India Interior

When one revival leads to another

Sarita Brara | Updated on September 21, 2018 Published on September 21, 2018

The farmers carried out the de-silting work by forming self-help groups Sarita Brara   -  Sarita Brara

The farmers carried out the de-silting work by forming self-help groups

Mookan and other farmers of the Veppankulam village in Nanguneri block of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu, have a reason to smile. Come winter rains, the farmers in this area will have ample water to irrigate their parched fields. That’s because the de-silting of a waterbody, their only source of irrigation, has now been completed.

By digging out the silt and using the same mud to raise the height of the bund surrounding it, it will now be possible to store 3.04 million cubic feet of water. A channel too has been widened for the flow of water to irrigate fields on the other side of the dam.

No attempt had been made to de-silt this irrigation facility for the past 25 years, hence enough water could not be stored during the rainy season. As a result, the fields had been virtually rendered barren and this was disastrous for the villagers of the area.

Hand-holding the project

The farmers approached the Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), which has been involved in the revival of over 100 minor irrigation tanks and lakes in the drought-hit areas of Tamil Nadu.

SST, the social arm of TVS Motors, started the project by first helping the farmers form self-help groups. They familiarised the villagers with the concept of de-silting, guided them on how to get financial assistance from the banks, approval from the government and technical support for de-silting.

 

The farmers carried out the de-silting work by forming self-help groups

 

 

 

Two self-help groups were formed from among the farmers — Gundu Malli and Salaide Matha. The farmers were also taught conservation of water using methods such as rainwater harvesting and building check-dams. The farmers were made aware of other methods to increase crop yields without over-fertilising the land. The self-help groups took the responsibility of monitoring the site at regular intervals and overseeing the work of de-silting till its completion.

This part of Tamil Nadu receives rainfall from October to December and the farmers are hopeful that this time when the rains come, they will have enough water to irrigate their fields spread over 85 acres.

Growing hope

Mookan, the farmer from Veppankulam with two acres of land, says that till last year they faced water shortage during the harvesting season. Water stored during the rains would dry up 20 days before the harvest, but now he is hopeful that will not happen. “We expect the water to last for at least 100 days and I and other farmers will be able to irrigate our fields when it is most required.”

The farmers in this area grow paddy, black gram, banana and cotton. And not just Veppankulam, farmers from Muthulapuram, Puthukulam, Retti Veppankulam and Meenatchinathapuram will reap the benefits of the irrigation tank. Mookan feels paddy yield will increase from five to eight tonnes which will nearly double his income. “I will be able to clear my debts and save some money for my daughter’s marriage.”

Farmers expect the de-silting to help recharge wells in the lower ridge of the catchment area, to address the problem of depleting ground water levels.

It is not just about de-silting, the formation of self-help groups has helped villagers, specially women, take up other income generation activities. “I was able to buy 30 hens and now I am making money by selling eggs,” says Jeba Ruby, who took a loan earlier to buy cows and goats. “I have been able to pay back the loans that I took,” she says with new-found confidence.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

Published on September 21, 2018
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