Old methods to usher in a new dawn
Too many people, too few resources. Too many of us, not enough food, water and the basic necessities of life. Every day, a new species is dying out, a forest is being razed to the ground, a river is being polluted, just so us humans can march on.
For some reason, humans seem to want to wage a war against Nature and bend it into submission, instead of living along with it, like the rest of the animal and plant kingdom does. But where has that got us today? With rapidly dwindling resources and a worsening world. Up the creek with no paddle – that’s a colourful way of saying we are in such a pathetic situation with no solution in sight. Or, is there?
Many enterprising folk are coming up with creative ways to use sustainable, reusable and Earth-friendly ways to combat out space, energy and water shortage. The rest of us must take their examples if we are to move forward without killing the world.
Farm ponds as a long term solution
The devastating effects of the drought is still being felt across the country. Instead of wringing their hands and waiting for someone to drop in with a solution, a bunch of farmers decided to be proactive. The district of Dewas, in Madhya Pradesh, decided not to just bet on the erratic monsoon but hedge it by coming up with alternate, long term solutions. And, for the past decade, they have been successful!
It was in 2006, the then District Collector Umakant Umrao along with agriculture department officials and those from NGOs working in the sector convinced almost 40 big land holding farmers to dig a farm pond. Reason: in case of a remote possibility of failure, these farmers should be able to withstand loss of crop for that piece of land turned into pond.
Dewas has black cotton soil which runs up to 10 feet deep; followed by a 15-20 feet layer of yellow soil (pili ghumat in Hindi) and then sandy loam. This allows almost nil percolation of water, best to harvest and retain rain water. The very first year, farmers witnessed how from single rain fed crop, they could go in for second, winter crop using the water that was harvested in these ponds. Soon, more and more farmers were inspired to replicate success of farm ponds as witnessed by large land holding farmers.
Farm ponds are not a new-fangled concept. They are a traditional and ubiquitous feature in every village since time immemorial. But the advent of deep bore wells have put paid to this vital water feature and changed it for the worse.
As more and more farmers across the country are finding out, farm ponds can save the Indian farmer. Just like the farmers of Dewas, these Karnataka farmers from Dharwad too have found that embracing our age old practices is definitely the way forward.
Farmers in around 20 villages have constructed about 800 ponds, which provide them an ability to store water during an occasional rain, and use the same to feed water to crops during the dry spells. And the success is contagious. Seeing their neighbours thrive, more farmers are going for farm ponds and it is becoming a movement of sorts at the grassroots. They have also started cultivating water-intensive but more profitable commercial crops like papaya, beyond the traditional cotton, onion, jower, etc.
As these farmers clearly demonstrate, success is contagious. All it needs for a method to become widespread is for it to be visibly successful in one place, in a sustainable fashion. We need to remember our collective farming knowledge and spread it. This includes age-old, tried and tested methods like crop rotation, use of farm bunds, as well as planting crops based on factors other than market diktats.
With a large population and an economy that relies heavily on the agriculture industry, we’d be foolish to not take care of it with greater diligence and attention!