TIRUPATI: Hinterlands in Thamballapalle region, once parched and unexplored, are now thriving with lush green fields, thanks to T Pareshamma and her persistent efforts towards water conservation. Farmhands in Thamballapalle and surrounding areas now grow millet and other cereals, instead of paddy and tomato, since the former require less water and can be grown in any environment.
Thirty-two-year-old Pareshamma is among the 41 individuals nominated from Andhra Pradesh for an award announced by National Water Mission and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for their contribution to water conservation efforts.
A native of Gopidinne village, Pareshamma’s family moved to Thamballapalle where she pursued and completed ITI Diploma. In 2015, she joined Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) as a panchayat resource person (PRP). At present, she works as a PRP volunteer and educates farmers and MGNREGA workers on water harvesting. She also suggests the farmers of 16 villages in the region on what crops to grow that consume less water.
FES, with the help of PRP volunteers, conducts interactive and exposure sessions for the farmers, who are given suggestions by agriculture scientists after soil examination. It educates the villagers on the significance of conservation of hillocks used for livestock grazing. “There is an urgent need to protect water bodies, hillocks, and common lands where the livestock feed, otherwise our future generations could be in danger,” Pareshamma said.
The organisation also conducts interactive sessions for primary school children to impart knowledge of birds, and steps that should be taken for conservation of rare species on the verge of extinction. The organisation, which started with five volunteers in 2015, has now more than 25 volunteers who help the farmers in digging trenches and rain harvesting pits.
Explaining the progress made by FES in transforming farming in the region, she said, “Though the farmers switched to crops that can be cultivated with less water, ensuring minimum support price (MSP) and effective marketing channels are still an issue. When farmers don’t get sufficient remunerative prices, there is every chance that he will switch back to cultivating paddy and tomato,” she said, adding that the onus of ensuring MSP for the cereals is on the government.