Editor's Note: This summer has taken a toll on large parts of north, north-west and north-central India. As the country witnesses extremely high temperatures ever, here is a look at the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh which has been hit by another drought, and several villages don't even have basic drinking water. This is the fifth in a seven-part series, which explores the situation in Banda, Panna, Damoh, Mahoba and Chitrakoot.
Banda: While many farmers in drought-prone Bundelkhand are reeling under high debts and several suicides have been reported, 58-year-old Nawal Kishor Diwedi proudly brags about the profit he has been making from his crops during the last two years.
Diwedi, who has now become a household name in Pandui village, says that people have now started approaching him to learn how he is making good yields despite a deficit rainfall and depleting groundwater.
The Pandui village under the Mahua developmental block is about 12 kilometres away from the district headquarters. It came into the limelight in 2005, when the first case of a farmer suicide in Bundelkhand was reported from here.
“The government has not been able to provide respite from droughts and to implement any concrete solution for tackling the situation,” Diwedi said.
Over the years, Diwedi tasted success by experimenting with crop patterns, instead of depending on help from the government or NGOs.
He remarked, "Not a single farmer had earned profit in Bundelkhand ever since the region was struck by drought. Eventually, farmers began finding their own solutions. Small changes in farming techniques are now helping them. Earlier, farmers were totally dependent on paddy and lentils. Now, you will see that they grow several different crops."
Diwedi also said that farmers have started taking interest in goat and chicken rearing.
Changing crop patterns
Explaining the technique which helped him earn a profit of Rs 20,000 per bigha by using less water, the farmer said that he dug two ponds in his five-acre farm and divided the land into four parts.
"In one part, I dug a pond and filled it with rainwater, water from a tubewell and other sources. The second part, which is near the pond, is used for sowing crops which require timely irrigation while the third part is used for planting fruit trees like mango, jackfruit, etc. The fourth one is used for keeping livestock,” Diwedi said. He has been doing this for the last two years, and now, more and more people are adopting this technique.
Diwedi learned this technique from Banda-based agriculture expert Prem Singh, who has been following this method for the last five to six years.
Singh said, “Instead of depending on the government and waiting for relief to arrive, farmers should themselves work on finding ways to survive under harsh conditions... By the time the government relief reaches farmers, it becomes too late. Is it necessary to cultivate paddy and lentils, when rearing goats and chickens pays better, and that too with less effort?”
Some farmers have begun rearing exotic breeds of chickens like Kadaknath.
Another farmer, Ram Vishal Kushwaha from Jakhni village, said that he has started cultivating vegetables instead of paddy.
Kushwaha said, “I have a very small plot of land and now, I totally depend upon vegetable cultivation, and not on paddy farming. I did not have the money for digging a borewell or tubewell, so I started collecting waste water from every house of the village by making small drains. I use the waste water for growing vegetables and earn a good profit out of it. I have also bought four male goats and I should be able to sell them at a good profit too.”
His wife Urmila, who also works on the field, says that if they continue this approach, the soil will eventually have enough moisture to plant lentils and even paddy, even in the absence of rainfall.
Jakhni has now become a model village for Bundelkhand by taking steps to avoid the wastage of water.
US Gautam, a professor at the Banda University of Agriculture and Technology, says this is the best way to sustain in the parched land.
He remarked, “The government is working, but it will take a long time for its schemes and initiatives to start having their effect. So, these steps being taken by the villagers are the best way to sustain. Crop pattern changes, digging and restoring ponds, and rearing livestock will not only help the farmers economically, but will also help in restoring moisture and fertility in the soil. Farmers use animal waste as manure, and this will restore the minerals in the soil. Ponds help in keeping the soil moist even in the scorching heat."
Ten years ago, the Union government had approved a special package of Rs 7,266 crore for implementing drought mitigation strategies in the Bundelkhand region, comprising parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Read previous parts of the series here:
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Updated Date: Jun 17, 2019 19:01:26 IST