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Reason behind Maharashtra’s failure in solving drought issue

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Maharashtra: One can get deceived about the worsening farm crisis in Marathwada, the central region of Maharashtra. The reason is the man named Jairam Jadhav. He comes from a place that is battling against the worst drought in a period of a century.

Jadhav, 35, is a happy man. Despite two seasons of truant rains, his well has enough water to supply his 20-acres of sugarcane, cotton and pigeon pea farms for three hours a day. Last year, this time, he could do no better than an hour.

Thanks to the Maharashtra government’s ambitious Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (Irrigated Farmlands Programme), streams flowing through Jadhav’s village of Pandharwadi in the district of Beed were broadened, deepened and de-silted before the monsoons. His land is next to one of these refurbished streams, which allow more water to percolate through to his well.

About 250 km to the northeast in Vidarbha’s Washim district, Ramesh Marge, 35, is also pleased with the government’s efforts. His 45 acres of soya bean and cotton he’s also planted some pulses and vegetables in Gayaval village are flourishing.

Marge is acutely aware of the great dry that has descended on the lives of farmers.

“When I was a kid, I used to bathe buffaloes in plenty of water in January and February. We do not see water in our village in October now,” said Marge. “Last year, we did not have enough water to wash our cattle during the pola (the summer harvest’s farm festivities, usually in October).”

In the same village, Shankar Choure showed IndiaSpend how his decade-old orange orchard is blooming. Thanks to a bund-built under the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan that traps water, he runs four pumps to irrigate his 100 acres of farmland.

Choure, Marge and Jadhav have one thing in common they are prosperous farmers with comparatively vast landholdings in a state where the average landholding is 1.44 acres, down from 1.86 acres two decades ago, according to Agricultural Census of India.

The proportion of small farmers (owning less than five acres) increased from 70 percent to 79 percent in the 1995-2011 period.

So, while the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan intends to make Maharashtra drought-free by 2019, it appears to have worked mainly for prosperous farmers. As the first part of this series showed (on January 2), a piecemeal approach of random work that ignores the geological water cycle of an area a watershed and spreads itself thin as the drought’s ravages spread is not helping millions of smaller farms.

In Choure’s village of Gayaval that has the most number of Jalyukt Shivar projects in the taluka about 60 percent of farmers own less than five acres of land. More than 10.7 million of the state’s 13.7 million farmers (or 79 percent) own less than five acres of land, according to the Agricultural Census of India. It is these farmers who bear the brunt of the drought.

Twelve times as many tankers roam 16 times as many villages

The Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan is nothing if not ambitious it aims to irrigate 19,059 of 40,000 villages in Maharashtra in 22 drought-affected districts by 2019. As many as 41,000 of proposed 0.14 million watershed projects have been completed in one year, according to the government.

Around 24 tmc feet (thousand million cubic feet) water storage capacity has been added in the state due to the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in an interview.

On the ground, the drought’s effects grow, and more villages struggle.

Over the annual farming season in 2014, 1,377 villages from Beed in central Maharashtra were declared water scarce this year 1,403 villages are on that list. The government also declared as water-scarce 2,050 and 793 villages in the eastern districts of Yavatmal and Washim respectively in 2014, while no district was declared water-scarce over the 2015 kharif (monsoon) season.

In 2014, as a consequence of mostly adequate rainfall the previous year, 13 tankers supplied drinking water to 15 villages in Beed district. In 2015, two consecutive droughts compelled the administration to send more than 12 times the number of tankers to 16 times as many villages: 162 tankers roam 243 villages.

In spite of consecutive droughts, Yavatmal and Washim districts have sent no tankers out. That may happen in the summer months of April, May and June when the scarcity deepens.

Small and marginal farmers, defined as those with less than five acres of land, need Jalyukt Shivar the most. From the observations that IndiaSpend made, this is why the scheme is failing them.

In a typical village with 250 houses, only 30 to 50 benefit from the scheme, which is no more than 10-20 percent, while 80 percent have small farms.

Prosperous farmers tend to be near streams and wells, so they mainly benefit from the broadening and deepening. Wells in the same village located away from these streams have run dry, the inadequate attention to geological detail and local needs evident.

Malampatti (band-aid) cannot offer lasting solutions to irrigation crisis.

“Although short-term measures are needed, that is only malampatti (band-aid solutions),” said Suresh Khanapurkar, the brain behind what is called the Shirpur Model for water conservation in the northern district of Dhule.

“There is no doubt that the depth and breadth of streams need to be increased,” he said, “but the broadening and deepening must be carried out from the origin to end (where it meets a river).”

The total storage capacity in Maharashtra is around 1,340 TMC, of which 930 TMC is stored in large dams and 170 TMC each in medium and minor storage dams. Water storage in the state is thus heavily tilted toward large dams.

With Fadnavis himself criticising large dams for their ineffectiveness in mitigating the drought’s effect, Jalyukt Shivar will need to play an important role in rescuing the livelihoods of 10 million farmers with holdings of five-acre or less.

Robert Browning said of human aspirations “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Jalyukt Shivar has grasped the need, but its reach is inadequate.(IANS)

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Be a farmer on weekends at Citrus County Hoshiarpur

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Hoshiarpur
Wheat field in Phagwara Punjab India. Wikimedia

Hoshiarpur, Oct 2, 2017: Punjab is better known for India’s “green revolution” in agriculture and for contributing the maximum foodgrain to the national kitty. And now a progressive horticulturist and entrepreneur is offering hands-on experience to visitors to try their hand at how farming is actually done.

“Be a farmer on weekends at Citrus County — Hoshiarpur. Get your kids to the farm to give them a unique experience in a typical farm in Punjab. Let then come and indulge in plucking fruit and sowing vegetable seeds in the fields on their own.” This is how Harkirat Ahluwalia, owner of the Citrus County farm resort, puts it.

“We are offering guests, especially children, first-hand experience of doing farming. This is something that people have never tried before. The experience gives them the satisfaction of doing hard work and experiencing what life is like in the countryside,” Harkirat, who along with his wife Jasveen runs the resort, about 140 km from Chandigarh, told IANS.

The guests at the farm can sow seeds, pluck citrus fruit, plough the fields, milk cows, drive a tractor and take a ride to a nearby forest and rivulet in a tractor-trolley.

Fresh home-cooked food, which is prepared on earthen stoves at the ground level, home-grown organic vegetables and warm hospitality add up in equal measure to make the experience a refreshing one.

“Glamping”, or luxury tenting, as Harkirat puts it, is also part of the farm experience.

The nine air-conditioned tents at Citrus County, with attached bathrooms, offer luxury stay with king-sized beds in the midst of the sprawling orchards of kinnow (a citrus fruit) and tall poplar trees.

Also Read: Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy 

The farm resort is located in Chaunni Kalan village, five km short of Hoshiarpur on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh highway.

“Cycling enthusiasts are welcome to get their wheels along and we will provide them the best possible tracks,” said Harkirat, who is a post-graduate in Mass Communication from Panjab University and himself a cycling and biking enthusiast.

In the past, the resort has seen couples from other countries going through wedding rituals the Indian way to give them a real-time feel of the country’s culture and marriage ceremonies.

The unique thing in couples opting for the Indian-style wedding is that they are already married and are middle-aged or even older. The couples are accompanied by their friends, relatives and even children and grandchildren for this unique experience. (IANS)

 

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Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy

The aggregate growth in the agricultural sector determines that the future of the agrarian economy is not bleak

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Agriculture
Agriculture in India. Wikimedia.
  • Despite people shifting their occupations from agriculture, UN states that India ranks second in the agricultural production in the world
  • India’s horticulture production has also increased

Sep 20, 2017: Indian agriculture is facing a huge crisis since many years. Despite continuous reports suggesting that the agrarian economy of India is getting affected, as people are shifting away from the agricultural sector and are moving towards industrial sector development, the food and agriculture organization of United Nations (UN) has stated that India ranks second in the agricultural production of the World. In the past 11 years, the country’s agricultural production has increased from $87 billion in the financial year 2004-05 to $322 billion in the fiscal year 2015-16.

Interestingly this is not just the only positive point being witnessed about the agricultural situation of the nation. The country’s horticulture production has also increased with the passage of time. The horticultural production includes fruits, vegetables, plantation crops, and spices. The increasing demand of fruits and vegetables has augmented the production estimate to 295 million tonnes in 2016-17, which is 3.2 % higher than the production in 2015-16.

Also Read: WHO says Millions of People are Dying Pre-mature Deaths Due to Non-Communicable Diseases.

Earlier in May, the agriculture ministry released a second advance estimate of horticulture production, stating that the farm area under the horticulture crops has recorded an increase. The increase was from 245 lakh hectares of farm in 2015-16 to 249 lakh hectares in 2016-17. The Indian economy’s earnings from agriculture as compared to the service sector has been absolutely great. The net export from agriculture was noted $16 billion, and those from the commercial service were 9% in 2014.

When the country is facing even greater challenges like farmer suicides, protests, and monsoon failure, figures like these tend to bring smiles on our faces, even if it is for a short time. The aggregate development can never alleviate the plight of farmers.
The percentage growth may satisfy the government and us both, but does it really satisfy the farmers? A wiser approach like good law and order towards the handling of problems and crisis should be taken, and then only can there be a better future in the agriculture.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.

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WeFarm- a Farmer to Farmer Digital Network – is Helping Farmers in remote villages of Kenya

WeFarm helps connect farmers via Text Messages

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A farmer herds his cattle at sunset near Kisumu, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2008.
A farmer herds his cattle at sunset near Kisumu, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2008. VOA

When she woke up one morning in February, Catherine Kagendo realized that one of her cows could not stand.

“It was lying on its side, had lost its appetite and was breathing heavily,” she told Reuters from her farm in Meru, in eastern Kenya.

With her husband, she decided to turn to WeFarm, a text-based network of small-scale farmers, for help.

Within an hour, their text — “one of my lactating cows cannot stand” — generated a flurry of suggestions, from “feed your cow with minerals rich in calcium” to “make sure the cow shed is clean and well-drained so the animals don’t slip.”

“I realized our cow had milk fever, so gave it calcium-rich feed and it was standing again within hours,” Kagendo explained.

She is one of many Kenyan small-scale farmers who lack good information — mostly due to a lack of internet access — on how to manage problems from dry spells to diseases, local farm experts say.

As a result, such farmers often lose their harvest or animals, they said.

But WeFarm, a farmers’ network launched in Kenya in 2014 and more recently expanded to Uganda and Peru, allows people to ask a question by text message and receive advice from their peers.

The service, whose Scottish co-founder Kenny Ewan describes it as “the internet for people with no internet,” is free to use and only requires a mobile phone.

Farmers text questions to a local number, and WeFarm transmits the message to users with similar interests in the area, tapping into their knowledge.

“We want farmers to get answers to their problems without needing to access the internet, so the information is available to all,” said Mwinyi Bwika, head of marketing at WeFarm.

Although the platform also exists online, over 95 percent of users choose to use it offline, he said.

Information gap

Kagendo said that when her animals were ill or her maize crops too dry, she used to have to hire an extension officer to help solve the problem.

“But we had to pay a fee ranging from 500 to 2,000 Kenyan shillings ($5-$20), and most of the time the officer didn’t even explain their diagnosis,” she said.

That cut into her family’s income and left them no better able to understand the diseases facing their cattle and their crops.

“We cannot even afford a smartphone to go online, so finding credible information was near impossible,” she said.

According to Bwika, small-scale farmers often lack the information they need because of a lack of cash — most live on less than a dollar a day — as well as poor internet connection and low literacy levels.

“Ewan realized that farmers living just a few miles from each other were facing the same challenges, but with no way to communicate about them. So, he created a platform to connect them,” Bwika said.

Joseph Kinyua, another farmer from Meru who grows vegetables, said he spends at least 30 minutes per day using WeFarm.

“It’s taught me anything from using pest control traps to ensuring that my sprinklers don’t put out too much water,” he said. “And I know the methods are proven and tested by other farmers.”

The knowledge has helped improve the quality of the kale he grows, he said, enough that “I can now sell a kilo at the market at 70 shillings [$0.70] compared to 50 [$0.50] previously.”

Preventing problems

While the platform might receive dozens of replies to a question, it only sends out to the user a selection of answers judged correct, Bwika said.

But it uses the questions and advice received to help track disease outbreaks or extreme weather spells, and shares those insights with governments and non-governmental organizations, Bwika said.

“In doing so, we hope to prevent disease outbreaks and track problems before they occur,” he said.

Not everyone shares this optimism, however.

Mary Nkatha, a farmer from Meru, said she found it hard to implement some of the recommendations she received from WeFarm without the practical guidance of an expert.

“If I am told to inject my cow with something, how do I make sure I do it in the right place? And where do I find the equipment?” she asked.

Fredrick Ochido, a Kenya-based consultant on dairy farming, also worries that the platform may be entrenching farmers’ poor use of technology, rather than helping them keep up with new trends.

The WeFarm platform has over 100,000 current users in Kenya, Uganda and Peru, and its operators hopes to reach one million farmers in the next year. They also aim to expand the effort to other countries, including Tanzania. (VOA)