Plummeting groundwater levels and adverse rainfall patterns forced farmers in Buchinelli village in Telangana to abandon agriculture but a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative implemented by Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. adopting a climate-smart approach equipped farmers to return to farming. So far, more than 400 households in the watershed have benefited from increased profits and crop productivity. As part of the ongoing project work, 20 smallholder farmers were recently oriented on Best Agronomic Practices taking due precautions in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic for the current cropping season.
Before the watershed program, declining groundwater levels (20cm/year) and an adverse rainfall pattern (33% of the annual rainfall is from 4-5 high rainfall events of >30 mm) forced farmers to migrate to Hyderabad, the nearest city, in search of livelihoods. The collaborative watershed initiative started in 2017 and a pool of climate-smart agricultural technologies developed by ICRISAT equipped farmers to take up farming, grow improved crop varieties, save water, restore soil heath and sustain farming. The project impact speaks for itself.
Increased groundwater availability by 30-40%
Fifty water-harvesting structures (check dams, gully plugs, sunken pits, mini pits, farm ponds, recharge units, etc.) were constructed. The interventions created a storage capacity of 25,000 cubic meters and more than 90,000 cubic meter of rainwater was harvested each year, enhancing groundwater availability in surrounding farms (100-120) in the watershed.
Crop yields increase by 10-15 % through land management
Twenty farmers were trained to use a tractor-operated tropicultor developed by ICRISAT for implementing the Broad Bed and Furrow system to conserve soil moisture. The crops grown using this method were able to withstand long dry spells and facilitate yield increase. Each year nearly 80-100 farmers participate in various training programs and field exposure visits and field days.
Reduced use of chemical fertilizer saves around Rs ? 2,000 per ha
Soil test-based fertilizer application reduced the usage of chemical fertilizers contributing to reduced cost of cultivation. As an entry point activity, 100 soil samples were analyzed to understand the nutrient status of farmers’ fields across the village. Fertilizer recommendations for different crops were provided through soil-health cards to maintain balanced soil health, reduce excess fertilizer usage and increase crop productivity.
Improved varieties and best practices increase yields
The introduction of improved crop variety of pigeonpea (ICPL 87119) along with best management practices enhanced the crop yield by 20-25% and for chickpea (NBeG 44) crop yield increased by 21%.
Productivity enhancement demonstrations involving about 90 farmers on 30- 35 ha of farmers’ fields each year (since 2017) with improved varieties enabled farmers to select suitable varieties based on performance and also increase crop yields by 15-40%.
Pest management strategies such as use of yellow sticky traps (20 traps for every 0.40 ha) and pheromone traps (5 traps for every 0.40 ha) allowed farmers to monitor pest activity and reduce the use of pesticide to protect beneficial fauna in the ecosystem.
20,000 cubic meter of wastewater treated annually
Reusing rural wastewater effectively helps mitigate diseases and improve hygiene and sanitation. To reduce the pollution load in the wastewater generated from households, a floating wetland unit using plants like Cana Indica and lemon grass was set up in an existing wastewater pond and a hybrid treatment wetland using algae was set up on a community wastewater drain. For the first time a combined system was used to enhance the treatment efficiency. By combining plants and algae, both macro and micronutrients and heavy metals were removed. It is estimated that nearly 60% of nutrient load can be removed from the wastewater. An estimated 20,000 cubic meter of wastewater is treated annually, supporting 3-4 ha of area per season. The resulting treated wastewater can be used for agriculture or to grow nurseries or fodder for animals as a business model.
Women earn through income generating activities
About 150 women received training on tailoring, computer literacy, preparing millet-based food products, vermicomposting, etc. Women who learned tailoring are earning about Rs ? 2,500 per month.
Crop-livestock integration leads to extra incomes
A livestock survey was conducted and an animal health camp and water trough interventions were carried out in the pilot village to reduce the prevalence of diseases, improving the productivity of milch animals, and reducing water stress during summer. Demonstrations on feed and fodder development were also conducted, which increased milk yield by 1 to 1.5 liters per day, giving an additional income of around Rs ? 1,800 to ? 2,400 per month
Kitchen gardening and agroforestry activities
Each year, 100 households are each provided with 9 types of vegetable seeds ranging from leafy vegetables, brinjal, tomato, beans and gourds. This initiative intends to address nutrient deficiency and malnutrition especially among kids and women. Also 5,500 teak, avenue plants and fruit saplings were provided to help in income generation and carbon sequestration over a period of time and two bee hives were installed in the watershed to educate farmers on the benefits of apiculture and this will be scaled-up based on farmer interest.
About the Project
The watershed is located 3 km away from Mahindra Farm Division Plant in Zaheerabad mandal of Sangareddy district in Telangana state and covers an area of around 813 ha and 405 households. Farmers grow soybean, pigeonpea, cotton, chickpea and black gram in the rainfed areas (50% and sugarcane and vegetables in the irrigated areas (50%) of the watershed.
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