Drips of life in Mudigubba
- 44 families from four villages in the region of Bathalapalli, in India, increase their agricultural production, diversify their crops and improve the empowerment of the women and school attendance of the children.
- The drip irrigation system, implemented by the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, in collaboration with the We Are Water Foundation, has enabled the planting of nearly 15,000 vegetable and fruit produce and ensured their cultivation.
“Before, to irrigate, we had to carry the water from the well which was 450 metres away from the fields. In summer it was very difficult to do at night because of the lack of electricity. My daughter had to work very hard to water them. Now these problems have been resolved since we just have to turn on the engine that activates the drip irrigation system.” These words of Upendrachari, a farmer from the village of Venkatagaripalyam, sum up one of the fundamental benefits of the project that the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, in collaboration with the We Are Water Foundation, has completed in India.
In four villages from the area of Mudigubba in the region of Bathalapalli in the state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the most difficult areas climatically in India, due to its scarce and irregular rainfall and insufficient infrastructures used in managing water, many of the owners decide not to farm their lands due to the high cost of its maintenance and the meagre perspectives for success.
Added to the uncertainty regarding the return on the single-crop farming (basically peanut) is a very tough situation for the women and children who normally have to carry the water from the wells. Moreover, the efficiency of this form of manual irrigation leaves much to be desired and does not ensure the survival of the plants that grow irregularly and are very vulnerable to plagues. A lot of water is also wasted due to evaporation or deficient irrigation. This means that the poorest inhabitants are forced to move to the big cities, which leads to broken families, school abandonment and uprooting.
14,912 vegetable and fruit trees for 44 families
The drip irrigation system that has recently been completed in Mudigubba has benefited 44 farming families that make up a total of 222 people, 128 men and 94 women; of which 62 are boys and 33 girls. Ganganna, one of the beneficiary farmers from the village of P. Kothakota, hopes to diversify and increase his income with his mango fruit yield: “In 2010 RDT (Rural Development Trust, as the Vicente Ferrer Foundation is known in India) supplied me with 300 mango plants, but due to a plague I lost 72 plants. Today I have 228 fruit trees and peanut plants. Before I had the drip irrigation system, the water reached my crops manually. Now my family and I are happy with the drip irrigation system. The installation was completed on the 10th of March 2012. We have noticed a big difference since our plants are growing uniformly. We still have to wait another two years to get the return on the mango plants, at the moment the peanut is our source of income.”
The drip irrigation system consists of watering the plant drip by drip close to the root. This method reduces the loss of water due to filtration and evaporation. Instead of placing fertilisers on the surface of the soil close to the plant, these products are mixed in the water and supplied drip by drip over the root, achieving greater effectiveness and better results in the quality of the crops. Moreover, up to 75% of water is saved, which can be used to irrigate new areas of crops.
The irrigation by drip of the Foundation’s project in the villages of Mudigubba have now reached 14,912 fruit and vegetable plants that cover 64.1 hectares. In this way, the farmers have been able to diversify the crops and increase the productivity of the land, while substantially improving the diet of their families.
Furthermore, the system lays the basis for saving water in an area in which the underground aquifer resources have dropped rapidly due to the alternation and instability of the monsoons.
Avoiding uprooting, empowering women and sending children to school
We should take into account a social circumstance that worsens the situation of poverty in the area: the caste system which, although officially abolished by the Indian Constitution, continues to be socially rooted in practice and influential in people’s lives. Of all the castes, the lowest is that of the Dalits or untouchables, a large group of 160 million people who are socially excluded, since they form the lowest strata of society. One of the main objectives of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and the We Are Water Foundation is to avoid the uprooting of the poorest due to lack of farming resources, forcing them to move to the big cities. There their conditions of life lose all dignity since they are confined to insalubrious and extremely poor slums.
Having the water supply guaranteed and that it can reach the crops in an ecologically sustainable way is the basis for the development and maintenance of agriculture and to also be able to structure the families, another of the fundamental factors for the improvement of community life. To be able to make the most of the project, the farmers promise to send their children to school and allow their wives to be members of the shangam, the women’s association in the village. In the case where they are responsible for the care of disabled people, they must also allow their attendance at the disabled workshops. In this way, with the empowerment of the women and the school attendance of the children, the community establishes solid bases so it can be rooted to the land.
This project is the second completed after the collaborative agreement with the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and the We Are Water Foundation. The first was the construction of a reservoir of 80.000 m3 in Ganjikunta (see the project) which has enabled a surface area of 22.26 hectares to be watered and to establish a water collection model which ensures the supply to the farmers subjected to the harsh climate of the area of Anantapur. The reservoir also facilitates the recovery of the aquifers and avoids deforestation and the consequent deterioration of the farming soil.
A collective project that integrates everyone
This project for applying a drip irrigation system has been developed, like the first one, according to the model of execution of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, whose experience after more than four decades is deep and broad. This model uses the process to collectively involve all the beneficiaries from its beginnings, which facilitates their technical training and constitutes the best guarantee for sustainability.
Firstly, the foundation’s central ecology team met, made up of 19 members among which feature experts in agriculture, infrastructures and finances. This team drew up the guidelines of execution and supervision of the project.
Then a meeting was held with the 44 beneficiary farmers and their wives, the elders of the village and the local representatives. Once the beneficiary group committee had been established, they chose a committee of 11 users from among its members with the responsibility to meet at least six times during the undertaking of the project.
The first activity was the excavation of the ditches for the channelling of the water in which the 44 farmers participated. At the same time, a training workshop was held in which the beneficiaries were instructed for five hours by the project experts about the need to conserve water and the characteristics of drip irrigation and its importance when saving water. The farmers learnt how to increase the efficiency of fertilisers and the health of the plant. They were also trained in growing techniques that enable them to develop the horticulture with respect for the soil’s very own nutrients.
Finally the plantation of the fruit trees was carried out, the majority oranges and mangoes, which today are growing healthily and uniformly, which represents a marked improvement in the food and economic security of the farmers.
About the We Are Water Foundation
The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.