Agri Business

Oases in parched farm lands

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on May 01, 2017

Farmer Kashappa Kappatnavar near his farm pond at Basapur.VISHWANATH KULKARNI

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Man-made ponds are helping farmers overcome the vagaries of drought



In the drought-prone region of Navalgund in North Karnataka, Nagappa Yavagal, a small farmer of Alagavadi village, managed to double the cotton yields from his two-acre farm to around 12 quintals per acre this year.

The rains played truant for the third successive year, but a small farm pond he had created in a corner of his plot helped him irrigate his field and nurture the crop during September-October last year, when drought had already made its mark felt in the area.

“Two rounds of irrigation helped improve my yields, fetching a gross income of over ₹1 lakh,” says Yavagal, who is in his mid-fifties.

The pond, constructed with the assistance of Hubbali-based Deshpande Foundation, a non-governmental organisation promoted by tech-veteran and social entrepreneur Gururaj Deshpande, was a life-saver, says Yavagal.

Kashappa Kappatnavar, a mid-size farmer in Basapur, has a similar story to tell: he managed to grow garlic worth over ₹1 lakh for the first time from his five-acre farm.

“We used to earn ₹30,000-40,000 a year earlier, but now our incomes have improved after we started irrigation from the water stored in farm ponds using sprinklers,” he says.

At nearby Ballarwad, a Santosh Sherewad, a young farmer, has planted papaya in some four acres of his 10-acre plot, and also started a bamboo plantation two years ago.

Success stories

Rainwater harnessed through farm ponds is coming to the rescue of farmers in the black soil regions of North Karnataka, where traditionally crops such as chillies, cotton and jowar were grown. The success stories of such farmers has prompted a rush by others to create farm ponds in their fields.

The State Government’s flagship agriculture scheme, Krishi Bhagya, which subsidises the creation of such rainwater harvesting structures, is seen inspiring farmers to create farm ponds in their fields.

Farmers who could not avail of assistance from the government scheme are creating farm ponds on their own with the help of Deshpande Foundation, which has made earth-moving equipment available at a marginal cost. The Neer Sinchana scheme run by the Foundation is funded by the Tata Trust.

“The demand for creating farm ponds is high and farmers are willing to pay for it. When we started the initiative four years ago, farmers were not willing to spare even a gunta of their land for the structures,” says Naveen Jha, CEO of Deshpande Foundation, which has been working mainly in Navalgund and Nargund taluks.

“We have deployed about 22 earthmovers, and a staff of 60, including drivers and structure experts, have been building the ponds over the past 5-6 months.

This year, we have created some 1,000 ponds, against 600 last year," Jha adds.

Drought-proofing the State

“Creation of farm ponds is one way of drought-proofing the State.

The objective is to enhance incomes from rainfed agriculture through higher productivity,” says State Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda.

Through Krishi Bhagya, the State started creating farm ponds about two and a half years ago.

“Over the last one and half years, it has picked up well in Gadag, Dharward, Bagalkot, Bijapur districts and parts of Bellary and Kolar,” Gowda says.

Such ponds, he adds, can help farmer withstand a rain deficit of up to 40 per cent.

The Karnataka Agriculture Department has so far funded the creation of 1.3 lakh ponds. “We expect the number to touch 1.6 lakh by June,” says Gowda.

The government is looking at extending the scheme to Malnad, the Western Ghats and even the coastal regions of the State, he adds.

Each farm pond can take care of the water requirement of up to 5 acres. The ponds, which are in varying sizes, are helping create extra water storage in the area, which can be used to feed cattle, grow fodder and even to nurture the existing crops.

“I saw others doing it, so I decided to create a pond on my farm as droughts have sharply shrunk my earnings,” says Shivappa Harapanahalli, a large farmer, whose family owns close to 50 acres.

Similarly, Venkangouda, another large farmer with over 50 acres in Kallapur village, has also decided to dig a farm pond with the assistance of the Deshpande Foundation.

“I have two borewells on my farm, but I can’t use the water as it contains high doses of flouride and calcium,” he adds.

Under the Krishi Bhagya scheme, farmers are paid a grant of ₹1.3 lakh to set up a farm pond and purchase the micro irrigation equipment such as sprinklers.

Those seeking assistance from the Deshpande Foundation have to pay for the diesel costs and a daily fee of ₹2,000 per earth-moving equipment to cover the costs of drivers and other staff. “We have invested about ₹10 crore in this initiative,” says Jha.

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Published on May 01, 2017
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