In water-stressed Andhra, farmers sign pact to share ground water

KumKum Dasgupta, Hindustan Times, Anantapur
Ram Chandru Reddy, a 67-year-old agriculturist, has been farming his three-acre plot at Kummaravandla Pally, a hamlet in Anantapur district, for as long as he can remember.
“Farming is in my blood. But I nearly gave it up couple of years ago because of water crisis,” says Reddy, who grows rice, groundnut and red gram. “But the crisis was averted because we decided to share groundwater”.
Anantapur is the second-most backward and drought-prone district in India. Over the past six months, 22 farmers have committed suicide in Anantapur.
Till 2010, the water shortage was manageable. “We did not have to dig deep; we used bullocks to draw water from wells to irrigate our lands,” recalled Venkat Ramana Reddy, a 50-year-old farmer.
Post 2000, the region’s semi-arid weather, deep hard rock aquifers, perversely incentivised power and monetary subsidies, and absence of any formal legislation or social regulation to govern extraction led to competitive borewell digging, all of which led to a rapid fall in groundwater levels. The water shortage led to tension between borewell and non-borewell owning farmers, even as cultivation of water-intensive crops continued.
Read: India’s groundwater crisis
India draws more groundwater each year than the US and China combined; with 89% of groundwater extracted used in the irrigation sector. With rain the most significant source of groundwater recharge, any change in the rainfall pattern influences the groundwater level.
India has a rough estimate of how much groundwater it has but there is no micro-level data and this hampers groundwater management at a localised level.
“The national aquifer mapping programme can help generate granular data for groundwater and make it available for public policy. The idea is to show groundwater is not an infinite resource that can be pumped out endlessly,” said Mala Subramaniam, CEO, Arghyam, a Bangalore-based non-profit. “Second, gram panchayats should be equipped with the basic understanding of hydrogeology and traditional knowledge to help them manage the groundwater efficiently”.
TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS
Instead of blaming the monsoon and fate, farmers at Kummaravandla Pally joined hands with the government and WASSAN, an NGO, to tackle the crisis in 2010. After a situational analysis, 25 farmers formed a collective – Kolagunti Ummadi Neeti Yajamanya Sangham — to “share groundwater with each other” to sustain their crops.
Watch | How farmers from Anantapur found a solution to the groundwater crisisAds by ZINC

This led to the concept of networking of borewells to secure rain-fed crops of all farmers, irrespective of borewell ownership. By linking all borewells with a network of pipelines and outlets, all farmers can now access groundwater. To ensure compliance, the farmers signed a MoU in the presence of district officials.
The agreement’s institutional norms include the following clauses: The committee would have farmers with and without borewells; a joint account would be opened in the names of these members; equal contribution towards share capital, irrespective of borewell ownership; annual contribution towards the maintenance fund, on per acre basis at Rs 100 per acre; one farmer would be elected for monitoring the schedule for water distribution/allocation and also collect contribution from each member.
Read: Six charts that explain India’s water crisis
There are non-institutional norms for sharing too. No new borewells should be dug for 10 years without the permission of committee; the irrigated area under borewells will not be increased but the critically-irrigated area can be ; in the critically irrigated areas, water should be given for sowing, flowering, pod development, and crop harvesting; crop budgeting exercise must before sowing ; the System of Rice Intensification, which uses less water, should be practiced for paddy cultivation; micro Irrigation system (drips and sprinklers) should be used to conserve water; and any repairs to the borewells during critical phase (June to November) will be borne form the maintenance fund. During the rest of the year, borewell maintenance will be done by the owners.
FINE PRINT: The Borewell Sharing Agreement

INSTITUTIONAL NORMS
Farmers with or without borewells can join, if they contribute equally towards share capital
Members have joint accounts; annual contribution towards maintenance fund is Rs 100 per acre
One farmer elected to monitor water allocation and collect contribution

NON-INSTITUTIONAL NORMS
No new borewells for next 10 years, irrigated area to remain the same as 2009
Critically irrigated area can increase, but water provided for four key crop phases
Crop water budgeting exercise a must before sowing
If paddy is cultivated, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) should be practiced
Micro irrigation system such as drips and sprinklers to be used to conserve water
The farmers got financial support from the government for pipeline network and regulators for connecting existing borewells, sprinklers and drips systems. For promoting diversity in agriculture, the National Food Security Mission and the agriculture department provided red gram and groundnut seeds were provided free.
Government schemes such as horticulture plantation in five acres of land; water and soil conservation works under the MGNREGS and NADEP compost pits for non-pesticide management are used by the farmers.

GREEN DREAM
The agreement led to a new way of agriculture in the 72 acres of land of 25 farmers. Since 2010, the cropping pattern has changed, leading to diversity of crops, reduction in costs of cultivation; improvement in value of produce and profit.
According to a study by the Department of Rural Development and Social Work, Sri Krishna Devaraya University, Anantapur, the use of pipeline system instead of field channels has increased water use efficiency. Critical irrigation helped in preventing crop loss, and raised productivity of groundnut. Groundwater levels have been sustained since 2009 , while the area under agriculture and critical irrigation improved, shows data.
Thanks to the success of this borewell pooling, the Andhra Pradesh government is scaling it up across the state via the Indira Jalaprabha Scheme.
In Telangana, several villages in six districts — Mahbubnagar, Ranga Reddy , Warangal, Medak, Karimnagar and Adilabad — are piloting this participatory groundwater management programme.
The author tweets at @kumkumdasgupta

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/in-water-stressed-andhra-farmers-sign-pact-to-share-ground-water/story-tcv4mP5mXNBvE74vzqB7eN.html

Farm Income Insurance Scheme to Provide Protection to Farmers Against Natural Calamities is on the Cards

4.9.2014
Farm Income Insurance Scheme to Provide Protection to Farmers Against Natural Calamities is on the Cards: Radha Mohan Singh

Production and price risks affect the income of farmers, which has adverse effect on their capacity to invest in advance crop varieties, techniques of production and capital formation in farm sector. Inaugurating a Seminar on concept of farm income insurance scheme at Ahmedabad today, Union Minister of Agriculture, Shri Radha Mohan Singh said that agriculture is largely dependent upon monsoon, which leads to uncertainty in production and price of agricultural produce.

Government is considering to launch farm income insurance scheme so that these two important components i.e. production and price can be tackled under single policy instrument. The objective of this scheme would be to protect the farmers by giving them insurance cover for their production and market risks. The scheme aims to ensure continuous production, protection to livelihood and crops, encouragement to multiplicity of crops, which may promote competition from the angle of exports.

Mentioning the sea change in agricultural scenario over the past few years, Shri Singh said that foodgrain production has touched a record figure of 264.38 million tonnes during the year 2013-14. It is a matter of great pride that today we are producing more than our requirement of consumption. Even the States considered to be backward are producing foodgrains in excess. Our godowns have adequate foodgrains and we are in a position to meet any adverse contingency. During the year 2013-14, the country exported agricultural products worth Rs. 2.41 lakh crore. The country anticipates to exceed the targeted growth rate of 4% during the XIII Five Year Plan, he added.

Shri Singh said that we are facing difficulty to deal with storage capacity of our godowns and our procurement agencies like Food Corporation of India (FCI) are facing financial and structural difficulties. As such, mere subsidy cannot ensure guarantee for appropriate income to our farmers. Appropriate management of agricultural produce and improvement in processing technology can ensure good prices to farmers and they can also contribute to it.

The Minister said that Government of India is implementing since 1985 crop insurance to protect farmers from adverse affect of natural calamities at national level. Based on experience gained from implementation of farm insurance schemes, consultation with State Governments and stakeholders, a revised scheme is being considered which may be more conducive to farmers’ needs. During 2003-2004 rabi season some states and districts had started a scheme under which farmers were entitled to get compensation in the event of their getting lesser income from their production than guaranteed income. However, this scheme was applicable in case of rice and wheat only and it could not be implemented further, he added.

The present government has invited suggestions from all states to protect the income of farmers by way of giving a concept paper for insurance scheme so that difficulties experienced in the past could be overcome. Ministry officials have held discussions on 14th August, 2014 with all State Governments, Shri Singh said.

He expressed the hope that deliberations held in the seminar would firm up solid suggestions which would be helpful in preparing a practical and durable farm income insurance scheme.

GG:CP: insurance (4.9.2014)

After Bihar tragedy, FAO urges cut in hazardous pesticides

http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/07/30/fao-pesticides-bihar-midday-meal-idINDEE96T07520130730?feedType=RSS&feedName=globalCoverage2

Reuters

30 July 2013

(Reuters) – Developing countries should speed up the withdrawal of highly hazardous pesticides from their markets following the death of 23 children from contaminated food in India, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization said on Tuesday.

The children in Bihar died earlier this month after eating a school meal of rice and potato curry contaminated with monocrotophos, a pesticide considered highly hazardous by the FAO and the World Health Organization.

“Experience in many developing countries shows that the distribution and use of such highly toxic products very often poses a serious risk to human health and the environment,” the FAO said in a statement.

Monocrotophos is banned in many countries but a panel of government experts in India was persuaded by manufacturers that the product was cheaper than alternatives and more effective in controlling pests that decimate crop output.

Although the government argues the benefits of strong pesticides outweigh the hazards if properly managed, the food poisoning tragedy underlined criticism such controls are virtually ignored on the ground.

The FAO said many countries lacked the resources to properly manage the storage, distribution, handling and disposal of pesticides and to reduce their risks.

“Highly hazardous products should not be available to small scale farmers who lack knowledge and the proper sprayers, protective gear and storage facilities to manage such products appropriately,” the FAO added.

Monocrotophos is currently prohibited in Australia, China, the European Union and the United States, and in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the FAO said.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Silvia Aloisi and Elizabeth Piper)