A holistic watershed approach that not just conserves water and soil for better crop production but touches people’s lives through science-led interventions has once again delivered significant impacts in a Corporate Social Responsibility project in Telangana state of India.
A participatory approach knit the community as they learned to maintain water structures to harness water for their crops, operate a plant for safe drinking water and use common land and farm bunds for raising fruit trees and forage crops. The women were equipped to be ‘nutripreneurs’, earning incomes from vegetable gardens and upcycling brewery waste to improve milk production in livestock.
Even during the pandemic, this project in partnership with AB InBev, continues to work to deliver on project goals. A recent project progress meeting highlighted the extra water storage capacity of around 13,000 m3 created through constructed watershed structures during 2020 and 2021. This adds to the earlier 90,000 m3 storage capacity created in the project area since 2009. Upcoming plans include the construction of four more check dams that can store 16,000 m3 of water and the completion of 30 farm ponds. Farm-level water storage solutions are effective as a drought-proofing strategy and system intensification.
Impact on groundwater level: Measurement of groundwater in 10 watershed project villages showed an increase of 1.4 m in groundwater compared to adjoining five non-watershed villages. A video on the impacts of watershed interventions was broadcast on CNBC-TV 18.
Brief history of the project: The collaboration started with SABMiller/AB InBev signing a MoA with ICRISAT in 2009 to develop a watershed site around Charminar brewery in Sangareddy district. Given the significant impact, the project was scaled out in 2019 to a watershed site around Crown brewery in Kondapur mandal of Sangareddy district with the signing of an agreement. This initiative is impacting the lives of around 30,000 people in 10 villages spread across 7,661 ha around Charminar brewery and 5,700 people in 3 villages spread across 1,830 ha around Crown brewery.
Working through the pandemic
Construction of water storage structures: To address the issue of water scarcity and ensure quick access to water for smallholders, farm-level water storage solutions proved very useful. During 2020 and up to April 2021, 37 farm ponds, 2 community ponds and 2 check dams were constructed. This adds to the 455 different structures built during 2009-17, namely, check dams (15), pond/percolation tanks (29), well-recharge structures (12), rock-filled dams (78), run-off disposal (21) and loose boulder structures (300). The total water storage capacity created at the project site to date is around 103,000 m3.
System productivity and sustainability: Soil health mapping has shown widespread deficiencies in terms of low levels of soil organic carbon and deficiencies of secondary and micronutrients. Around 100 demonstrations were conducted during 2020 to show yield benefits to farmers. During the entire project period, a total of 32 t gypsum, 10 t zinc sulphate and 1 t agribor micro/secondary nutrient fertilizers were distributed for around 5,500 demonstrations in farmers’ fields. Evaluation of more than 5 t improved seeds of pigeonpea, maize, chickpea, sorghum and other crops were conducted on farmers’ fields. Under the productivity enhancement initiatives, improved practice increased crop yields of participating farmers in the range of 10-50% during different years with additional family income of around ₹ 4,000/ ha for rice crop to ₹ 31,000 per ha for sugarcane crop with a benefit-cost ratio varying between 2-12. Eleven composting pits were constructed for integrated nutrient management by recycling farm wastes and cutting costs of chemical fertilizers.
Horticulture & Agroforestry: For system-context productivity, around 1,100 households were provided 2,500 plant fruit saplings during 2020. Earlier initiatives have supported in strengthening agroforestry by planting 25,000 plants on farm bunds/common lands including 7,000 fruit plants in the pilot villages.
Nutri-gardens & Women-mainstreaming: During 2020, around 600 women were provided with vegetable seeds to establish small nutri-gardens for household nutrition and sale of extra produce. These nutri-gardens enabled access to fresh vegetables during the covid-19 pandemic without having to visit the markets. This activity builds on the earlier 500 nutri-gardens that were established.
For strengthening livestock-based livelihoods, women Self-Help Groups developed earlier are effectively managing the spent-malt from breweries as cattle feed. This intervention has led to a monthly income increase between ₹ 1,000-10,000 for women farmers around Charminar (220 households) and Crown breweries
Safe drinking water for the village: Two Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants established in Shivampet and Sulthanpur villages around Charminar brewery were effectively managed during 2020 through women Self-Help Group and the Gram Panchayat, respectively, to cater to the 5,000 households with a facility of safe drinking water. These RO plants were built from separate funding from AB InBev during 2018-2019. Each plant has a 2,000 liter capacity per hour and is run on a business model with a fixed charge of ₹ 5 for 20 liters when purchased at the site and at ₹ 10 for 20 liters for door delivery. Each plant sells around 20,000 cans of 20-liter capacity in a year.
The project “Improving agricultural productivity and livelihoods through holistic and sustainable resource management” will be closing in August 2021, but the learnings from this site have great potential for upscaling and outscaling across India.
Dr Girish Chander, Senior scientist – Natural Resource Management, ICRISAT Development Center, Asia Program.
Read more about ICRISAT’s Natural Resource Management work on EXPLOREit