GUJARAT – Cotton farmers in India using water-saving drip irrigation techniques have radically cut water use while boosting revenues. A Government-subsidised initiative, which is also supported by the C&A Foundation, has seen farmers using just 20 per cent of the amount of water used by their peers in a water-stressed region of India.
The initiative saw farmers using 1,191 litres of water per kilogram of cotton, compared to 5,923 litres consumed by conventional production techniques. “The affordability of drip irrigation for small landholders has resulted in a 31 per cent higher net income from cotton cultivation compared to non-drip farmers,” says a new report into the work.
Gujarat Green Revolution Corporation was formed by the Government of Gujarat in the west of India and provides subsidies of about 70 per cent to farmers to install drip irrigation.
C&A Foundation has stepped in to supplement the remaining costs for farmers in the water-stressed region of Gujarat through the introduction of a community managed financing mechanism called the Drip Pool Programme.
Created in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) ((AKRSP-(I)), the programme provides interest-free loans to smallholder and marginal cotton farmers so that they can afford to buy and install drip irrigation units.
Farmers are provided with interest-free loans for a period of two years and repayment schedules are personalised to suit their individual circumstances taking into account things like cash flow, repayment capacity and alternative sources of income. The money is then repaid back into a revolving fund which is used to give further loans to farmers.
Says the latest update on the work from the C&A Foundation: “They have also reported benefits such as uniformity in production, better yield of seed cotton and increased fertiliser cost efficiency as well as reduced weeding and lower labour costs.
“To keep up with soaring agricultural challenges facing India, a different approach to farming is necessary. The need for increased public and private investment and the introduction of policies and initiatives that encourage agro-ecological principle is clear.
“The Drip Pool Programme shows that multi-stakeholder partnerships and agro-ecological innovation can help create a sustainable production system which promotes not only the health of soils and ecosystems, but also people.”
C&A Foundation is now scaling up the initiative. It has been extended to four districts in Saurashtra. The latest phase of the programme aims to reach an additional 9,750 farmers by 2020, and continues to be implemented by AKRSP-I.