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Jhumki- The Metamorphosis of Life After Water Seeped Into its Soil

Living Success of the Sunehara Kal Integrated Watershed Development Programme with NABARD and ITC

 

IIRD is implementing the “Sunehara Kal” Integrated Watershed Development Project Jhalawar District of Rajasthan. “Sunehara Kal” which the project ascribes to mean “Intensifying hopes for a better future to live in” is a Public-Private Partnership with resource support being shared by NABARD and ITC Limited. This project draws an interesting linkage with the corporate sector as ITC Limited has already created a name for its commitment in CSR to environmental conservation. Such CSR interventions ratify the sound principles of watershed management and the important role it has to play in food security.

The project area is representative of many other rural regions having significant populations of poor and marginal farmers. 29% of the population of the falls in the Below Poverty Line category, and 46% of the households belong to SC or ST categories. Farming and rearing livestock are the main sources of livelihood. Average land holding is 0.5 to 0.8 hectares. The poorest landless families who form about 10% of the total number depend on agricultural labour for income. The local seasonal migration is around 5% of the total population. 

Undulating topography characterizes the area, and its upper reaches are occupied by forest land. Rainfed farming is practiced in the region, with most farmers growing only a single crop. Quality of soil is generally good, and its depth is between 0.5m and 1m. The soil has capacity to support a wide range of crops as well as a second crop, provided adequate water is available.

Those farmers who have wells do grow a second crop. Annual crop production fluctuates depending on the annual rainfall received. Pre-dominant crops grown in the region are soya bean, coriander, garlic, and wheat; oranges are also cultivated while minor millets are grown in isolated areas.

Water shortage is felt in spite of an average annual rainfall about 1025 mm. It provides a clear indicator that lack of knowledge, technology and skills on soil and water conservation results in inefficient use of natural resources and lowering of agricultural potential.

Overall objective of the Watershed Development Programme is restoration of ecological balance in the region and improving the standards of living of the community. The specific objectives of the programme are:

  • To strengthen the indigenous resource base, mainly primary resources of land, water and human beings, for increasing their productivity
  • To increase the earning capacity of people in order to reduce their migration from villages
  • To regenerate the ecology by increasing vegetative covers for drought proofing and creation of sustainable livelihood opportunities for all
  • To increase the availability of biomass for consumption and market purposes (food, fodder, fiber and fertilizer).
  • To ensure year round availability of employment avenues, particularly for women and labour
  • To avoid silting of ponds and reservoirs
  • To enable people manage and maintain their assets

These goals have been streamlined under the following project objectives:

1. Protection & increase surface and ground water availability through run-off control, soil moisture conservation and retention measures within watershed area

2. Improve agriculture production through sustainable farming practices and stabilize crop yield by adopting suitable cropping pattern and crop management system with community participation,

3. Building capacity of community for strengthening village level institutions

4. Restoring ecological balance in the project area, and

5. To curtail/check migration of local community through improvement in overall livelihood opportunities.

Jhumki Village: A Case Study

The farmers of Jhumki village in Jhalawar just cannot stop smiling. The water levels have increased in the past two years, they are able to yield two harvests every year, they haven’t taken any loan from the village landlord, and their living standards have increased. Their increased confidence has given them the power to politically bargain and get things done for their own benefit. This has been possible due to their active participation of all the farmers in the ‘Sunehara Kal Integrated Watershed Development Programme with NABARD and ITC’. Implemented activities include construction of stop dams, earthen farm bunds, cattle protection trenches, water absorption trenches, water ways, boulder gully plugs, horticulture plantation, and renovation of percolation tanks.

This watershed project has covered an area of 4289 ha that has supported 356 open wells. Before the implementation of the project the ground water level in these bore wells was below70-90 feet. Now, after two years of the implementation of this project water level has risen by 50-80 feet. Water can now be found at 50-70 feet. Watershed development has led to increase in availability of water and fodder. In order to maximize benefits from watershed development, livestock farming i.e. dairy farming, goat farming, poultry farming etc. as a subsidiary occupation has also been encouraged.

- 102 Ha land converted in to single to double rainfed/irrigated.

- Less water intensive cultivation of crops that do not consume more water is practiced.

- Three farmer Schools are actively functioning to take care of farmers’ needs

Take a look at the farmers who have a unique story to tell – of their own rising trajectory of being neglected villages to dynamic, politically impactful villages.

Hemraj Singh, 24 years

Jhumki village, Jhalawar

Hemraj Singh is a very prosperous farmer today, growing a vast range of crops including wheat, soyabean, onions, coriander, et al. He grows two crops – kharif and rabi for the past two years. However, it was a different scenario two years ago. he practiced rainfed farming and was able to grow only a single crop. Under the Sunehara Kal Integrated Watershed Development Programme with NABARD and ITC, IIRD had convinced Hemraj Singh and his fellow farmers to undertake construction of a lake amongst other activities, near his field. He had to give away a small part of his land for the lake, along with other farmers. The lake was constructed along with an anicut in a very short span of 3.5 months. “In a year’s time, I have seen the water table rising from 30 cms to 80 cms. My well is always full of water, and this year, I have harvested two crops. I remember those days, when we had to get a tanker from the nearby tehsil to water my field. Thank god, life has changed for the better, and with the extra income, I have returned all my loans”.

Govind Singh, 51 years

Jhumki village, Jhalawar

Like Hemraj Singh, govind Singh has graduated from growing one crop a year to two crops a year. His son, also a farmer, helps him on the field, and Govind Singh is very happy that his son works with him. Govind Singh’s farms are next to the hillock that has also been optimized under the project. In his farm and on the hillock, IIRD has undertaken, cattle protection trenches, water absorption trenches, water ways and boulder gully plugs, so that all the rainwater will be routed to the lake, thereby increasing the water levels. “I have worked as a labor in different cities of the country. When I came back to my roots, I just wished to be a happy farmer. And with the help of IIRD, NABARD and ITC, my dream has come true. I now grow both Kharif and Rabi crops- wheat, garlic, onions and mustard. With the rainy season around, I am very optimistic and very sure that we will get a bumper crop this year also. I shall finally be able to get my daughters married into a wealthy family.”

Inder Singh, 45 years

Jhumki village, Jhalawar

Inder Singh speaks with moist eyes, “We were in a dire situation of giving up agriculture and migrate out for some other occupation as our land was really producing nothing. That was the time when we came to know about this watershed development scheme and decided to give a serious try as it gave us a great confidence. And today, we are very happy that we have taken this decision. Our fields are lush green through the year and I am able to give my children education. I have also bought a TV, two months ago.” Inder Singh now grows onions and other spices twice a year, and his well is still filled with water. That too, with a simple task of constructing the lake in which he had also contributed through his own ‘Shramdaan’!

Radheshyam Patidar, 40 years

Jhumki village, Jhalawar

Radheshyam owns about 5 acres of land and was barely able to feed his family with an annual cumulative yield of around ten quintals of foodgrains. However, today his yield has increased to around 15 quintals and his yearly income has reached to around Rs 60,000, almost 3 times his earlier income. With his savings, he bought two cows, a year ago and intends to buy more after the next crop. “I am very happy that my children get to drink unadulterated milk and other dairy products. I have never felt so proud of myself, I have contributed my share of work and expertise to my land, my village, my nation, and most importantly, made this village a better place for the future generations to live. He got  benefits  from  this programme  and  besides  soil  and  moisture interventions,  he  developed  irrigation  through  new wells and started diversification of agriculture  opting  for  tomato,  garlic,  onion,  coriander, brinjal, etc.

Jaswant Singh, 42 years

Jhumki village, Jhalawar

“One important thing we have realized is that we, as a community, are responsible to protect and regenerate our forests and natural resources in and around the village. The entire village, not just me, also enjoys sufficient water all year round, no longer having to depend on tankers for three months in a year. With this assurance of water supply, agricultural employment increased from just 3 months a year to 8 months in a year. So, while previously upto 60% of villagers were migrating out of Jhumki in search of jobs, now Jhumki has enough jobs for their own residents. Now, what else can we ask for?” says Jaswant Singh. His annual income has increased 4 times and now he wants to buy more land for agriculture. Jaswant Singh also feels that the watershed development project has brought about a sense of social discipline among the individuals and within the community as a whole.

Kalyan Singh, 35 years

Jhumki village, Jhalawar

Kalyan Singh is one of the better-off farmers of the village owning 30 acres of land. He says, “Though we have a large land holding, prior to watershed development, more than half my land remained uncultivated for two seasons in a year. There was no water. Now as the water level has improved, I have dug 3 more wells and purchased 4 motor pumps. I now have 3 wells that provide ample water for my fields.” Kalyan Singh now grows soyabean, coriander, garlic, onions, wheat and maize, depending on the season. He has 4 pairs of bullocks and 5 crossbred cows. He also feels that prosperity has seeped into the lives of all the villagers. “Now there are employment opportunities available in the village all year round and people are earning money. A commitment to development has resulted in increased unity in the village and has resulted in free and fair elections. Thus political conflicts are also resolved amicably. The villagers now understand the potential and the significance of a unanimous contribution towards empowerment and their own well-being. They have understood the significance of a united effort and slowly the picture has morphed into one that holds more meaning, brightness and promise!” says Kalyan Singh