Reported By : Mr.K.C Sahu, Head Livelihood and Ms.Gayatri Mahar,Assistant Manager, Climate Change
Climate change and climate variability often leads to drought and drought like situations in different countries across the world. The Indian subcontinent has been witness to similar situations for two consecutive years due to El-Nino effect. As a result of which, acute water stress due to lack of rainfall for an extended period of time leads to widespread crop failure, un-replenished ground water resources, depletion in lakes and reservoirs, shortage of drinking water and reduced fodder availability.
In times like these, poor and marginalized sections of the society including small and marginal farmers, women (farmers) and children especially the girl child are the most affected. Small and marginal farmers experience erratic fluctuations in agricultural production, incomes, debt and human development every year. More importantly, repeated crop failures then, lead to farmer suicides. Such was the case with the small farmers of the intervening villages in Churchu, Hazaribagh.
The tribal dominated Jharkhand State of India faced drought- like situations seven times since 2000. The severity of drought is showing an increasing trend since the last decade leading to decrease in food production by almost a half. Small and marginal farmers are the worst affected in drought situations. The observation is derived from our first-hand experience of implemented programmes of Livelihood in the villages of Churchu Block, Hazaribagh; the four villages, namely, Oriya, Dhaman Sariya and Kuwabari.
Here, the rain-fed dependency and table lands sloping towards narrow valleys make the farming systems vulnerable to the fluctuating weather. This is aggravated, in the case of small farmers, due to the lack of adequate irrigation facilities. In order to address the woes of small marginal farmers, a strategic choice of focusing on conservation through watershed management was made.
Keeping in mind the same, the concept of watershed management, wells and check dams were built through active participation of villagers. Soil erosion and water retention was checked through techniques like field bunding, cross furrow across the slope. Replacing synthetic fertiliser with organic manure and pesticides along with leguminous crop cultivation, seed treatment, crop rotation, inter cropping, mulching, green mulching and hedge grow plantation was emphasised. Plantation of horticulture and agro-forestry trees at the fence helped the creepers and climbers to grow and conserve soil and moisture.
The crop cultivation planning included cultivating paddy through the process of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the Khariff season, vegetables during rainy and winter season and pulses and millets during summer.
Apart from technical inputs, Community Based Organisations like Water Users Committee, Farmers Club, and Self Help Groups were formed to ensure maintenance and sustainability of watershed structures. These institutions were rigorously involved in the different stages of project implementation from planning, implementation, monitoring and sharing the benefits. A total of 25 self-help groups and 12 farmer’s groups have been formed. All the groups have been linked with the bank and are regularly accessing credit. A token of INR 250 was collected from the farmers who are using the water and this amount was further utilised for maintenance of the structures. With the intervention, 20 acres of upland (which mostly lie fallow in case of delay and scarcity of rain) have been treated and 86 families have been benefitted.