Despite monsoon failure, they are able to conserve water and save their crops

Despite water scarcity caused by destruction of natural resources and resultant monsoon failure, farmers in Sirumalai hills have managed to save their crops through irrigation facilities created under the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP).

A.K. Saravanan, a farmer in Pullimanthurai, says the present storage in percolation tanks in their farms helps them save crops even during summer months. As for him, he has dug a percolation tank and a baby pond in his farm to charge ground water. Mr. Saravanan says he struggled to save his crops, particularly lemon trees, when monsoon failed last year. Now, despite poor rainfall, water is available in the new percolation pond so that I can save my lemon and pepper crops. Many other farmers are also happy to have sufficient storage in their baby ponds and the check dams built under the programme.

The District Watershed Development Agency has spent Rs.6.01 crore to create water structures under the IWMP. Eight ponds (with a capacity to store 12 lakh litres each), 17 check dams (1.5 lakh litres) and 85 baby ponds (6,000 litres) were constructed on the hills.

Water in farm ponds is also used for defogging ‘chow chow,’ pepper and lemon crops, says M. Santhanam, another farmer at Pullimanthurai. “With 6,000 litres of water in pond, fertigation is also possible,” he said.

IWMP Assistant Executive Engineer M. Siddique Ali says there used to less of agricultural activities on the upper reaches of the Sirumalai hills. Later lemon trees were grown. Now, with all these water structures, more crops can be grown. As many as 651 loose-rock check dams and 76 Gabion dams, and a 17.8-km-long stone bund have been constructed to arrest water flow and scale down velocity of running water, says District Watershed Development Agency Project Director A. Manoharan. “They will be beneficial to farms on downstream areas as well,” he says.

Ten water sheds were being developed at Pazhaiyur, Pudhur, Kadamankulam, Thenmalai and Aralikadu on the Sirumalai hills.

The Integrated Watershed Management Programme is also aimed at empowering rural women by creating sustainable income generation activities.

Through this programme, a woman’s self-help group has started a venture to give on hire chairs, cooking utensils and audio system for functions. Earlier, the hill people depended on contractors in Dindigul, 30 km away from Sirumalai.

Now, they not only hire them locally but at low charges too, says Extension Officer X. Sebastian Britto. Through the programme, farm tools such as crowbar, sprayer, electric cutters and bamboo tools were given to landless people for self-employment. They were trained to use the equipment, Mr. Britto says.

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