Development initiatives implemented at the watershed site in Wanaparthy district, Telangana, India, drew appreciation from the state’s Agriculture Minister Mr S Niranjan Reddy. The minister lauded the holistic and integrated approach that focused on improving livelihoods of women, the self-sustaining model of farm-machinery renting centers and farm-level water conservation measures. He congratulated Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and ICRISAT for developing a model that is replicable, transparent and inclusive in its operations.
In the last two months, the minister visited the project thrice, the recent visit being from December 9 to 10. During his visits, the minister inaugurated farm machinery renting centers and distributed sheep to 73 women beneficiaries in two villages – Mentapally and Peddagudem.
The watershed sites (see map) in Wanaparthy district in Telangana State and Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh State funded by the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC Limited) and implemented by ICRISAT and partners have emerged as learning sites for doubling farmers’ incomes through minimum investment for maximizing benefits to smallholder farmers, says ICRISAT scientist and project lead, Dr Girish Chander.
Women in general get a raw deal when it comes to land ownership, decision-making and their share of income despite their substantial contribution to the agricultural production process 1. As most women have no land rights, they are not direct beneficiaries from land-based activities in watersheds. Livestock is one of the most important sources of income for families in dryland areas and generally, women take care of livestock and related activities. As part of the gender mainstreaming initiative, women farmers who expressed interest in livestock-based livelihoods were offered ‘sheep units’ (two female and one male) and those without fodder sources were provided with sewing machines to start non-farm-based livelihoods.
As many as 600 women in Wanaparthy and 450 in Anantapur asked for support to start livestock-based livelihoods. About 550 sheep units were distributed so far and 500 more units will be distributed by the end of this year. Sewing machines were provided to 110 women and another 440 will be added to this number by yearend. In 2022, 800 women will receive support for livestock-based livelihoods and 450 women for non-farm-based livelihoods.
To reduce the drudgery of farmers in general, particularly women, and to streamline farming operations for higher productivity, on-farm mechanization is being promoted through machinery renting centers at the village level. Eight centers with sowing, inter-culture, harvesting and threshing machines have been set up in each of the watershed sites (see map).
Water is a basic requirement for crop-based and livestock-based activities. Access to water is a major challenge for most of the smallholder farmers. Farm-based water storage solutions included the digging of 425 new farm-ponds and 26 check-dams/rock-dams during 2020 and 2021, in addition to 195 farm-ponds, 35 check-dams and other in-situ rainwater storage interventions built in the earlier phase of the project (2014-2017). These interventions have not only increased groundwater level by around 1-2 m, but also improved smallholder farmers’ access to water, which has supported various intensification and diversification activities undertaken by the project.