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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Living: Case-61: HOW WATER CHANGED GAJAWADA ISMAIL’S LIFE!


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Water is not just a basic necessity of life. It is also critical for development. Just how critical a role it can play, is amply illustrated in the story of Gajawada Ismail of Paidipalli village in Narayankhed mandal of Medak district.

Ismail and his wife Gori Bi, lived together with his adopted son and daughter-in-law. He had 16 acres of land, of which 2 acres were irrigated by a well and 14 acres were rainfed. As rainfall in the region was scanty, he could not sustain the agriculture. To fend for his family, he was forced to sell off 8 acres of his rainfed land very cheaply. On the remaining land, the harvest was good only when there was sufficient rain.  On the land irrigated by the well, he cultivated one crop of paddy. This was stored to feed the
family. On the rainfed land, he grew jowar, safflower, green gram and mimumulu (black gram). From the sale of this produce, he made a profit of Rs.7, 000-8, 000. This was insufficient for further cultivation and he had to incur debts of Rs.30, 000 on the land. In addition, he was diagnosed with kidney stones, which meant that he had to take a further loan of Rs.40, 000 towards treatment. He was up to his neck in
debt.

At that time, the watershed development programme was initiated in his village. The watershed committee advised construction of check dams at appropriate places and one such spot lay in Ismail’s field. But some villagers misled Ismail about check dams. They told him that constructing the check dam would result in cattle being drawn towards it and consequently, his crops would be trampled. Ismail refused to allow a check dam to be built on his field.

A check dam was then constructed at another location in the same village. Once Ismail, while seeking work as a farmhand, happened to visit the place. He was surprised to see water in the wells surrounding the check dam and green crops growing around. He realised his mistake and put forward a request to the watershed committee to construct a check dam in his field as well. The watershed committee, through voluntary participation of labour, then constructed a check dam in his field.

That year the rains were very good and there was adequate water in his well under the check dam. He cultivated paddy as the first crop and later, onion and vegetables as the second crop. As there was sufficient water, he was able to bring another acre under cultivation. Not only did he plough another acre of land in the upper area around the well, but also irrigated it through pipelines and grew onion on it.

For the past four years, with the help of his family members, Ismail has cultivated two crops per year. He has not only cleared all his debts, but also saved Rs.25, 000. His wife provides him with additional income by selling vegetables. This additional income means that the family can now afford meat twice a week. Earlier, meat was a luxury meant for special occasions. The family now lives a better life with good food,
better clothing, children’s education and can even afford to celebrate festivals and other occasions.

“The watershed changed our lives. From being deeply in debt, our family can now look forward to earning at least Rs.2 lakhs in the next two years,” says a proud and successful Ismail.

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