The Rs. 79.26-lakh project covers 900 hectares in five drought-prone villages

Implementation of a watershed development project, aided by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in five drought-prone villages of Chickballapur district has led to an increase in farmers’ income by several folds and diversified livelihood opportunities for poor women and Dalit families.

Village activities have changed after the execution of the project covering 900 hectares of land in Kannamangala, K. Muthakadalli, Chinatadupi, Jangamasigehalli and Halasurudinne in Sidlaghatta taluk.

The Rs. 79.26-lakh project, implemented during 2002-09 by Navachaitanya Urban and Rural Development Society (NRDS), a non-governmental organisation, has resulted in a change in the cropping pattern and expanded the area under horticulture crops.

Milk production

Milk production has doubled and land lying barren reduced by 300 hectares in the project villages, NABARD officials S.S. Tayde and Arun Tallur told The Hindu during a field visit.

“Many village residents have got farm ponds constructed to collect rainwater…. Mango, cashew, vegetables and flowers are being grown in the land that was once barren,” M. Venkataswamy of NRDS said.

The project has benefited 582 families in the five villages.

M. Narayanaswamy, secretary, Village Watershed Committee, said, “The income of many families has doubled in the last few years as they have started growing cashew, mango, gooseberry and papaya on dryland.”

Chikkavenkatappa, who was earning just Rs. 10,000 a year by cultivating one or two crops such as ragi, jowar and maize before the implementation of project, earned over Rs. 60,000 last season from 120 cashew trees grown on his 3-acre land. He harvested five quintals of cashew last season and it was sold at Rs. 120 a kg.

The project opened many avenues for families that were involved in rearing silk worms for several years. Project authorities encouraged livestock rearing for an additional source of income, particularly for landless women. As a result, milk production in the five villages increased from 400 litres to 800 litres a day. Surface water harvesting structures such as farm ponds were being used for fish rearing, NABARD officials said.

A large number of small and marginal farmers belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes planted saplings of mango, cashew, tamarind, and other commercial crops, which were distributed to them free of cost, officials said.

Training farmers

A Community Development Centre was established to train farmers and micro-financing scheme was introduced with the formation of women’s self-help groups. As a result, the number of uneducated women and youths migrating to towns in search of work had dropped, Mr. Narayanaswamy said.

Noting the techniques used in watershed, Mr. Tayde said, “The digging of trenches and construction of bunds have prevented runoff and erosion of top soil, and increased soil moisture, resulting in high yields.”

As the groundwater gets recharged, the irrigated area under borewells has increased from 85 acres in 2001 to 810 acres in 2010, NABARD officials said.

Following the success of the project, NABARD has launched a new watershed project in nearby villages at a cost of Rs. 1.1 crore.

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