Climate Resilient Agriculture

We educate farmers to engage in natural farming profitably through the optimum utilization of water.

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Facts :

- 320 natural and organic farming trainings conducted across India.

- 200 acres of barren land made fertile again.

- 2100 hectares of land sustainably irrigated.


Background

  • Agriculture : the greatest user of water

60% percent of India’s economy is dependent on agriculture – which is also the sector with the largest water consumption.

Despite more than half of the nation relying on farming - the agricultural practices in India are unsustainable and are indeed worsening India’s water crisis. Excessive water use because of the agricultural practices below is causing water to be extracted at rapid rates, leaving rivers, lakes and underground water sources dry in many irrigated areas.

The problem is worsened by misdirected subsidies, low public awareness of the crisis and weak environmental legislation.

  • Leaky irrigation systems

Unviable irrigation methods, such as flood irrigation and gravity flow irrigation can result in up to 50 percent water loss due to evaporation, inefficiencies in water delivery to the crop-root zone and runoff at the end of the field.

  • Cultivation of thirsty crops not suited to the environment.

For greater profits, farmers in India are replacing native species of crops with are water-intensive alien and exotic species which have a high water footprint. For instance, species ofacacia and eucalyptus are replaced by native species of trees for their wood and essential oils. Not only are these species absorbing large amounts of water but also threatening native flora and fauna in the region. Similarly,  cotton framing, sugarcane plantation and rice cultivation absorb large amounts of water from the soil : 29,000 litres, 3,000 liters and 5,000 litres of water per kg of crop respectively.
 

  • Wasteful field application methods

The application of excessive fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides on plants reduces not only the fertility but also the moisture-retention capacity of the soil. Moreover, these excessive agri-chemicals get carried and drained into rivers, streams and lakes – causing natural fresh water resources to be undrinkable.

Reckless water use in agriculture is causing underground resources to be exhausted and disruptions in the water cycle. Moreover, climate change is also causing drastic changing in rain and weather pattern. These two causes delay and disrupt rainfall and eventually, often cause crop failure. Stressed by little or no agricultural yield, farmers, who often take high interest loans to buy what they perceive as necessary chemical fertilizers and seeds for growth, go in debt and under pressure, commit suicide.  According to very 28 seconds, a farmer in India commits suicide.

Where we come in

We teach farmers water-sustainable field practices, management strategies and system modifications for maximum yield and profit.

  •   Water-saving irrigation practices

-  Drip irrigation

We implement the ‘per drop more drop’ mantra by encouraging and educating farmers to adopt the drip irrigation method for maximum yield through the maximum utilization of water.

What is drip irrigation?

In drip irrigation, water is pumped out from a well and sent through sand separators and media/screen filters to remove silt and impurities such as algae or dead plant matter. This filtered water is thena pplied to the crop via a network of mainline and sub-mainline pipes, valves and smaller diameter polytubes or ‘laterals’, which have pre-installed emitters at spaces corresponding with the placement of each plant. These ensure delivery of water directly to each plant’s root zoneand at discharge rates as low as one litre per hour. Drip irrigation systems also have provision for ‘fertigation’ — application of fertiliser, in liquefied form from a separate tank, along with the water.

“With drip, I can irrigate 10 acres using the same quantity of water that could previously cover hardly one acre through flood irrigation,” claims Mohan Patil, a farmer from Jalgoan, district Latur.

Crop rotation

Soils around river basins are losing their fertility and nutrients due to the same crops growing repeatdly. To ensure soil health and fertility, our team eduacates farmers on crop rotation to grow crops which compliment each other’s nutrients gaps. This way, we help farmer reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility and crop yield.

Dry land horticulture

We teach farmers methods to raise crops – such as custard apple, drumstrick, amala, tamarind, sandalwood- which require no need for irrigation. Since these crops do not use too much water, most of the water percolates underground during monsoon, replenishing previously dry aquifiers. As a result, borewells are filled again, crops grow and farmers income rise.

  •  Management strategies

- Land use management

Our team teaches farmers how to use crop patterns and crop distancing for maximum yield and optimal use of resources.

“Previously, we there were 3 inches between crops of black gram , we worked with farmers to increase the distance between crops from 3 inches to 3 feet. Because of this, farmers needed less seed, saved more money, increased yield and earned more profit. Before, farmers got 5-6 quintal and now, they get 15-20 quintals” Mahadev Gomare, Art of Living Agriculture Community Leader.      

·  Water management

Our agri-education methodologies align with the central government’s ‘per drop more crop’ mission. We not only teach farmers water-use optimizing farming techniques but also empower and train them to use latest technologies such as IoT to monitor water use.

  •  System modifications

Policy Change :

We sensitize policymakers about making farmers aware of new research, modern farm practices and water conservation methods.

 - Capacity-led movements :

We are dedicated to create a talent pool of progressive farmers and agriculture students for ensuring quick availability of technologies at the grassroots level.

 Case Study :  'pER DROP MORE CROP' FARMING IN maharashtra

Mr. Mahadev Gomare, project leader of River Rejuvenation projects in Maharashtra and also recipient of the President’s award for exemplary work in Organic Farming, is now leading the river rejuvenation project in Latur., has also been a practising farmer for the past 10 years and is also chosen by the Indian government to spread the knowledge of natural farming region around the nation.

Noticing the mismanagement of water resources in agriculture and fearing for the future of farming and water in the already parched region of Latur, Mr. Gomare decided to increase public awareness of water-efficient sustainable agricultural practices by teaching water-wise irrigation practices and land use management.

“There has been an erroneous concept that the more water you give to plant, the greater the crop yield. We have to change that,” he said emphatically. Through a combination of teaching organic farming methods , land use management and water-use optimilization methodologies, Mr Gomare and his team help farmers double their crop yield using less than half the recources. “From on 8-9 quintals in 2014, farmers had increase their produce yield to 15-20 quintals in 2015”.

“There are 3 crore microorganisms per square inch of soil. But farmers over-water the plants, diluting the microorganisms in it and prevent the roots underneath the soil from breathing, hence killing the plants and lowering production”, notes Mr. Gomare. Through drip irrigation, farmers are able to use water wisely, save water, spend less and obtain more crop. “Earlier I did not know how much to water the plant for its optimal growth or how much distance to leave between seeds and that we wasted so much money and resources. Now we I a higher yield while saving so much more money, time and energy. I used to palnt black gram 3 inches way but now I have increased it to 3 feet, I saved 90 seedlings during the process but was yet able to get more yield and save my money than previously. I do not have to take debts anymore” said a local farmer of the Latur district. Liekwise, farmers are able to replenish borewells, save water and get profits on crops through dry-land horticulture.

The team is also teaching its farmers how to be more independent and self- resilient. “Farmers farm but often, not for themselves.  According to a survey, 95% percent of their farmers buy their own household fruits and vegetables from outside. As a result, we now are supporting farmers to grow their own fruit trees according to the season so that the farmer has an additional income as well as a dependable source of food in their own backyard. Likewise, to create financial security for farmers and have a buffer against farmer suicides, the Water Projects team has started a pension plan for farmers where they urge farmers to buy a sandalwood tree for a few thousand rupees which, over a decade, will become worth 1.5 lakhs and is enough to support the farmers. In this way, the project will help farmers have an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future.