It was 2003 AD.
Small farmers were facing parched fields yet again. More than 50 per cent of the 1,490 lift irrigation schemes, set up by the government of Andhra Pradesh had broken down.
Though perennial streams and rivers were flowing close, water seemed light years away from the drying fields because the lift irrigation machinery needed to lift this water into the fields had become defunct. Farmers did not know how to manage the schemes. There was no money to pay for mechanical breakdowns and there was little by way of water management to ensure every farmer member got his or her rightful share of water. Under these circumstances, the Andhra Pradesh State Irrigation Development Corporation commissioned Naandi to revive a group of 65 schemes.
It was 2009 AD.
Six years after the government-Naandi partnership began to revive the defunct lift irrigation schemes. Water is back in the fields and farmers are growing two crop cycles. And all 10,0000 farm households from the 65 schemes, have tales of relief and satisfaction to share.
88% – increase in net irrigated area
85% – increase in annual net income per household
54% – reduction in distress migration
«The watermelon crop fetched me
a profit of Rs 42,000 in five months»
A year ago he was working as a wage labourer in people’s fields for 60 rupees a day to give his family at least one meal a day. Today, he has a savings bank passbook with a balance he could only dream of, a few months ago.
Dharmiah and his half-acre plot of land owe their misery as well as majesty to the lift irrigation scheme at their village, Motamarri, in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.
The lift irrigation scheme was revived by Naandi in 2008. And all the farmers here including Dharmiah, have had such a great cropping season that smiling for the camera now comes effortlessly.
Treatment for his mother’s gout, repairs for his home, andsvings in the name of his little daughter are some of the promises Dharmiah has made to his family.
«If I can get such returns from half an acre of land just with one crop, then I will try for another crop cycle and grow food for the family too. This way I can revive the soil and also keep up with earnings. If there is water, we farmers can do a lot with our lands.»
The Engineering behind Irrigation Plus
More than just reviving irrigation machinery, Irrigation Plus harvests the energies of farm households into the institution of a Farmers’ Cooperative Society. It is a self-driven, self-governed institution where farmers decide as a collective, remedies of their agricultural, economic and social concerns.
Phases to achieving such empowerment
• Putting physical irrigation infrastructure in place
• Ensuring community contributes either through labour or resources
• Building management skills of farmers’ societies
• Creating systems for machinery and infrastructure, repair and maintenance, irrigation and financial management
• Developing a local cadre of technical para-professionals for ready repairs
Today, farmers rarely rely on the government’s intervention for maintenance costs or does of supply driven incentives. Their Cooperative Societies are deciding cropping patterns, maintenance of the schemes, insurance, and networking with local markets for optimum supply prices.
Returns on Investment – An Impact Study
Observations of a third party study of Irrigation Plus:
• The net irrigated area across all schemes has increased by 88% after revival
• A second crop is being grown in 50% of the net irrigated area
• Less water intensive crops are being tried and experiments of alternating food crops with cash crops are on: Paddy cultivation which occupied 48.8% of the total irrigated area in 2004 reduced to 36.2% in 2008. The area under commercial crops has increased from 21% to 27.5% during this period
• Additional agricultural wage employment generation has led to 54% reduction in distress migration
• There has been a phenomenal 85.3% increase in average annual net income per household from agriculture
Based on the impact of the revivals the state government assigned 73 additional defunct schemes to Naandi in May 2008 for revival and institution of farmers’ societies.
Irrigation Plus is empowered in its mission to help small farmers by
• Andhra Pradesh State Irrigation Development Corporation
• 164 Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies of Farmers in 6 districts of Andhra Pradesh
• Winrock International USA