Tushar Vijay Golesar, the son of a farmer who graduated in geography, had to take up a petty job in a manufacturing unit in the local industrial estate to supplement the family’s income. His annual salary of Rs.75,000 was just not enough to meet the needs of his family of six. But with four of his family members already working on a barren farm that yielded little, he had a limited role to play in augmenting the agricultural income.
There was not much to do on the family’s farm land in Jamkhole village, given the acute scarcity of water in the drought prone Sinnar region of the state. Water being the prime requirement for agriculture, has a direct impact on crop productivity and the income of the farmer. Of the five acres of land owned by the Golesars, half of it was barren and the rest gave sparse yields due to severe shortage of water. The lack of water had reduced the fertility of land and the availability of water for only six months in a year restricted the agricultural income.
It took one initiative by Tata Trusts to transform the fortunes of the Golesars. Tushar learned about Jal Samruddhi, a drought proofing project being implemented in the region by Tata Trusts, in association with a local non-profit Yuva Mitra. Under this project, revival of existing water bodies and dams was taken up to recharge the ground water-table as well as increase the level of water in the wells nearby. Instead of constructing new dams and water bodies, the project encouraged revival of existing water resources and dams whose capacities were reduced due to siltation. Under the drought proofing programme, work was done on de-siltation of the water structures, widening and deepening of water channels. This increased the availability of water for irrigation. Moreover, the de-siltation of water bodies provided fertile soil which was used to make the barren land productive. It would have cost Tushar Rs.60,000 to make his barren land productive with the silt from the water bodies. He had to bear just 25 per cent of the cost, with the rest of the funds coming through the Jal Samruddhi initiative.
Waking to the benefits of the Jal Samruddhi project, Tushar gave up his job at the industrial unit and led the resurgence of the family’s agricultural activity. In a matter of months, Tushar’s efforts – and Tata Trusts’ support – resulted in a total transformation. The barren land turned fertile and the entire area of five acres was brought under cultivation. Where the Golesars spent Rs. 60,000 on fertilizer, they are now spending just Rs. 30,000, since the soil fertility has increased due to silt application on the land. The yield of cabbages increased from 7 tons to 11 tons, the onion crop rose from 2500 to 3500kg and the produce of tomatoes soared from 400 crates to 1000 crates annually. The bottom-line was the four-fold increase in the income from the 5-acre farm – from just Rs.1.5 lakh to Rs6 lakh per annum.
A similar story resonates across the region, where Yuva Mitra and Tata Trusts have implemented the Jal Samruddhi project. Among the villages that have benefitted from the project are Ramnagar, Vadgaon, Jamgaon, Lonarwadi, Dodi Bk, Dodi KH, Nalwadi, Chass, Dubere, Sulewadi, Vadjire, Kirtangali, Khopdi, Dhondvirnagar, Konambe and Manegaon. The drought-prone region has been made drought-proof. The water storage capacity has been increased by 28.36 crore litres, ensuring steady supply for agriculture and other consumption for 10 months in a year. The womenfolk walking miles to fetch drinking water is a thing of the past, as is the selling of livestock for lack of water to feed them. The biggest impact of the Jal Samruddhi project is on the agricultural output of the region, with the yields and incomes of the benefitting farmers seeing a sharp rise.