With the objectives of augmentation of agricultural production, crop intensity, bringing more land under agriculture, improve rural livelihood, equitable social economic development of all the people and rise in water table and capacity building of farmers, the Stewardship Programme, the CSR initiative of the ITC, had been launched in October 2015. Criteria, such as poverty index, SC/ST population, number of small and marginal farmers, extent of land degradation and irrigation were assessed in the selection of watersheds.
There are Eleven Activities to conserve and develop the Watersheds.
Activities that benefit individual farmers are:
1. Trench- Cum- Bunding.
2. Vermi Compost Making.
3. NADEP Compost.
4. Farm Ponds.
1. Cattle Trough.
2. Loose Boulder Check Dam.
3. Gabion, Minor Check Dam.
4. Major Check Dam.
5. Percolation Tanks.
6. Recharge of Wells.
7. Renovation of Existing water harvesting structures.
While planning for new water resources in the watersheds, the MSK team found that 24 check weirs have been constructed across gullies as per allocations at Rs.5.0 lakhs per surplus weir by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department, without aprons/pluggings to arrest spillage of water and excavations for augmenting the storage capacity. The team contemplated the cost estimate in the creation of a water resource, in juxtaposition to provision of pluggings in the existing weirs and deepening of the supply side of the structures to increase its capacity and arrived at a decision to strengthen the structures by provision of plugging and increasing the storage capacity by converging the two initiatives. Permission for the convergence was obtained from the Block Development Officer, Karamadai and consequently, 24 strengthened water resources were developed, raising scopes and saving precious amount of money.
Improving water use efficiency is an ongoing goal in agricultural production, especially in Tamil Nadu, where water resources are limited. It was observed that the water supplies are limited and the demand for water among various sectors is ever increasing due to climate change, urbanization and industrialization. Agriculture is the major water user of about 70 per cent, with industrial sector demand is about 20 per cent and domestic sector is about 10 per cent. Future projections by various researchers indicate that the supplies to agriculture sector may reduce and hence there is a push to use less water in agriculture. To address the above issues, the farmers are searching for new ways to reduce the water demands. Mulching is one cultural practice which can be used to addresses this problem. Covering the ground with mulch saves water by preventing surface evaporation. The layer can also greatly reduce or eliminate weed propagation, which will also result in higher water use efficiency. Using certain agricultural byproducts as mulch is a sustainable practice which can reduce water use and provide other benefits as well. In areas where coconut is grown in a large area, coconut husk, coir pith and coconut fronds are fairly abundant byproducts. Many farmers already generate these mulching materials, and currently spend resources to dispose of them. Mulching using this waste is a cost effective practice which would conserve water, moderate soil temperature, reduce waste, and improve the soil. Considering the fact that each of these mulches is widely available, ITC demonstrated the mulching technologies by way of conducting FFS (Farmers field school) in ten coconut grown farmers’ fields and in ten different locations in Karamadai block of Coimbatore district under the ITC-MSK, water stewardship program to create awareness among the farming community to overcome the problems of water scarcity during summer months (March to May). The treatment involves practices /technologies like mulching with the use of local materials like coconut husk, coir pith and fronds. The demonstration was conducted to determine which of these low cost organic mulches functions best at conserving soil moisture. The information generated by this demonstration can help farmers to choose the material that will best suit their mulching needs. In addition, the report also deals with an alternate method of adoption of drip irrigation for coconut as a demand management strategy to overcome the water scarcity situation in the study area. The study was taken up with the following objectives:
1. To analyze the occurrence and distribution of rainfall in the study area.
2. To estimate the water available and to study the water scarcity situation in the study area.
3. To study the extent of area under crops in the study area.
4. To study the impact of mulching materials on soil moisture retention pattern and
5. To study the impact of drip irrigation on water use efficiency for Coconut. Duration: 15 days (25.07.2017 to 08.08.2017)
The study was carried out in the Devanapuram, Thekampatty, Kalampalayam, Marudur, and Tholampalayam villages of Karamadai block. Karamadai block is one of the block in Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu State, India. It is located 32 km towards North from Coimbatore (Fig.1). Karamadai Block is bounded by Annur block towards east, Periyanayakkanpalayam block towards south, Coonoor block towards west, Kotagiri block towards north. The total geographical area of the block is 645454 ha and the area is drained by the Bhavaniriver. The normal annual rainfall of the block is about 892 mm spread over in four seasons. Majority of the rainfall is occurring in North East monsoon. The percentage distribution of soil in the study area is categorized as forest soil (40%), followed by red non-calcareous soil(40%) and red non-calcareous soil(15%). The infiltration rate of the red calcareous soil is found to range from 1.32 cm/hour to 9 cm/hour which influence the activity of mulching for soil moisture retention to overcome the crop water deficit. Major crops grown in the study area include Arecanut, Coconut, Banana, Groundnut, Pulses and Vegetables. Out of the total cropped area of 14005 ha, Banana and Coconut alone contribute to 35 per cent of the cropped area which are taken as highly water consuming crops. The water requirement of Banana crop is 1000 to 1200 mm and Coconut crop is 55 to 120 litres/ plant. The surface water resources for the irrigation are exploited by more than 90 per cent and the farmers are left with only option of extracting groundwater during stages of water scarcity. The groundwater development in the Karamadai is in the category of semi critical wherein 70-90 per cent and further extraction should be regulated to avoid over exploitation in the area.
The demonstration was conducted ten coconut farmers field in various locations in Karamadai block of Coimbatore district. The villages covered in the study area are Devanapuram, Thekampatty, Kalampalayam, Maruthur and Tholampalayam. The study was carried around fifteen days. Three mulch treatments and one bare soil treatment (control), replicated in ten farmers fields(Table 1). The treatments were three different mulch types: Coconut husk, Coir pith and Coconut fronds (Plate.1a,1b,1c& 1d).
The by-products of coconut viz., coir pith, coconut husk and coconut frond were collected from the farm and applied over the ground surface as a mulch viz., burying of dried coconut husks(100 nos) with convex surface facing upwards, application of coir pith to a height of 10 cm and spreading of coconut fronds over the surface.
Soil was collected from the field at a depth of 10 -30cm. The soil type was red non calcareous soil. Soil moisture percentage was monitored daily in all the ten locations at various depths viz., 5 cm, 10 cm and 15 cm for a period of fifteen days continuously. The soil moisture was measured using the moisture meter. The soil moisture percentage was analyzed for various mulch materials at surface and at various depths.
Rainfall data for the Karamadai block was collected and analyzed over years from PWD, GoTN
Groundwater table data was collected and analyzed for Karamadai block from PWD, GoTN
Type of crops cultivated in the study area from Department of Statistics, GoTN.
Due to the vagaries of monsoon, the water resources in the study area are declining with more than 90 per cent of the surface water are being utilized and 70 to 90 per cent of the available groundwater are being already utilized. There is a growing concern among the farmers to adopt integrated water resources management technologies to overcome the water scarcity situation.
Rainfall analysis for the study area from 2007 to 2017 revealed that the normal annual rainfall is about 604 mm. Among the years under consideration, about five years are having less than the normal annual rainfall. Particularly during the year 2016, the annual rainfall is 215 mm with more than 60 per cent deficit rainfall, the succeeding year 2017 annual rainfall is also under deficit conditions leading to the declining groundwater resources in the region(Fig.2 ). The season wise distribution of rainfall revealed that majority of the rainfall is occurring in north east monsoon(51%), followed by summer(29%), south west monsoon(15%) and remaining in the winter season(5%)(Fig.4 ). Further, the number of rainy days in the study area is in a declining trend and highly fluctuating from 16 to 41 days for the last six years. The year, 2016 is the worst affected with the failure of monsoon and limited groundwater recharge, the farmers are extracting the groundwater from already depleting groundwater aquifers for the crop water demands.
Latest data of area under different crops in the Karamadai block reveal that out of the total cropped area of 14005 ha, about 9629 ha(69%) of the crops are under irrigated condition and remaining area of 4376 ha(31 %) is under rainfed condition. Banana and Coconut occupies an area of 36% of the total cropped area and the crops are considered as high water consuming crops in the block. Further analysis of the cropped area during 2008 -2009 revealed that the area under cropping was about 15535 ha and hence there was a reduction of 1030 ha of cropped area but, the area under irrigated crops is about 8985 ha(58%) during 2008-2009, an increase in irrigated area of 11per cent was observed during 2015-16. This situation of increased irrigated area is mainly due to the adoption of drip irrigation practice for various crops in the study area. The area under Coconut crop increased from 1646 ha in 2008-2009 to 1845 ha during 2015-2016 mainly due to the adoption of drip irrigation for Coconut. But, there was a reduction in the Banana area of about 265 ha from 2008-2009 to 2015-16. Coconut being a perennial crop is now facing the wrath of failure of monsoons during 2016 and 2017. This alarming situation of water scarcity led to coconut palms getting dried up for want of sufficient water (Plate.2). This necessitated the need for demand management strategies like mulching and drip irrigation for coconut to overcome the water scarce situation.
The soil moisture measurements were taken by the moisture meter from 25th July, 2017 to 8th August, 2017 in all the ten farmers’ field with various Mulching technologies (Table. 2). The moisture measurement was done in the treatment plots viz., coconut husk, coir pith and coconut fronds in comparison with control (No mulch). All mulch types were equally effective at reducing soil evaporation and it was clearly evident that the soil moisture is high in all the treatments except control. Further, it was ascertained that the moisture retention pattern of all the mulching materials is really good compared to the control as the percentage reduction in moisture over a period of 15 days is about 20.9 per cent in coir pith, 25.7 per cent in fronds, 29.7 per cent in husk and 37.2 per cent in control. It was also observed that the average daily reduction in soil moisture is about 2.5 per cent in control, 1.4 per cent in coir pith, 1.7 per cent in fronds and 2 per cent in husk. At the beginning of the study, in the initial three days when the soil was fully saturated the mulch layer of at least 5 cm reduced surface evaporation to 40 per cent compared to the water losses from bare soil. The moisture percentage taken at 5, 10 and 15 cm depth in various mulching treatments in ten different locations also indicate the better performance by the coir pith mulching in controlling the soil moisture evaporation. The study clearly demonstrated that the coir pith is the suitable mulching material for coconut in controlling the soil moisture evaporation. Further, it is also reported that mulch thickness also had an effect on the rate of water loss, doubling the mulching thickness from 5cm to 10 cm maintained soil moisture 10 per cent higher throughout.
Good irrigation practices are needed to sustain productivity. The efficacy can be increased by mulching the irrigated area and its favourable effect on soil temperature regulation, soil moisture conservation and soil temperature reduction have been established. The drip irrigation system is observed to be economical and cost effective as compared with conventional surface irrigation. As a result, the use of drip irrigation system either alone or in combination with mulching, could increase the nut yield up to an extent of 50 per cent over surface irrigation method. Compared to basin irrigation systems, drip irrigation can substantially improve water use efficiency (WUE) by minimizing evaporative loss of water and maximizing capture of in-season rainfall by the soil profile.
The study clearly demonstrates that what might otherwise be agricultural waste can be used to significantly conserve soil moisture, providing more resources for crops and reducing overall costs of production. It was understood that even a relatively thin layer of plant debris can conserve a considerable amount of water, especially right after irrigation. Within the first 3 days, bare soil lost half of the moisture content, whereas soil covered with mulch layer of 5 cm lost only 20 per cent. That extra 30per cent would considerably improve the irrigation efficiency. Furthermore, the moisture is the soil is at a much lower tension, so it is much more easily absorbed by the crop. Although these materials are permeable, a thick layer isn’t necessary in order for the mulch to function. A thick enough layer still reduces the amount of sunlight hitting the soil. The mulch also maintains the humidity right at the soil surface, and prevents airflow which keeps the moisture in the soil. All three mulching materials performed equally well, but coir pith is in the advantageous position over the husk and fronds compared to the soil moisture retention over different depths. This small change in practices, with no major change in costs, could easily lead to considerable savings in water and improved plant growth. Improving soil tilth, structure and water holding capacity is necessary to ensure continued cropping success. It was also reported that the drip irrigation practice will have water savings of about 30 to 35 per cent, increase the yield of nuts and improved water use efficiency.
With the production of food grains increasingly becoming unviable for the farmers due to vagaries of nature, ballooning of input cost, and unassured ‘MSP’, more and more farm lands are being put to cash crops and plantation crops, specially coconut palm trees. Called as Kalpavriksha, the tree of life or tree of heaven or tree of abundance, is one of the major crops in Coimbatore district, which is the largest producer of coconut in Tamil Nadu. COODU, implementing, among others, watershed development projects in association with NABARD, Department of Agriculture, DRDAs and allied sectors since the year 1995 in Tamil Nadu, was approached by MARICO, the leading consumer products company in India with business reach in Asia and Africa, in August, 2018, under its CSR initiative to provide support to coconut farmers in terms of augmentation of production and productivity of coconut palms in Coimbatore district.
Select a drought prone area, survey farmers willing to participate and contribute to the project.
Assess the need of farmers and implement the project on short term basis with contribution from farmers.
As per strategy, a low rainfall or drought prone area with plantation crop is to be chosen. This was accomplished after gleansing the data provided by the TNAU Agritech portal which listed low rainfall areas where coconut crops are grown. Such areas were toured and Kinathukadavu was chosen after inspection. A survey was conducted in the hamlets of Mullupadi, Devanampalayam, Perumpathy, Kothavadi, etc., in Kinathukadavu block for willing farmers in whose lands, farm ponds are to be formed. From the survey, 39 farmers were identified. (Initially 30 nos as per the agreement, but the measurement was not fulfilled, so it was planned to dig more (9 nos) farm ponds with MARICO consent)COODU obtained the consent of farmers to form Farm Ponds in their plantations. Likewise, 300 farmers, in whose lands intervention measures such as Trench cum bund and Ring bund are proposed, were identified and their consent to carry out the measures was obtained.
While tentatively, farm pond was proposed as the sole component of the project, consultation between the three proponents yielded the following components.
i. Water Resources Development: Formation of Farm Ponds in the coconut plantations of 39 farmers
ii. Soil and Moisture Conservation Measures: Trench cum bund and Ring bund in the farms of 300 farmers
iii. Training of Farmers:
Note: Training components were decided in consultation with TNAU & KVK. The three components are:-
(i) Water Management,
(ii) Soil Health and
(iii) Pest Management.
iv. From all the 300 farmers, documents on land ownership record, application form, identification records and certificates of consent/acknowledgement were obtained before commencement of works
Objectives of the project were determined as:
a. Increase production and productivity of palms by augmenting water resources and intervention measures and
b. Build the capacity of farmers through Farmer Field School (FFS) training in association with TNAU and KVK to be imparted in Demonstration Plots.
c. Awareness through wall paintings and continuous interactions with farmers on water use efficiency practices.
On that basis, a DPR was prepared by COODU and submitted to MARICO which in turn scrutinised and appraised it and granted approval. Thereafter, an agreement was drawn up between the two parties. The agreement was executed on the fourth of September 2018.
Initially, the duration of the project was fixed at three months. For the training of farmers, TNAU had consented to depute its scientists/professors who scheduled the training programme in accordance with their academic session and examination schedule. With the execution of additionally allotted works and training, the period has been extended to the thirty first of 31st of March 2019.
As proposed by MARICO, farmers have contributed to the project. MARICO had sanctioned Rs. 46,80,000/- from its CSR funds. Initially, the contribution from the farmers was fixed from 5% to 10% of estimate cost of each work. COODU had exhorted the farmers to contribute more by increasing the scope of the work physically. For instance, farmer voluntarily contributed more than 10%, so that the dimensions of farm pond formed in his/her land could be expanded in his land from estimated size to more size. At the end, the contribution had increased upto 20% of estimate cost. In the case of farm ponds, the value of work done is Rs.24,83,314/-, with Rs.21,00,249/- and Rs.3,83,065/- shared by CSR and the farmers respectively. A bank account for COODU CSR had been opened. Payment to the contractors and others were made by cheque by COODU.
The period of the project was initially fixed at three months and later extended by three more monthsupto the end of March 2019.COODU was tasked with financial management of the project and to account for the expenditure.Monitors appointed by MARICO are to supervise the works and submit reports.Works should either be executed by labour or machines, but should not exceed estimate cost as mandated by MARICO. Payments should be made by cheque.Funds will be released in instalments as per requirement and agreement.Innovative practices should be initiated so that people seek to replicate such practices and benefit from it. Completion report should be submitted promptly by COODU to MARICO.
For Farm Pond works, contractors were fixed. COODU Engineer had identified the site located at the lower side of lands so that rain water runs off to the site chosen. Inlets and outlets were designed as per the site conditions to collect rain water.
Inlets were inlaid with stone pitch to trap silt, which will be collected and deposited on bunds to strengthen them.
Works were measured by the Engineer and completion certificate furnished, duly signed by the farmers concerned.Works were supervised by the monitors at every stage.Photographs of the site before, during and after formation of ponds were taken.Execution of works was closely inspected and supervised by COODU staff.
Farm pond works commenced on the fourteenth of August, 2018 and completed on 30th of November, 2018.Works on soil and moisture conservation measures were completed on 15th of December, 2018. Trainings were completed with TNAU and KVK support by 26th& 27th February, 2019.
Execution of the works has increased the confidence of the farmers concerned. Farmers have already dreamt of the revenue expected to accrue as a result of augmented production. Farmers have thought of acquiring tree climbers, de-huskers and value addition measures, such as production of desiccated coconut, coir products production, coconut frond weaving, etc. Already, neighbouring farmers were enquiring about the cost of the works so to replicate it in their farms. The farmers of treated lands are assiduously collecting mulching materials and positioning them around the palm trees. Farmers have plans to plant intercrops to complete the intervention measures, which would surely lead to enhanced production levels.