Agri Business

Rain-starved Aurangabad farmers line up alternative livelihood plans

Surabhi Aurangabad | Updated on June 20, 2019 Published on June 20, 2019

The fields have been tilled, the soil is ready and now it’s a daily watch for clouds and possible rains for farmers in villages near Aurangabad.

Water is a scarce commodity in this region, which has been hit by consecutive droughts.

“All we need is one season of good rainfall. It will make a big difference,” says Shiv Mhatre, a farmer in Shelgaon village, reminiscing about how there was much more rain in the region some 20 years ago.

Shelgaon and Narla are two of the worst drought-affected villages in Aurangabad.

“Farming is no longer seen as a viable profession. People don’t even want to marry their daughters to farmers now,” says another farmer in Nallar.

Prasanna Patil, a founder-trustee of Savitri Bai Phule Mahila Ekatma Samaj Mandal (SPMESM), and Director-Projects at Hedgewar Hospital, who works with farmers in the region, says that till now there has just been a quick pre-monsoon shower in Aurangabad. “The water levels in these areas is way below the dangerous level.”

The actual rainfall received by the region is 135 mm (average 675 mm) resulting in severe water crisis.

Farmers in the area are now exploring alternative livelihood opportunities as they wait for rains. Some have ventured into goat rearing and paper-bag making.

The initiatives have been started as part of an intervention by PwC India Foundation along with SPMESM.

“The intervention started with restoration of defunct water structures in Shelgaon in 2017-18 and gradually moved to Narla in 2018-19. Water tanks were handed to each family and defunct water structures were restored,” said Jaivir Singh, Vice-Chairman, PwC India Foundation.

Part of the intervention was also encouraging farmers to do goat rearing. “In Narla, a total of 227 goats were requested while in Shelgaon, 304 goats were asked for,” said Melinda Serrao, Associate Director, Corporate Responsibilty, PwC India.

The price of a single goat works out to be about ₹6,000, of which the farmer pays ₹2,000 and the rest is borne by PwC India Foundation.

“The goat is also a form of security for us. Earlier, we had to take a loan against our jewellery or sell them off in case of an emergency,” noted a farmer’s wife.

Another intervention has been paper-bag making for Mumbai and other towns in Maharashtra, which is in much demand after the plastic ban was enforced. However, with no bus service, transportation of the newspapers and the bag is posing to be a problem.

Villagers are now being familiarised with travel to Mumbai with supplies and paper bags.

The journalist travelled to Aurangabad at the invitation of PwC India Foundation.

Published on June 20, 2019
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