out of 1,810 hectares under cultivation, we have grape cultivation on over 1,500 hectares. Traders come to the village seeking our grapes,” said Kshirsagar who adds that the village which was once dotted with small houses, now has posh bungalows.

“It is our battle and we have to fight it. We have achieved success without the government’s intervention and we are much ahead of the Modi government’s target of doubling farmers’ income. The key to make agriculture success is grit, efforts and determination” he added.

Reverse migration

According to a survey conducted by the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, the average annual income of farmers in Kadwanchi increased from ₹40,000 in 1996 to ₹3.21 lakh in 2012.

Hiware Bazar village in Ahmednagar district gets 200-300 mm rainfall, but in the last 25 years, farmers have collectively worked on watershed management, changed cropping patterns and vowed not to cultivate water guzzling corps like sugarcane. The annual income of the village has increased by about 38 times in 25 years. The village has not called for a water tanker in the last two decades and over 42 families that had left the village in search of livelihood have returned back. There is no below-poverty line family in this village where groundwater is available at just 20-40 ft, while the surrounding villages are digging up to 400 ft to get water.

In Tasgaon, a town in Western Maharashtra, which faces perennial water scarcity, farmers have come up with new varieties of grapes, while farmers in the Chikotra river valley are tirelessly working on an equitable water distribution model based on cropping pattern and have formed ‘water users associations’.

“More than anything else, water management and distribution is the key to farmers’ welfare. Water in the village must not flow outside. Agriculture and farmers are not priority of any government. Farmers will have to find a solution to the agrarian crisis and the first step towards this is conserving water in our fields,” said Sampatrao Pawar, a key figure in Baliraja dam movement.

In 1980s, farmers in Khanapur taluka united to claim right over the river Yerala, a tributary of Krishna. The villagers constructed a small barrage and named it Baliraja Smruti Dharan which inspired many water movements in the State.

Published on May 31, 2019
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