A new study reveals that using farm level rainwater harvesting structures (RWHS) significantly increases farm productivity, cropping intensity, farm income and household income. Farmers using farm ponds in Akola district, Maharashtra, for example, have experienced an increase in farm productivity (12 – 72%), while in Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, RWHS resulted in farm diversification into fruits, vegetables and livestock production. This has doubled the household’s annual income from a low base of around USD 250 to more than USD 500.
This supplemental irrigation for Chittoor farmers, increased productivity of various rainfed crops such as pigeonpea, chickpea, groundnut, cotton, vegetables, mango and coconut which ranged from 5% to 72% (see table). On average the yield increase, compared to fields with no access to farm pond water, was 51% in pigeon pea, 55% in chickpea, 36% in cotton and 12.5% in soybean.
In Akola district, pond water could provide supplemental irrigation to >2 ha area for a household. With a more regular water availability, farmers planted additional fruit trees and it also resulted in productivity increase of existing fruit trees: mango (39%) in Chittoor district and coconut (51%) in Vellore district, Tamil Nadu.
As crop productivity increased, there was also an increase in access to crop residues as fodder and drinking water for cattle. This in turn increased milk production.
The study notes additional residual impacts on farmers and farming households due to RWHS: For example in Chittoor, additional income gained from higher production of mango and vegetable crops was used to educate children and acquire diesel operated pump sets for their own use or for hire.
This study was conducted in five districts of India: Chittoor, Akola, Bangalore rural, Vellore and Bhilwara. These districts have diverse soil types with a varied annual rainfall from 327 to 949 mm. The study uses data from surveys and focus group discussions to assess the performance of farm level rainwater harvesting under different agro-climatic conditions covering semi-arid and arid regions in India.
Results from this study have been published in the journal of Agricultural Water Management:
Shalander Kumar, Thiagarajah Ramilan, CA Ramarao, Ch. Srinivasa Rao and Anthony Whitbread. 2016. Farm level rainwater harvesting across different agro climatic regions of India: Assessing performance and its determinants. Agricultural Water Management, 176:55-66.