Bhopal: A traditional water conservation method using mud embankments on farmland is helping farmers in a drought-prone region of Madhya Pradesh increase grain production.
For years, farmers in Mandla district produced only one crop. But with the adoption of the `Medh Bandhan` water conservation method they are producing two crops a year. The method has also reduced their dependence on forest produce with which they used to supplement their livelihoods.
Prabal Sipaha, CEO of Mandla Zila Panchayat, shared the success story at a two-day workshop on decentralisation in Bhopal, ogranised by NGO Inclusive Media for Change, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and India`s Planning Commission.
"Mandla had been drought-prone for long and water conservation efforts were limited due to lack of embankments in the area. In such a scenario, farmers were unable to produce two crops in a year," said Sipaha, explaining how things changed when authorities and people joined hands to revive traditional mud embankments.
Sipaha said the second crop had transformed the agricultural economy of the district in just three years.
Only 23 percent of the land here was arable and of this, 82 percent was non-irrigated, he said.
Faced with a problem of water shortage, the administration launched an aggressive awareness and interaction programme with farmers.
An outcome was the realisation that Medh Bandan was the most suitable tool to overcome the challenges the region faced, he said.
Medh Bandhan was then implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
The campaign provided triple benefits: It widened Medh Bandhan activities, created jobs and the farmers did not have to pay for mud embankments on their lands.
Medh Bandhan has now come up on 300,000 acres of land. The water conservation method has proved so successful that framers can now save water for the whole year for their agricultural purposes. Apart from producing two crops, it has helped some to even grow commercial crops such as `arhar` and `chana` (gram).
There have been other, rather startling, positive effects. With farmers earning more and gainfully occupied through the year, migration from the district has dropped by 14 percent. Even the water table has risen due to this method and cases of malnutrition have also dropped.
The workshop also saw several experts discussing the advantages of decentralisation, citing the example of Mandla.