The construction of over 6,000 ‘farm pools’ by cultivators to meet the irrigation demand in drought-prone Yavatmal has set an example for other districts.
With the digging of these pools, around 6,000 hectares of land will get “protected irrigation”, raising hopes of a better rabi crop, an official said.
A farm pool or pond is dug out to harvest rainwater and store it for future use. Since the inception of the state government’s ambitious ‘farm pool on demand’ scheme two years back, the farmers in this district, located in the Vidarbha region, have constructed 6,200 farm pools, the official said.
Agriculture is the principal occupation in Yavatmal, which had earlier been in the news over a spate of farmer suicides. The district is spread over an area of13,51,966 hectares, of which 9,60,500 hectares is under crop production.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the rainfall in the state has decreased in the past few years, thus adversely affecting the crop production in dryland areas. When the state government started the ‘farm pool on demand’ scheme in February 2016, a target of 4,500 farm pools was given to Yavatmal, he said.
“The area under rabi and summer crops shrunk sharply due to mere 66 per cent of the average rainfall during the kharif season in 2017,” he said. The absorption of more rainwater under the ground was needed to help farmers in increasing the agricultural production. Thus, a proper co-ordination was maintained between revenue and agriculture departments for creating the farm pools, he said. Meetings were organised at the tehsil level and officials explained the scheme’s significance to farmers, Fadnavis said.
Since the subsidy amount under the scheme was to be credited to farmers’ bank accounts, contractors were unwilling to work, district guardian minister Madan Yerawar said. The Yavatmal administration then stepped in and brought about a coordination between farmers and machine- holders (to dig the pools), he said.
“We guaranteed that farmers will pay the bills to machine-holders after the money gets credited to their accounts. Hence, contractors also agreed to get involved in the work,” said Yerawar, who is the Minister of State for Tourism.
However, executing the farm pool work in a scattered manner increased the expenditure due to unnecessary movement of machinery from one place to another. “To overcome this difficulty, farmers were encouraged to create farm pools in a cluster manner,” he said.
Yavatmal Collector Rajesh Deshmukh said 10,518 farmers in the district applied online for the scheme, and 8,355 applications were found to be technically eligible. “Out of these, the construction of around 6,200 farm pools has been completed in about six months,” he said. “Due to the completion of these farm pools, 6,000 hectares of land will be covered under protected irrigation which will result in better rabi crop,” the collector said. The farmers who dig farm pools will be preferred for silk farming, he said, adding that they will also be extended benefits of the diesel engine and electric pumps.
The administration has been instructed to provide protected drip irrigation sets to farmers under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna’ (the Prime Minister’s Agricultural Irrigation Scheme), Deshmukh added.