JHARKHAND: Lily Purty, from one of the remotest villages in Jharkhand’s Khunti, never thought that her financial condition could improve despite having adequate land for farming.
Due to lack of irrigation facilities and unpredictable rains, most of her land remained unused. Government officials introduced Purty to the Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth (JOHAR) project.
It helps tribal women to get a dependable irrigation system, enabling them to diversify their crops through clean energy technology in the form of the solar-powered irrigation system.
Purty has succeeded in tripling her income within a few months. What Purty did was instead of planting only one crop in a year, she went for multiple cultivations, making use of all the land available to her with the help of irrigation facilities under the project.
Most of the land remained unused because many like her did not have the facility to irrigate them. Conventional pumps that work on kerosene or diesel were expensive. Purty says before solar power pumps were introduced in her village, only three women were engaged in vegetable cultivation.
But now, as many as 18 women have taken up vegetable farming as it’s become easier to water their fields. Similar was the reaction of Somari Tudu of Bamnisha village located in another tribal district, East Singhbhum. Solar power pumps have enabled Tudu to do multiple farming making use of all the land available to her. “We no longer require much fuel or power to irrigate our fields any time as per our convenience,” said Somari Tudu.
The system is so efficient that one pump can cater to over 20 acres, she says. Tudu says individually it was not possible to carry water through pipes up to 400 meters, but it is being done through these solar pumps. Along with rice, Tudu is now growing and selling vegetables adding to her income. Project officials said these pumps, which are given to the producer groups (PGs), are completely managed by the community and are installed on the community land, ultimately becoming property of the community.
“Out of the 1,950 sanctioned schemes for 39 blocks in 13 districts of Jharkhand, 350 of them are functional, benefitting over 5,000 women farmers,” says JOHAR project director Bipin Bihari. He says by making further innovation; they have also introduced cycle-mounted solar pumps which can be easily moved. “It is useful for the area which does not have a proper solar pump scheme. It also proves helpful in small villages where fields are scattered.
It has a 1 HP pump fitted with it, as compared to 5 HP and 7.5 HP pump with a proper solar powered pump, covering one-fourth of an acre, he added. The project director also said that out of the total of 1300 sanctioned cycle mounted solar pumps, 50 are already functional, which can be rented for `40 per hour. JOHAR is built on a strong institutional platform of women’s self-help groups established under the World Bank supported National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM).
The project also demonstrates climate-resilient technologies for improving the productivity of paddy. It promotes community-based micro irrigation and support producer groups (PGs) to move into value- added sectors such as livestock, fisheries, and non-timber forest produce. It also focuses on year-round cultivation of vegetables and diversifying into new high-yielding varieties of pulses and oilseeds. With only 13.5 per cent of the net sown area in being irrigated, about 60% of farmers depend on rains, which are becoming increasingly erratic with climate change.