Assessing soil and water conservation impact in Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh

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Soil and water conservation work can change the farmers’ life by ensuring sustainable livelihood. In the last two decades, many smallholder farmers struggled to strengthen their livelihood through farming, due to severe drought situations; unexpected climatic conditions and frequent crop losses due to inadequate irrigation facilities. Excessive rainfall affects the land and crops in the absence of technically sound soil and water conservation measures.

Tribal region of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh is the most vulnerable for the water crises and as well as soil erosion. Low water holding capacity of the soil and undulating land terrains of the region leads to a low water level within a few months post monsoon. Summers have always been challenging for the locals, since decades.

Despite acute water crises gripping these Korku villages, the parched residents have not yet lost all hope. Caritas India Sabal programme has been working extensively in 141 Korku villages for the last four years to sensitize the masses on various soil and water conservation methods to address the low water-level & percolation challenges.

Through soil and water conservation programme Sabal team was able to mobilize more than 43,631 human days of work to build across 1445 water conservation structures covering hundreds of acres of land which primarily included farm bunds, water absorption trenches, de-siltation of check dams, wells and other water sources, gully plugs and construction of farm ponds etc over four months. As a response, the people were incentivized with food grains for their contribution to the initiative. The initiative was helpful in reducing migration up to 26% in all the 141 target villages.

As per the field visit and feedback to farmers and grassroot workers, these structures are helping to decrease the soil erosion and increasing the ground water level and help farmers to increase the cultivation area due to improvement in soil health. But we need the proper technical assessment study report of each structure, also we need a technical assessment report of soil and water conservation work SABAL program for the preparation of good impact results of SWC work. Dr. Haridas, Climate Adaptive Agriculture and Livelihood Manager of Caritas India had visited on 17th & 18th February 2020 to four locations of SABAL program including Khandwa and Amravati and discussed with farmers and community members about soil and water conservation work and its impact on smallholder farmers. Most of the farmers are very happy. Dr. Haridas interacted with the farmers about, soil arrested through SWC structures, visited and checked already identified observation wells, borewell and increased coverage in cultivation. Most of the farmers have increased their cultivation area due to soil and water conservation work.

After the visit, SABAL had organized a day workshop for program coordinators and supervisors of SABAL program at Paratwada, Amravati on 19th February 2020 and developed a technical assessment format for data collections. These data will be useful to access the impact of soil and water conservation work on smallholder farmers, basically, it will calculate the acres of land brought under cultivation, groundwater level increase after the soil and water conservation work, fertile soil deposited in farm and change in cropping pattern.

During the workshop, Dr. Haridas V.R. took a session on Impacts of SWCs, Assessment of soil and water conservation program, Toxic-free oxygen through Plantation, Farming-Multi cropping.

Dr. Haridas explained about the need for air, water, and Healthy Food for human beings and suggested river and road side plantation, nursery set up for Neem, Guava, Lemon, Moringa, Black plum, Pongame oiltree, papaya, etc. He also developed a technical assessment format to collect data on:

  • Employment is provided for creating community Assets
  • Enhanced the production of Safe to eat food
  • Multi-cropping system introduced
  • Trap Cropping practices introduced
  • Reduced soil erosion and conserved topsoil. Improved soil fertility
  • Silt Deposited in the upstream side of the structures
  • Improved moisture and Water Holding Capacity of the soil.

All partners will provide the required data of each structure and shared with the Caritas team. This SWC technical assessment report will create good visibility to our small initiatives, which can bring light in our smallholder farmers home.