How a retired banker piped a canal to green his village

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on April 28, 2021

S Venkateswara Reddy

From ‘no rain, no crop’, the village is reaping it big now

A retired banker’s passion has turned a once-dry village green, harvesting two-three crops a year.

S Venkateswara Reddy was wondering what he should do after retiring from State Bank of India (as an Assistant General Manager). “I thought I should take up farming, continuing our family legacy,” he says.

The biggest challenge, however, was that his village,Mallepalle, like hundreds of others in the drought-prone Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, had no assured water supply.

“Then, I discovered that the Handri-Neeva Canal is just 2.5 km from my field,” he said explaining his journey to BusinessLine.

He did a survey and found that he needed to convince 30 farmers holding 160 acres along the way to get access to the canal. It was not easy to convince the farmers, who also belonged to different political parties.

“But I convinced them to give me the right of way to lay pipes. The bargain was that these farmers would also get access to water,” he said.

Recalls K Jayaramudu, a former sarpanch of the village, “Initially, 17 of us agreed to join the effort. Later, another 13 joined.” Jayaramudu now has six acres under irrigation.

The banker that he had been, Venkateswara Reddy quickly arranged for bank loans and raised ₹30 lakh to buy PVC pipes and lay trenches, standing as a guarantor for all the loans.

As the land got piped water and turned green, “they are all happy. We mainly grow cotton. Some of us grow red gram, groundnut, jowar, maize and vegetables,” he beams.

The upcoming kharif is the fourth harvest after the villagers started drawing water from the canal. “We have already started repaying the loan, with yearly EMI liability of ₹8.70 lakh. We have paid it for three years already,” says Reddy.

Seeing the transformation of the fields of 30 farmers, the others joined in. After three years, about 800 acres in the village are under piped irrigation.

From the situation of “no rain, no crop,” as Jayaramudu says, the village is raising two crops.

Seeing the change that he has wrought, Venkateswara Reddy was unanimously elected sarpanch of the village in the recent local bodyelections.

FPO plans

With the assured water supply and two crops, the villagers now plan to set up an FPO (Farmer Producer Organisation). “We would like to eliminate middlemen in selling the produce and purchasing inputs directly from manufacturers,” Venkateswara Reddy says.

“We have registered Nagali (Plow) FPO with 40 farmers. We are going to enlist 300 more this year,” he says.

But this success story is not without its ‘side-effects’. A farmer’s leader in the area has raised concerns over drawing water from the canal that’s meant for farmers in a different area.

Published on April 28, 2021

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