Watershed programme in Tirunelveli brings back people to farming

Tirunelveli, March 27 (IANS) Twenty-three-year-old G. Nelson Chinnadurai decided to handle the tilling machine and toil on the family’s 3.5 acre dry land in Karisalpatti panchayat in Tirunveli district instead of handling a computer mouse after obtaining a BCA two years ago.

“I have been involved in the farming activity since my school days. I decided to do farming instead of going for a job,” Chinnadurai told IANS.

According to him, the decision to toil in the land was also facilitated by the watershed project implemented in the village by the social arms of three corporates – Sundaram-Clayton Ltd, TVS Motor Company Ltd and Coca-Cola India Foundation.

Located in Tirunelveli district, the farm land in the hot Karisalpatti depends on rain for cropping.

“The other problem is that the terrain is sloppy and the rain water would run off without perculating into the soil and charge the ground water table,” T. Jayaraj a farmer with five acres told IANS.

Farmers were able to grow only one crop in a year. As a result, people started to migrate in search of livelihood which in turn resulted in farm lands turning fallow, he added.

“Migration has its own effects on the people’s culture. The attitude of people who migrated would change and similarly those who remained in the old places would also change. On the whole, the basic culture foundation would change,” Ashoke Joshi, chairman, Srinivasn Services Trust (SST) told IANS.

The SST focusses on five areas – economic development, health, education, infrastructure and environment.

In 2014, SST tied up with Coca-Cola India Foundation to implement a watershed project in Tirunelveli district, one of several such it is working with NGOSon across India.

“We got Rs.1.75 crore from Coca-Cola India Foundation for the project. We have built check-dams, levelled the sloppy terrain to prevent rain water run-off, dug ponds and also assisted farmers in setting up drip irrigation systems,” Joshi said.

He said the SST tapped funds available from various government schemes and only Rs.65 lakhs has been spent by SST from the amount sanctioned by Coca-Cola India Foundation.

“Our land used to be very sloppy. With SST’s help the land was levelled, shrubs were cleared and the embedded rocks were taken out. As a result the area of cultivable land has gone up to five acres now from the earlier one acre,” Jayaraj said.

He has planted egg plant (brinjal), cucumber and tomatoes and will be planting gooseberries.

A 2.7 lakh litre capacity pond dug up in the land of farmer Jhon Deva Pichai is now filled with water, which in turn has recharged the water table.

Pichai is also planning to farm cucumber, gooseberries in his land.

“Earlier, ground water was available only at around 60 ft. Now it is available at around 20 ft,” Jayaraj said.

According to E. Murugan, field director at SST, seven check dams have been constructed out of the targeted nine.

He said farm and percolation ponds, check dam drainage and desilting have also been done to prevent soil erosion check walls and bunds have been built.

Due to these efforts, the area of cultivable land has increased in Karisalpatti village, Murugan added.

On the occasion of World Water Day celebrated on March 22, the Coca-Cola India Foundation dedicated its 150th water conservation structure – checkdam – to the community of Cheranmahadevi panchayat union in the Tirunelveli district.

According to Coca-Cola India Foundation some significant achievements of Tirunelveli watershed project are:

* 1035.7 hectare of fallow land covered through soil and water conservation, of which 789.8 hectare of dry land covered under dry land agriculture, horticulture and agro-forestry

* 231 farmers got monthly income of Rs.4,500 to Rs.6,000 through dry land farming after three decades

* Of 1,673 livestock, 1,245 livestocks were immunised, deworming. There is no epidemic disease found in the livestock since last 3-years

* The weight of goats has improved and the milk yield from cows have also gone up by around 1.5 litres to 6.5 liters per day

* Out of 197 wells and 127 bore wells, the water table level of 107 wells and 89 bore wells has increased from 2.5 metres to 5 metres

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