Newsroom  Press releases  2003

27) Kothapally spreads the green message (13 March 2003)

Even though the drought has dried the farmlands of adjoining areas, farmers from Kothapally village in Ranga Reddy district manage to grow a summer crop.

They manage this since some of their wells still hold water.

The reason why their wells hold water while wells elsewhere do not is that farmers have participated in a watershed development project in their village. The soil and water conservation measures carried out as part of this project ensures that water percolates into the village wells.

Facilitated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) along with a consortium of partners, the Kothapally project has become a model for spreading the concept of watershed development.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the project shows the strength of partnership between many stakeholders who want to work for improving the natural resource management to reduce rural poverty.

The state government is using Kothapally as a model for its Drought-Prone Areas Program and the Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihood Program. It is also being replicated under the project funded by the Asian Development Bank in China, Thailand, Vietnam and India.

In addition to ICRISAT the consortium of partners include the Government of Andhra Pradesh, the Drought Prone Area Program, the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, the National Remote Sensing Agency, MV Foundation and the Farmer's Association.

Ms Gladys Mutukwa, ICRISAT Governing Board Member said that the project is an eye-opener on how the community can be effectively involved in conquering drought through the regeneration of natural resources. It is a model for the communities of Southern Africa, which are also facing severe drought.

"The Kothapally project is a unique example of science in action," said Prof Paul Vlek, Chairman, ICRISAT External Program Review Panel. "It is a first-class collaboration between the Government of India, Andhra Pradesh, the farmer community and ICRISAT." He added that the project enables the farmers to take charge of their destiny and secure sustained livelihoods through scientific management of their precious resources.

Even while using less than half of the allocated Rs 20 lakh project funding, the consortium of partners have constructed 13 check dams and 51 mini percolation tanks.

According to Mr P Narashima Reddy, President of the Farmer's Watershed Association, the project has resulted in greater crop diversity for the farmers, which permits them to grow some crop during a longer period of the year. ICRISAT has also supplemented this input with the introduction of better agricultural practices like integrated pest management, vermicomposting and production and use of nuclear poyhedrosis virus.

"Having perfected the technique taught to us by ICRISAT we now go to other villagers to train them on vermicomposting," said Ms Lakshmi, a farmer.

The project initially focused on implementing soil and water conservation measures, and crop improvement techniques for individual farmers. Once these farmers were convinced of getting improved financial returns due to these interventions they contributed to build community structures.

The net result is the increased agricultural productivity in Kothapally. Maize yield improved to 3,480 kg per hectare from 1,500 kg/ha in 1998. Sorghum yield improved to 2,425 kg/ha from 1,070 kg/ha in the same period.

According to Dr SP Wani, the ICRISAT's coordinator for the project, studies are also underway to find out the exact amount of carbon that is sequestered while growing crops in the semi-arid tropics. Kothapally's success could reach more parts of the world. "We must find a way to implement the watershed project in Africa in the same vigor as in Asia," said Dr A Uzo Mokwunye, another ICRISAT Governing Board Member.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.