FORRAD began work on water security and agricultural intensification in the drought-prone Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh, in 2011. The Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, under which Mahoba district falls is known for its unpredictable climate, with several years of drought being followed by a few of heavy rainfall that inevitably results in flooding and damage. In recent years, erratic weather events have greatly contributed to indebtedness among farmers. According to them, 70-80 per cent of many harvests over the past decade or so have been damaged due to unanticipated hail and windstorms. As a result, many small farmers have abandoned their farms and now periodically migrate in search of employment as casual labour.
FORRAD and its community based partner, Gramonnati Sansthan undertook a pilot project on 500 ha of land in the villages of Bilkhi and Tola Swayam of Mahoba district in 2010 to assess the potential of an integrated watershed traditional integrated approach to watershed development that involves the construction of check-dams, gully plugs, contour bunds and tree plantation approach in Bundelkhand.
The impact of the project can be seen in the following areas:
- Productivity: Land productivity has gone up by at least 25 per cent for all farmers who have constructed farm bunds on their fields
- Two harvests a year: Prior to the project, only 77.69 hectares of land yielded two harvests. This area has now extended to 200.30 hectares of land
- Multi-cropping: Multi-cropping is one of the main defences against climate variability. The area covered under multi-cropping has doubled in 3 years
- Vegetable cultivation: 14 acres of land are now covered under vegetable cultivation where previously there were only three
- Water security: A single filling of the farm ponds and check dams results in harvesting of approximately 250 lakh litres of rainwater
- Agricultural profitability: The cumulative impact of the above has resulted in making agriculture much more profitable. Prior to the project, the income per acre for farmers was between 2,000-3,000 INR. This has increased considerably to between INR 10-15,000 per acre
- Local employment generation from agriculture: The number of persons who have found finding work as agricultural labour within the villages of Bilkhi and Tola Swayam has doubled from 174 in 2010 to 346 at present
- Social inclusion: Besides the tangible benefits mentioned above, inclusive planning and implementation has been the most crucial outcome of the project. The local women and men from across community groups have collaborated throughout the project and in the process have developed a sense of collective ownership and achievement.
The transformation of a barren land into a visibly green and agriculturally productive one resulted in Gramonnati receiving several requests from communities in the area to replicate this project in their villages.
FORRAD and Gramonnati began work on a modest scale in the neighbouring village of Beela Dakshin, in 2018. This work includes the clearing and deepening of wells, farm bunding of 30 ha of land and the repair of an existing anicut that transects the entire watershed. However, more funds are required for:
These initiatives, if undertaken, will comprehensively provide water and agricultural security to the village of Beela Dakshin and its population of 500 households.
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FORRAD’s previous experience in this area can be viewed here