The Indian agricultural industry has come a long way since the days when farmers had no other options but to rely heavily on manual labor and animals to ensure a good harvest. Moreover, on top of that, there was the issue of lack of electrification and technology to aid them in reaping a better harvest.
However, even though the situation is a lot better when compared to a few decades back; in order to truly exploit both the domestic and the international markets; the agricultural sector needs to endorse modern innovative technologies to its fullest.
Even though, the contribution of the agricultural sector in the Indian economy is much higher when compared to the world's average of 6.1%, there is still a lot of room for the sector to grow once it becomes truly organized and more mechanized, which is not the case, as a vast majority of farmers are still heavily reliant on the old ways, which also includes relying mostly on rainfall to meet their water requirements.
Which brings us to the question-- How to ensure availability of water all through the year?
The need of the hour is to ensure that the issue of water scarcity is eliminated and farmers have access to water even when the rains have been poor, which is where the story of Darewadi comes into play!
The Story of Darewadi
The Darewadi village in Ahmed Nagar District of Maharashtra is a case study in itself when it comes to what rainwater harvesting at the village level can achieve. This tiny hamlet only received about 300 mm of annual rainfall which can be considered as pretty low for a village with a geographical area of about 15535.24 hectares (ha), out of which 197.23 ha was seasonally irrigated and about 737.62 ha was rain fed.
Even a good year of rainfall wasn’t even enough for 3-4 months; moreover, employment opportunities were rare and villagers had to toil hard to fetch water to meet even their most basic requirements.
It was when the villagers became aware of Watershed Organisation trust (WOTR) which is an Ahmednagar based NGO, they approached them for assistance. But, conditions such as four days of shramdaan and a complete ban on free grazing was a big deterrent in convincing the villagers to let the NGO help them implement the project.
The change came when Darewadi faced a really bad monsoon and the difficulties that immediately followed suit opened their eyes and the project finally took off in 1996, and in 1997, permission was taken from the forest department to work in the reserved forest zone for following the ridge to valley concept, a crucial part of the project.. Finally, in 1998, the project entered its full implementation stage and today, Darewadi stands as a coming of age story for thousands of villages across the country.
Darewadi’s agricultural produce has grown by leaps and bounds due to increased availability of water and enhanced moisture in the soil resulting in a higher yield. A village which used to struggle in producing enough now has linkages with markets for selling its surplus produce and there is a complete ban on digging bore wells to preserve groundwater.
Moreover, seeing the transformation that the village of Darewadi went through after the successful implementation of the project; various other villages came forward expressing willingness to have similar kinds of projects to be undertaken in their respective villages.
The Way Forward
Rain Water harvesting has immense potential when it comes to transforming the lives of hundreds of villagers across thousands of villages in the country, and the government on its part can do a lot.
Already, flagship programs like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana are proving to be major milestones in ending the culture of open defecation and helping electrify villages across the country respectively.
The government, on similar lines, could introduce a scheme that would help villages implement rainwater harvesting and should prioritize implementing the project across villages with a history of low annual rainfall and drought like conditions so that the success of Darewadi could be replicated across the country.
A planned rainwater harvesting project, if implemented successfully, could prove to be the game-changer that areas like Vidarbha, Bundelkhand, and Marathwada, which are all reeling under a severe water crisis are in dire need of, and taking a bird’s eye view of Darewadi could provide the exact cues as to how a tiny step could result in the complete transformation of an entire community.