Home' Partners : Partners June 2010 Contents on the higher and sloping parts of the landscape
and enough annual rainfall for additional, market-
oriented crops ... if only the water could be
made available where it is needed.
Dr Cornish says that the annual monsoon
provides 80% of the region's rainfall, which
totals about 1,200 millimetres. A massive 60% of
the total is lost to run-off.
The solution, he says, is to capture and store
rainfall upland and use it to bring that land
under cultivation while creating market access
for these new crops. There is, however, a trick to
the strategy: the need for technology that does
not require start-up capital, expensive heavy
machinery and ongoing operating costs.
As it turns out, a rural development
organisation within India, PRADAN, has been
developing do-it-yourself water-harvesting
technology to capture run-off and tap shallow
"PRADAN had trialled water-harvesting
techniques on a small scale but they wanted
to run a more scientific evaluation and then
improve and apply the technology in different
landscapes," Dr Cornish says.
With support from the Indian Council for
Agricultural Research and ACIAR, a 4-year project
was launched in 2002 that allowed two villages
to adopt and test PRADAN's water-harvesting
technology. That meant digging water-storage
pits in the uplands and building a network of
channels to funnel rainfall to the pits. In turn,
this increased infiltration of monsoonal rain to
the shallow groundwater, which could then
be accessed after the monsoon using seepage
tanks in lower-lying areas.
Next came the provision of agronomic
expertise and the introduction of new crops for
use at the upland sites. This was made available
to farmers using participatory techniques that
saw the farmers---especially women---identify
research questions and carry out field trials,
always with the support of PRADAN.
Project executive, Ms Kuntalika Kumbhakar,
says PRADAN played a major role in ensuring
local participation in the project. "We mobilised
and organised the community and got the
works executed in the field," she says. "The
organisation has a knack for being creative and
open to new ideas, and working with a sizeable
number of families the information spreads."
The participatory model saw women
become enthusiastic agents of change, and
in response the project was expanded to help
develop agronomic know-how. This came to
include mentoring on appropriate fertiliser use
and weed management through the use of line
planting. Another example is the introduction
changes that are visible to the eye. There are
improvements in diet, housing and livestock
ownership, and money for incidentals, such as
books for children's schooling. But the social
changes run even deeper. There are gains in
women's prestige within the communities
and more cohesive social structures as income
opportunities within the villages help prevent
the seasonal exodus of men in search for work.
"That had such a positive impact that
practices developed in this project have spread
beyond the two villages in the absence of any
formal extension activity," Dr Stauffacher says. In
response, ACIAR is planning a follow-up project
specifically geared to facilitate a technology
roll-out to other communities.
"What we want to know is how we can help
spread benefits across many communities in
this area," Dr Stauffacher says. "So basically we
are looking to understand how to scale out
project outcomes and then, within a couple of
years, actually do it." n
PARTNERS MARCH JUNE 2010
of short-season rice varieties, an innovation that
increases opportunities to plant a second crop
in the rice paddy, typically mustard or wheat.
ACIAR research program manager Dr Mirko
Stauffacher says that with water-harvesting
technology making it possible for the farmers
to expand and diversify production of
agricultural commodities, the project continued
to support the villagers by looking at market
access for the surplus produce.
"The project looked at water management
very holistically---it was not just about
providing people with water for different parts
of the landscape, but looking at overall food
security and farm profitability," he says. "And
the team managed to do that very well, for
example, by exploiting opportunities to supply
vegetables such as tomatoes and gourds to
markets out of season."
Freed from reliance on one annual rice
crop, livelihoods within the participating
villages improved, driving socioeconomic
Farmers and project team inspecting a newly dug
seepage pit in Pogro watershed.
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