Notes to broadcasters
Do farmers in your listening audience depend on the rains to grow their crops? Do they have to leave their land vacant in the dry season? Do they sometimes leave home in search of work during the dry season? Rainwater harvesting is one way that farmers can keep water on the land. In low-rainfall areas, rainwater can be harvested and stored for year-round use, even on a large scale.
The following story tells how 420 farm families in southern India worked with scientists to harvest rainwater. In just three years they greened 800 hectares of dryland and recharged the groundwater. Now they have water all year round and many in the community no longer have to leave their homes in search of work. Even lands outside the project area can benefit because the groundwater gets recharged. The following story could be used as a starting point to produce several radio programs on the subject of farmers and scientists working together to address local challenges.
This is a story about how one group of scientists and farmers in southern India worked together to harvest rainwater. In just three years, they changed the face of eight dryland villages. Now there is water in the reservoirs the whole year. What’s more, the groundwater is being recharged. Wells that had gone dry are filling up.
Through this work these families have made new lives for themselves. All by saving the small amount of rain they get in the rainy season. Let’s see how they did it.
The town of Tiptur doesn’t get much rain. In the villages around Tiptur, most farmers can plant just one crop during the rainy season. The rest of the year their lands lie vacant. Many farmers have to go far from home to look for work in the dry season.
In this same town of Tiptur there is also an institute called the BAIF Institute for Rural Development. Here scientists do research to help solve farmers’ problems. These scientists worked out a system for saving rainwater over a large area. But the system would only work if local farmers agreed to work together.
You may be wondering what kind of rainwater catchment system the farmers built? Is it something that any farmer could build?
Well I can tell you what the farmers did. First, each farmer dug a pond. Each pond is about 8 meters square and 3 meters deep. Each pond is connected to the next by a channel. When one pond fills up with water, the water overflows through the channel to the next pond.
Secondly, the farmers used the dug out soil to make broad bunds around their farms. On these bunds they planted trees and grass.
These farms lie on sloping land. So at the bottom of the slope, where water collects naturally, the farmers built two reservoirs to hold the water.
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Now, when it rains, the ponds fill with water. Even after the rains stop, the water remains.
So the whole area is green even in the dry season. Now the farmers grow not only ragi (finger millet) but also fruits such as bananas, papaya, and mango. They grow vegetables too – squash, and pumpkin, and yams, and many kinds of legumes.
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Farmers use the trees on the bunds for firewood and poles for building. The leaves falling from the trees make good compost for their crops. The grass on the bunds is fodder for the livestock. The roots of the trees and grass also hold the topsoil in place and keep it from washing away.
Because the rainwater flows into the ponds, it does not run off down the slope or carry away precious topsoil. So nothing is wasted.
And something else happened. During the last 25 years the groundwater in this area had been drying up. Wells had gone dry. People had to dig deeper and deeper to find water. But now, with the rainwater harvesting, the groundwater is increasing. Wells have started to fill up again.
Best of all, the men don’t have to leave home to search for work. Their families grow enough food for themselves and even have enough left over to sell.
In this project scientists worked with farmers and provided guidance. But the farmers had to bear 30% of the cost of the project. Because they could not give money, they contributed labour as their share of the cost. They dug the channels and built the check dams for the reservoirs. You can see that the farmers who took part in this project helped themselves instead of waiting for the government or someone else to do the job for them.
MUSIC TO END PROGRAM
Contributed by Vrinda Kumble, Mysore, India
Reviewed by Dr. G.N.S. Reddy, Director, BAIF Institute for Rural Development, Karnataka, India.
The institute mentioned in this script is the BAIF Institute for Rural Development, Karnataka. Its headquarters are in Uruli Kanchan, near Pune, Maharashtra State. BAIF was established by Gandhian Manibhai Desai and has been working with rural people for more than 50 years. “At BAIF,” says one of the Directors, “every researcher is also a development worker and every development worker is also a researcher.”
You can contact the organization at:
BAIF Institute for Rural Development , Karnataka
Kamadhenu, Post Box 3
Sharadanagar, Tiptur 572202, Karnataka, India
Phone: (91) 8134 50659, E-mail: BAIF5@vsnl.com