Maharashtra is struggling to cope with one of the most severe drought crises in recent times,with many terming it worse than the historic drought of 1972. Rivers have gone dry and the dams are proving insufficient for even drinking water,let alone irrigation. In 12 worst-hit districts,many farmers are forced to abandon the standing crop and sell their livestock due to unavailability of fodder.
Ahmednagar is one such district. But the situation does not worry Bhanudas Garad of Balamtakdi village here. He irrigates his summer vegetable crop twice a week and has succeeded to keep it lush green amid dry brown fields that surround his farm. Garad draws water from a farm pond that he built in 2008.
Built under the Union governments Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and using manpower from the Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MREGS),farm ponds are greatly helping the farmers to take on the drought.
According to a study carried out by the economics department of Mahatma Phule Agriculture University,Rahuri,the farm ponds have greatly helped farmers fight the water shortage. It has enabled them to switch from rainfed farming to irrigation,and grow fodder crops throughout the year to sustain livestock and has contributed to their economic welfare.
About 84 per cent of farming in the state is rainfed. Rainwater,most of which otherwise runs off,is collected and stored in ponds and can be directly supplied for irrigation. The farm ponds also recharge water stock of the wells and borewells in the vicinity and improve the water table, says A J Amle,professor of economics with MPAU,Rahuri,who conducted the study.
Over a lakh farm ponds,each with about 1,200 cubic metres of water,have been constructed in the state in the last five years. Though the state government announced plans in 2010 to add 1 lakh farm ponds each year,it remains a distant dream largely due to farmers unwillingness to part with a plot under cultivation.
Though I was hesitant initially,government agents and a friend of mine who had already constructed a farm pond convinced me later. A 20x20x3-metre pond was constructed in 2008-09 on my farm that is at the foot of a hill. It has increased the water stock in my well and enabled me grow citrus fruit too even as water sources around my farm have gone dry. It has also increased the production of cotton,onion and fodder crops, says Haribhau Wagh,a farmer from Nandur Nimbaditya village in Pathardi taluka of Ahmednagar.