The Water Stewardship Programme (WSP) with the support of ITC Ltd., is designed with an aim of integrated development of the villages in the Karamadai block of Coimbatore District. The objective of the Water Stewardship Programme is to harness locally available natural resources in an optimum manner to achieve the overall goal of sustainable development. These objectives can be realized by conserving, protecting and restoring the ecological balance by developing natural resources and by preventing soil erosion, degradation of top soil cover, regeneration of natural vegetation, rain water harvesting and recharging of the ground water table. The programme also gives specific importance to the productivity enhancement of agriculture/horticulture/animal husbandry activities and livelihood development. The activities for resource development and usage will be planned to promote farming and allied activities to promote local livelihoods while ensuring resource conservation and regeneration.
With this focus, COODU initiated Water Stewardship Programme which was launched in the month of August 2015 in the Kalampalayam and subsequently implementing in Kemmarampalam, Thekkampatti, Maruthur, Velliyangadu, Nellithurai and Tholampalayam Gram Panchayats of Karamadai block of Coimbatore district with the support of ITC. During the project period efforts were taken to conserve the soil and moisture of the particular region through construction various water harvesting structures in the project locations.
The overall goal of this initiative was to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and improve the livelihoods of rural poor in vulnerable rain-fed areas through integrated watershed management.
To impart multifarious activities on watershed development programs in the target areas we have conducted a special area survey. To understand the basic concept of the project the beneficiaries were encouraged to take participate in this survey and to involve in the data collection on various existing and needed infrastructure, PRA to understand the geographical area and existing water bodies and physical structures, RRA to equip the small and marginal farmers to understand catchment areas, water flow pattern, streams, channels, trenches, ponds, lakes wells and bore wells.
Five structures were constructed as cattle trough to provide drinking water facility to the cattle capacitating 2,625 liters. Water connection and Pipe fitting were done by the community contribution. During the drought season these cattle trough was the only available drinking source for the hamlets cattle population.
To disseminate and aware the farmers to adopt soil and water conservation techniques many sign boards and display boards were erected in the main places like Markets, Cross Roads, and Panchayat Offices. The sign and display boards made a major play in promoting sustainable agriculture practices. These boards remind them daily and rejuvenate and resurrect their new ideas about the watershed development programs.
Instead of vomiting the known factors, it is essential to bring out the hidden potentiality and capability of the beneficiaries; hence COODU has conducted 19 workshops at various locations. The beneficiaries understood many watershed development techniques, efficient water usage techniques and agricultural inputs through various methodologies of the workshops like, group discussion, sharing of experiences and movie shows through LED displays.
The percolation tanks are mostly earthen with masonry structure only for spillway. To better recuperation of wells in the downstream areas we have constructed across streams and bigger gullies in order to impound a part of the run-off water. Totally 71 such tanks were constructed/renovated and about 4.5 Lakh CuM of soil had been desilted in these tanks.
Apart from collecting water from trenches and bunding systems by collecting through farm ponds plays a vital role in soil erosion and water harvesting systems. The basic concepts of farm pond are collection of rainwater with in the fields in low-lying areas and preserve the silt, to provide drinking water to cattle and protective irrigation to crops at critical stages. The silt collected from ponds could be used for bunding and the ponds can increase the ground water table to the nearby wells. 156 farm ponds were erected so far.
The streams available in our target area situated in the slopes of Western Ghats, hence all the rainwater runoff immediately and streams have made gullies. Therefore to stop the gullies formation and to make all streams as perennial, 68 check dams with concrete materials was constructed. These check dams reduce water flow velocity and counteract erosion and provide drinking water facility to cattle even during critical seasons.
To stop the soil erosion and to prevent the run – off Bunds, like an embankment was erected along the periphery of farmlands. The overflows of the water from the bunds are storaged in low lying areas. These trenches cum bunds were made with the community participation.
To store the rain water within their fields and to percolate the storage rain water these trench cum bunds were made with the use of “A” frame techniques. These bunds were covered with coconut fronds, husks and coconut coir piths and other mulching greeny leaves to stop the water vaporization and preserve the soil moisture.
Contour bunding a proven sustainable land management practice for marginal, sloping and hilly land where the soil productivity is very low. This contour bunding is a well adopted technique where lands are not flat and using these contour bunds were made with the use of “A” frame technology.
Though they are well aware of all types of bunding systems, the farmers are not adopting and practicing the Ring Bund system. Hence COODU motivated the farmers to use the Ring Bund system. To enhance the intake of water by Coconut tree roots a bund was made around the tree and it was covered with coconut fronds, and coconut coir piths to protect the soil moisture and to reduce the evaporation.
Though they are well aware of all types of bunding systems, the bunds were erosed in heavy rain and heavy water flow. Hence COODU motivated the farmers to plant fodder on bunds and in the field. Due to fodder plantation the soil erosion was controlled and the farmers were availing food for their cattle.
The target area contains many small hillocks, hence to construct with low-cost models like constructing loose boulders and Gabion structure is needed and essential to stop the soil erosion and check the runoff. Though it is a simple structure it is adoptable in places like our target area for longer life and less maintenance. It restricts the gully formation in catchment areas and helps the flow system of the streams. Such 40 such boulder check dams were constructed.
The barren land with local grass is considered as feeding areas for cattle. To promote these non-cultivable and barren lands should be promoted as micro forest to provide supplement income to the community and to feed their cattle. Moreover 1350 tree saplings were planted in Maruthur, kalampalayam, Kemmarampalayam and Thekampatti Panchayats as foreshore plantations.
After planting the saplings, protection like small natural fencing like thorn based plant cuttings, watering etc., by the Watershed User Groups.
The bunding foreshore plantations have immense potential for green cover, avoid evaporation of bunding water, controlling harmful pests, fuel and fodder for their cattle and also protect the farm crops from other cattle. The foreshore/ Bund plantation attract birds in large numbers; these provide manure; the fallen leaves also add the nutritive value through mulching and at last it revenue through fruits etc.
Sediment transport is the general term used for the transport of material like clay, silt, gravels and boulders in streams. By analysing the total sediment discharge in a stream is the total volume of sediment particles in motion per unit time. It includes the sediment transport by bed load motion and suspension as well as the wash load. Hence COODU has established a monitoring unit to assess and promote to stop the soil erosion and water flow pattern.
To measure soil moisture, detects if there is a water shortage that can reduce yields or if there is excessive water application that can result in water logging or leaching of nitrates below the root zone Irrigation water management requires timely application of the right amount of water. Competition for water, high pumping costs, and concerns for the environment are making pumping costs, and concerns for the environment are making good water management more important. Moreover to plan and for the management and to promote efficient irrigation management practices such as irrigation – scheduling, based on soil moisture status COODU has introduced a soil moisture indicator in our target areas.
To know the efficient irrigation management practices such as irrigation – scheduling and to save water, COODU has tested soil in 300 places periodically. Particularly for better and economic use of bio fertilizer and better soil management practices for high crop yield to overcome fertilizer deficiencies soil test is needed. Moreover to know which crops are suitable for their lands could be identified only through the soil testing.
Earthworms plays an important role in sustainable agriculture they are the quick indicator of the soil fertility. It burrows improving soil structure, worm castings, enrich the soil by converting dead plant or other organic material back into nutrients. Though there are two types of vermin compost making like aerobic and anaerobic methods COODU has adopted both. Red wigglers, white worms and other earthworms are used to create various mixtures of decomposing vegetable and crop wastes used as bedding materials and as food for these worms to harvest Earthworm castings past year.
To reduce the chemical fertilizer and to promote bio fertilizer among the farmers NADEP compost was introduced last year and the same was maintained and they harvest high yield of vermin casting in a small rectangular brick tank constructed last year. Crop residues, domestic and agricultural waste turns into wealth and it serves as a bio fertilizers for organic cultivation. Using of bio fertilizers is one of the factors in sustainable agriculture practices and also it reduces the cost of cultivation. Due to use of this bio fertilizers they harvest high and nutrient yield.
Apart for the vermin and NADEP compost units, 40 pits were created during the year by the farmer by their own and the same was maintained by them with the proper guidance and support of COODU.
During the off season the cover crops like Kolunchi – TephrosiaPurpureaare planted for the purpose of adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. They are inexpensive to plant, and to serve multiple purposes. They reduce soil loss from rainwater erosion, maintain soil surface infiltration, improve soil health and they fix nitrogen in the soil during rain.
Farmers Field School & Demo Plots were made last year and the same was used for this year also. Different type mulching materials like Coconut Fronds, Coir Pith, Green manure and Coconut Husks were used to cover the trenches around the 4 Coconut Trees and 4 Banana Trees and 4 Coconut and 4 Banana trees without trenches for testing. Soil fertility, Soil Moisture, No bugs and insects are taken into account and the same was explained to the farmers by TN Agricultural University and Gandhigram Rural University Professors. 26 fields was selected and changed as demo plot, key and lead farmer from each locality was selected and treated as demo plot. Nearby farmers were formed as FFS group and consequent training was provided to them by the demand Management team of COODU
By formation of WUG, COODU has introduced special mechanization of Chop Cutters, Power Tiller, Sprayers, Rotavator, Water Tanker, Power Weeder, among small and marginal farmers to increase their yields. One WUG has availed a tractor with trailer, with tanker. Many mechanized instruments were introduced to reduce the expenses and to raise the yield.
To equip the farmers to work together as a group it is essential that COODU was formed 31 groups and to buy agricultural equipment and farm mechanization. COODU has created a platform to share their experiences and they met once in a month and they discuss themselves to seek solutions to their problems.
Around 150 types of tree saplings was planted in a common land in Maruthur Panchyat, Fencing was done by COODU and saplings was also planted by COODU. Maintenance part was done by the Panchyat and local people. Watering was done by the NREGS employees.
As planned in the beginning of the year, COODU has intervened with the target community, but few activities were demanded by the farming community during our implementation. Our activities like FFS, TCB and Water Saving Technologies made heavy impact among the farmers. During the Group Discussion and Monthly meetings they have expressed that their existing Drip Irrigation nostrils were blocked and they cannot proceed with the old systems. COODU has found solutions for their problems (special chemical has to be added with the water during watering to the plants). They stated that using a chemical during the watering has cleared the nostrils blocks. Hearing other farmers during the sharing meeting, farmers who have not erected the drip irrigation demanded to erect the drip irrigation to COODU. Hence COODU discussed with the ITC/MSK and implemented Drip Irrigation programs. COODU approached the concern line departments in Government of Tamil Nadu and implemented the Drip Irrigation Systems under subsidy schemes. With the support of Government of Tamil Nadu COODU has established Drip Irrigation Programs. Totally 143 farmers have benefitted and their 370 Ha. of lands are irrigated under Drip Irrigation Programs in our target area. After implementing Mulching, Ring Bund and Drip Irrigation, other farmers have adopted the said three activities in their farms without our support.
COODU highlight the links between plant functional traits and soil properties, aiming towards ecological intensification of sustainable agricultural. To equip the farmers to reduce the agricultural expenses and to develop their cattle and to stop the erosion in their ponds and bunding they were encouraged to adopt fodder cultivation in their farm lands where TCB and Farms Ponds were erected. Such 100 farmers had adopted the fodder cultivation in their 103 ha of lands had been cultivated the fodder crops like Co. FS 29 and CumbuNepier. The fodder cultivation not only stop the soil erosion in their bunds it also provide special greeny food to the cattle. Moreover small and marginal farmers were encouraged to adopt Drumstick plantation in their farms. The leaves harvested from their farms could be sold out to the export merchants, where they can get good prices. The drumstick could also be sold out to the export merchants (Gopal and Co. Export Company Ltd.)