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Land Development Activities

The root issue that needed urgent attention among the rural poor in 1969, when Father Ferrer first arrived in Ananthapuram, was the availability of food, any food. This basic need led to the inception of the ‘Food For Work’ program in 1973, which was the foundation for RDT’s land-development activities.

The mid 70s saw 3 successive years of drought in an already-arid Ananthapuram. Father Ferrer hoped to help villagers achieve a harmony between their interaction with the environment and their natural resources. Seeing that land quality needed improvements in order to reap increased returns, but knowing that poor rural farmers did not have the financial means to carry them out, the Community Credit Fund was conceptualised with ActionAid in 1979 by Father Ferrer. It was a joint micro-finance initiative between RDT and men’s collectives, to improve farmers’ access to liquidity for investment in the rain-fed crops which were cultivated at the time. Diesel engines, ecological know-how and other inputs were provided to community groups under the project, which covered approximately 250 villages comprising 40-50 families per Sangham.

In 1987, RDT initiated the ‘Ecological Employment Project’, a holistic approach to land rehabilitation, watershed development, feasibility and construction of bio-gas plants from ridge to valley.This was established with the help of experienced govt. officials who were subject-matter specialists in the domain of agriculture, engineering, forestry etc. The organisation, American Forest Research Council (AMFO) was also instrumental in early training of RDT staff in matters of vegetation and ground-water management.

“Introducing the process of soil and moisture conservation to the farmers made tremendous effort in improving the irrigation system, as well as quality of crops being cultivated."
G.Hanumantharayudu
Regional Director, Bathalapalli

The project was conceived to generate employment and move towards achieving parity between landed & landless farmers, and address the concern of migration for livelihood due to poor returns from the land. A crucial component of the ‘Ecological Employment Project’ was to halt soil-erosion and better the quality of the soil by restoring its top layer through extensive bunding, especially in undulating terrain and on slopes.

These interventions were accompanied by steady education about the reasons for undertaking these particular steps and why soil quality was so bad to begin with. A large proportion of lands were located in undulated terrains and hillock regions, covered with boulders, which did not provide any scope for cultivation, but the majority of the people in this district were dependent on agriculture. Researching the factors leading to poor yields and hindrances in farming, soil and moisture erosion was a common aspect.

By definition ‘soil erosion’ means wearing away of the top-soil in fields. The top-soil is the most fertile as it contains the most organic, nutrient-rich materials, which is very beneficial for the crops. Of the several factors behind soil erosion, one of the major ones is the sloped and undulating terrain of Ananthapuram. Another is the strong winds during the month of June, July and August. So through late 80s till early 00s, community Watershed Committees, with financial and technical assistance from RDT (via subject-matter experts) surveyed and selected suitable land for bunding, and depending on the soil quality and gradient of the land, bunds were constructed of packed earth, stones or rocks (Rock-Filled Dams – RFDs) to curtail erosion.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK
 

When RDT intervened in the region in 1970s, we saw a dire need for developing the land for cultivation as the region was dying under those climatic conditions. Thus our team came up with soil and moisture conservation measures, which were required for better crop yields. RDT educated the farmers about bunding and terrace farming. All the efforts of RDT helped the agriculture of this region to prosper and conserve the natural resources.

K. Beeralingappa,
Asst. Director, Ecology Sector

SUCCESS STORY
 

Govindappa belonged to Sankaragalli community in Madakasira region of Ananthapuram. He was living in a house provided by the government and has 21/2 acres of land.

R.D.T. was a familiar entity in the sectors of education, hospitals, women welfare related programs in the region and in May 2014, members from the Ecology team initiated land development activities in our village

The land for this reason was divided in two categories. One, which was under the community, located near the hills. Second, where the part of the land was filled with rocks and boulders, and was unsuitable for cultivation. The 2½ acres of land which was mine, had 10 per cent of it under the second category

With RDT’s intervention, and introduction of their work in our village, helped in clearing out of large rocks from the land. This made the land fit for cultivation.

Govindappa planted groundnut seeds after the monsoon season for harvest. Earlier, before RDTs intervention, he would sow only 60 kilograms of seeds, but this time he was able to sow 65 kilograms. It was a great success for him to be able to increase his yields and income. This success helped him gain confidence on the various innovations by government or by RDT to maintain his land and boost his income.

I am very thankful to RDT to introduce their programme here, which enables us to earn more, increase our yields and enhance our lives.” 

Govindappa Sankaragallu,
Farmer.

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

With the introduction of Land Development Activities, the previously non-arable land has come into the purview of irrigation. This has remarkably appreciated the land value, and the villagers’ net worth has gone up.

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