Putting drought behind — How a village in South India increased groundwater availability by 50-80%
Ukkali, a village in India’s Karnataka state, is witnessing a marked change in the economic status of its farm households. A watershed management initiative of the Power Grid Corporation of India and ICRISAT has made more water available for farming and provided women skill-based employment, pushing household incomes up in the last five years.
An estimated 1600 farm households in the village located in Vijayapura district are direct beneficiaries of the project. Water scarcity, poor crop and livestock productivity, poor soils with low organic carbon, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc was the picture of the drought-hit village before the project began.
Starting 2014, nearly 150,000 m3 rain water harvesting capacity was created after the construction of 23 check dams, renovation of two and desilting of seven existing ones. Forty farm ponds, 16 mini percolation tanks, gully checks, one wastewater treatment plant and 23 borewell recharge pits contributed to increasing capacity. As a result, nearly 300,000 m3 of runoff water was harvested, increasing groundwater availability by 50-80%. This in turn brought nearly 500 ha of additional land under the plough.
Increased crop productivity
Following efforts to make more water available, the project attempted increasing crop productivity through improved land form management practices such as the Broad Bed & Furrow (BBF) method, which was promoted in more than 100 ha for increasing soil moisture. Field bunding, another land form management, now practiced on nearly 600 ha, helped arrest soil erosion, increased in-situ soil moisture and enhanced base flow. These interventions have helped increase overall crop yield by 30-60%.
Smart cultivars for improved returns
Climate-resilient crop varieties, balanced nutrient management, crop diversification with high value crops and improved crop management on more than 1000 ha with cultivars of pigeonpea (TS 3R, ICPH 2740, BSMR 736) and chickpea (JG 11, JAKI) have helped realize crop yield increases between 10% and 14%. Local pigeonpea varieties under drought conditions could provide about 1250 kg per ha. The wilt-resistant and drought-tolerant variety TS 3R has helped farmers harvest between 1500 to 1750 kg per ha.
Bund plantation with more than 80,000 saplings of Gliricidia and neem, horticulture and floriculture on 100 ha, besides wasteland development, have been promoted for enhancing greenery and incomes. Providing fodder varieties such as improved multi cut sorghum and dual purpose maize on 10 ha area have benefited 20 farmers so far.
The project is helping generate additional income of `5000-10,000 per year per beneficiary household. Empowering women is helping the families earn an added income of `6,000. More than 500 women were trained in tailoring while 300 women have taken up kitchen gardening to cultivate vegetable to cut household expense and boost household nutrition. Goat rearing, vermicomposting, bread making and small-scale enterprises such as mom and pop stores and textile stores have financially strengthened women. To support these women-led enterprises a revolving fund was set up.
Farmer training to build capacity
Experts from the College of Agriculture, Vijayapura, have been training farmers. About six animal health camps were organized for over 800 farmers where more than 1000 animals were examined. Livestock was vaccinated against foot and mouth disease and other infections. About 160 farmers also visited ICRISAT-Patancheru and were exposed to farm practices in Maharashtra for further learning. Land, water, nutrient and pest management training besides soil health awareness, were provided through agricultural universities, regional agricultural reserach stations and Krishi Vigyana Kendras.