Watershed project in south India marches ahead despite COVID-19
Ensuring smallholder farmers can plant
Eight water harvesting structures were completed during May while following social distancing. The timing was critical to capture monsoon rains and benefit 2,000 smallholder farmers. The structures are part of a recently initiated watershed project in Telangana by Trident Sugars, a wholly owned subsidiary of Natem Sugar, and ICRISAT. The work on the structures is being complemented by farm interventions and farmer training, soil analysis, intercropping and remote sensing analysis. All of this will be monitored and evaluated using Natem’s technologies, which is supporting ICRISAT with data management, reporting and remote sensing. The international development NGO, Solidaridad, is also supporting the project.
In its first phase, the watershed project is targeting 1,820 hectares of land in Kothur and Thumukunta villages of Telangana state. Before work began, a pre-intervention land use survey helped map the land use of the target area. As the project progresses, follow up surveys will be conducted to analyze increase in agricultural land and to identify impact. An intercropping pilot with 30 farmers was also completed. The chickpeas provide farmers with an additional source of income after three months and reduce fertilizer costs by adding valuable nutrients to the soil. A scale-up of the effort is being planned with other crops, including vegetables.
Next steps: Baseline survey and installation of monitoring devices
A baseline study will be conducted in the coming months. The study will provide an in-depth understanding of the project areas, giving greater clarity on the socio-economic status of the communities, agricultural practices and surrounding eco-systems and environment.
Loggers and measuring devices will be installed at each of the structures to monitor the amount of water captured. This data will be automated and will be available remotely through Neta’s dashboard.
The five-year project, for which the MoU was signed in Dec 2019, aims to promote sustainable agricultural practices, improved sustainability for sugarcane cultivation and raising the livelihoods of smallholder communities. This will be achieved by enhancing smallholding farmers’ resilience to climate change events such as reduced water availability, and improving income through reducing input costs, increasing yield and diversifying sources of income.