Drought-hit farmers now pin hopes on desilted black soilhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/drought-hit-farmers-now-pin-hopes-on-desilted-black-soil/

Drought-hit farmers now pin hopes on desilted black soil

In Latur, Osmanabad and Solapur, desilting of ponds under the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan has unearthed nutrient-rich soil that is rejuvenating barren land.

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Bhairu Baban Gate (right) and brother Anand invested Rs 1 lakh on transporting desilted black soil for their 20-acre barren farmland at Dahiwadi village. (Express Photo)

Bhairu Baban Gate (45), a farmer in Dahiwadi village of Osmanabad, had almost abandoned the 20 acres of barren farm land. The last 10 years haven’t been kind to him, leaving him with no harvest from the non-fertile brown soil in the drought-hit district.

Gate’s fortunes have reversed and today he plans grape cultivation on his field that has been recently nourished with black soil excavated after the desilting of Lappa Talao, a pond near his farm.

Bhairu, with his younger brother Anand, decided to invest Rs 1 lakh in transporting the desilted soil lying waste along the pond.

Today, he is not only confident of a good harvest but also boasts about how the price of agricultural land has shot up three-fold. An acre of barren land commands Rs 9 lakh.

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The one-time investment in getting black soil also means huge savings on expensive fertilisers that end up depleting the soil of its nutrients.

Balu Patil, another farmer from the village explains the economics of soil replenishment. “I am a marginal farmer with 15 acres of land. The dry brown soil is not suitable for good yield even if I were to invest upto Rs 2 lakh on fertilisers. However, the free black soil lifted from projects provides the right base in which additional fertiliser would promise a good harvest. Since my field is nearby, it cost me Rs 50,000 to transport the soil.”

This is the outcome of the BJP government’s flagship project ‘Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan’, which involves reviving traditional methods of water conservation, of which desilting ponds is a key component.

Across villages in the drought-hit districts of Latur and Osmanabad, black-topped fields are making an appearance and farmers are preparing for a rich harvest after repeated failures due to the drought.

The desilting water conservation project in Dahiwadi has generated 1,76,800 million cubit feet of black soil.

Farmers too contributed physical labour in the exercise that has led to deepening of river beds and creating water storage capacity of 176.8 thousand million cubic feet.

Osmanabad district collector Prashant Narnavre says, “A few years ago, villagers would have sought money for transportation of the desilted soil to carry to their fields. Now, they are volunteering to meet the costs having realised its benefits.”

The exercise in Dahiwadi has fostered a sense of community among the villagers, who recently contributed amounts ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 from the compensation received for the water conservation project towards those hit by hail storms and droughts.

At Buddadga village the Dalit Mahila Bachat Ghat or the Dalit Women Self Help Group collected Rs 80,000 for the Jalyukta Shivar.

Women are playing a major role in the project.

At Kati village in Solapur, Saoji Bajirao Deshmukh says, “We have maximised the participation by deploying manpower to transport desilted soil to each field, which is an arduous task.”

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Solapur collector Tukaram Mundhe says, “The villagers’ participation has cut down the expenditure on diesel and vehicles to transport the soil after work is completed. The response is so overwhelming that I am confident 6,400 works that have 2019 deadline would be completed by 2016.”