Varsha Tangde of Vadod Tangda village in Jalna district eagerly waits for the fortnightly Farmers’ Field School, that is being conducted in her village since 2014. It is here that she picked up the improved farming techniques and ways of micro-irrigation, composting and other such water retention methods, a knowledge that she later shared with her farmer husband.
Just like Tangde, there are nearly 100 women in Vadod Tangda, who regularly attend the Farmers’ Field School (FFS), one of the activities introduced by the Pune-based Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR). Hence, while villages in various parts of Maharashtra are dealing with drought, Vadod Tangda villagers do not have to face the constant struggle for water.
The project has been carried out by the WOTR in partnership with Hindustan Unilever Foundation, MGNREGA and German agency EED.
In 2014, WOTR, with the help of the community, began working in the village and introduced soil and water conservation measures. Since then, the compartment and farm bunding has been undertaken, CCTs and WATs have been dug, check dams and gabions have been constructed. WOTR adopts the ridge to valley approach, stopping the rain water, allowing it to percolate in the ground and at the same time, increasing the ground water level. Other than this, WOTR equipped the village farmers with several simple but useful methods of farming, for example FFS, Participatory Crop Water Budgeting and Climate Smart Agriculture.
Talking about FFS, Harish Davare, project manager, says “Depending upon the crops, the FFS participants hold meetings. During FFS, farmer field days are organised necessarily at three crop stages – pre-sowing phase, sowing phase, vegetative phase and harvesting phase.”
He adds that FFS is organised through five frontline farmers, who in turn have five student farmers each. On an average, each FFS has at least 25 farmers and they adopt the improved agriculture practices in at least 1 acre of their land. Adoption of various improved agriculture practices is achieved.
Speaking about the benefits of FFS, says Tangde, “After adopting methods taught at the FFS, not only has our crop production gone up but our expenses have also reduced.”
Another interesting method adopted by the farmers is Participatory Crop Water Budgeting. Davare says it is a methodology which seeks to understand how much water is available in the village in various forms and from various sources, and what is actually the water requirement of the village during that particular period.
“It also enables us to understand which agricultural practices to follow. The objective is to encourage use of water judiciously, agriculture and livestock with a view to optimising benefits in a context of climate variability, erratic rainfall and possible drought,” he says, adding, that if the tool and methodology is successfully adopted, there could be a considerable reduction in water wastage.
Bhagchand Devchand Gomladu, one of the many farmers who’ve benefited from the work done by WOTR, said, “In the past few drought years, my 60-foot-deep well used to have merely 2-3 feet of water during Rabi; summers were worse. In April 2015, bunding work was carried out in my land. This year in spite of meagre rain, there is 30 feet water in my well.”