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Promotion of Micro-Irrigation Systems

Given the poor ground-reserves and the lack of regular rainfall, it was important to restore balance to the state of the water table, and putting sustainable irrigation practices in place- ones that would use as little water, with as little wastage and a more extensive reach than before.

By the early 2000s, as open well and rain-fed irrigation became increasingly infeasible owing to depletion of above-ground resources and irregular rains, the need was felt to turn to water management techniques that were less intensive and optimised water usage. The AP state government was conducting a Micro-Irrigation Programme- APMIP, and their efforts worked in tandem with RDT’s to benefit a larger footprint of villages and communities.

RDT’s efforts were known by the banner of ‘Sustainable Diversified Horticulture through Drip and Solar Irrigation’. Farmers dug bore-wells to move from purely rain-fed and open-well-based irrigation to ground-water irrigation. They then were made aware of the benefits of drip-irrigation in comparison to the previously followed flood and basin irrigation. Counselling inputs led to reduction in the exclusive dependence on heavily water-dependant traditional crops like groundnut, castor, red and green gram, and the rise of mixed cropping practices – alternating fruit and vegetable cultivation, using drip systems to water these crops. The systems introduced were drip irrigation, sprinklers and micro-sprinklers.

Drip irrigation

In this system, the water or fertilizer is allowed to drip slowly to the roots of plants and the soil surface through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters. Drip irrigation is suitable for fruit crops, vegetable crops, oil-seeds, plantation crops, forest trees etc.

“The micro-irrigation program was launched with multiple motives of conserving water, improving crop yield and assuring better incomes for farmers, all of which it has succeeded in achieving.”
Mr. G.Nageswara Reddy
Sector Director

The system is highly efficient compared to other conventional methods, since a greater area can be brought under cultivation, and provides an equal quantity of water to all the plants even on sloped or undulating lands.

Initiated around 2004, RDT established linkages with reputed private irrigation firms in the domain of irrigation to install the system of piping, demonstrate its benefits and train villagers in its use and maintenance.

Sprinklers and micro-sprinklers

It is a technique by which water reaches the plants in the form of localized ‘rain’. Sprinklers and micro-sprinklers were raised higher off the ground than drip-systems, and allowed for an even water spray over the crop. Using this system additional areas were brought under groundnut cultivation using the same quantum of water as before. Farmers were able to grow two crops per year compared to other agricultural crops; and sprinkler systems are especially suitable for groundnut farming – which was a heavily relied upon crop in the region. There is also micro-sprinkler system, which distributes water to the root zone of plants.

The advantages of both systems were that while less water was used to irrigate crops, less was also lost to evaporation- a problem with flood-based irrigation. Weeding was lessened, the systems were significantly less labour-intensive and reliance on traditional fertilisers was reduced- since water-soluble fertilisers and medicines, could be delivered through the system. Lastly, the crop was evenly watered and resulted in uniform growth. Of all these, the greatest benefit was the reduced dependency on labour, which was traditionally as much as 60% of a farmer’s cost, and which is in particularly acute shortage today.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK
 

The introduction of micro-irrigation systems helped immensely in expanding the practice of horticulture in this region. I saw the growth not only from the cultivation perspective, but also of farmers’ wealth and confidence in the entire region. Initially we were only capable of growing groundnuts, and other limited crops, but with this system introduced by RDT to farmers, their horizons and learning expanded to include new means to improve yields. With the success of this introduction, the system was implanted in other regions of India as well.

Ramanjineyulu,
Sector Team Leader (STL)

SUCCESS STORY
 

Today, Mr. Vishnuvardhan is a paprika cultivator of Muddalapuram village, Kudair Mandal in Ananthapuram district. Before diversifying his cultivation, he only sowed tomato in his 3 acres of land using flood-irrigation. He would reap an average yield with a total gross income of Rs. 64,000 and a net income of Rs. 24,000, which was severely insufficient to sustain his family. Flood-irrigation meant a high level of water usage for a nominal yield and reduced returns.

To improve their prospects, he and his village farmers requested RDT’s help in installing an in-line drip system. RDT brought in an irrigation form which installed the systems and demonstrated in detail the working, maintenance and benefits. Mr.Vishnuvardhan also diversified into growing Paprika Super Deluxe variety crop in 2 acres of his land in 2014. This cropping change boosted the productivity and quality of his soil which then boosted his production to 43 quintals yield with a gross income of Rs. 4,12,800, and net income of Rs. 2,84,800 in a span of 8 months. This allowed him to clear all his previous debts.

It is a miracle for us to see that conditions of our lands and crops are improving with new methods being introduced by RDT. Without the timely introduction of drip farming in our village, none of us would have been able to come out of indebtedness” 

Mr.Vishnuvardhan,
farmer.

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Resources define class system. With the advent of Micro Irrigation Systems, previously poor farmers with no access to abundant water resources can self sustain and this has led to social parity.

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