This paper deals with two case studies of successful implementation of a tree-based farming system for poverty alleviation in the semi-arid tropics of southern Karnataka. Dryland agriculture is like a gamble because of irregular and scanty rainfall coupled with frequent droughts, which is a common phenomenon in semi-arid regions. The implications of this are many-drastic reduction in livelihood opportunities for the local populace, poverty and consequently seasonal and permanent migration. It is against this background that BAIF has successfully integrated the tree component in the agriculture through people participation that has changed the socio-economic status of the families, including increase in overall agriculture production, year-round local self-employment, sufficient fuelwood for cooking, fodder for livestock, biomass for composting, and security of drinking water. Livestock interventions such as goat, sheep and improved cattle rearing are integrated. Selfhelp groups promoted in the villages have helped in capacity building of the community and access to credit. Moreover this model has been replicated in several locations by other development organizations.
CASE STUDY 1:
FROM POVERTY TO PROSPERITY-The Manjunathapura experience
A unique experiment of catchment treatment using vegetative cover has been carried out at Manjunathapura village in Tumkur District. In a microcatchment of 113 ha, tree-based farming systems have been promoted with active involvement of 70 families. Manjunathapura is only one among the 50 villages spread over ten districts wherein a continuous process of socio-economic transformation has been initiated through the promotion of Tree-based Farming Systems (TBFS).
Project period: 1991-1999
The project objectives
· Increase the income of the project participants.
· Reduce the dependency of the project participants on existing forest resources.
· Decrease the dependency of the project participants on casual labour or out-migration.
· Demonstrate the feasibility of intensive afforestation and agroforestry models for possible adoption by other agencies in rural development programmes.
Background of project
The Government of Karnataka had allotted C and D class revenue wastelands to selected families belonging to the socio-economically backward section of the society. The initial appraisals conducted as part of the project revealed that these families have not been able to make optimum use of the land for agricultural production due to poor soil productivity, lack of technology and resources. Hence it was jointly decided by the government, the sponsor and BAIF that the project will focus on developing such degraded land so that it can achieve poverty alleviation of these backward families.
Area description: southern transition
Manjunathapura is a relatively recent settlement. In 1963 five families came to settle on this governmentowned land. Gradually more and more families from different villages and different castes joined them in search of a better life. In the early 1980s the government, however, decided it wanted the people to leave the land. The village, which had increased seven-fold by that time, fought back and demanded land rights. They formed a society and in 1981 they received 318 acres in the name of that society (the SC and ST Joint Farming Society). The individual families had only usufruct rights over the land they cultivated. The issues that existed were multi-faceted.
Although there was more or less enough land for the people to cultivate, they did not manage to produce enough and relied on wage labour in other villages and towns. For basic amenities like higher primary school, hospital and postal services, the people of Manjunathapura had to travel to larger villages at least 3 km away.
All the inhabitants were below the poverty level. Most of them had little agricultural experience before coming to Manjunathapura and therefore were unable to optimally utilize their land.
For about six to eight months every year, the majority of the people in the village used to migrate long distances for want of employment. This was therefore an ideal situation for the project to intervene.
Project activities and output
For most of the participants, Tree-based Farming (TBF) was a new concept. To help motivate them exposure visits to other areas were organized and several trainings were held. Most of the motivating had to be done through pictures as there were not many existing systems to be shown.
The farmers were trained in nursery raising, soil and water conservation, orchard development and aftercare of fruit and forestry. The mass awareness programmes that were conducted in the project villages focused on the need for diversifying the production base in dryland agriculture situation. A series of slide shows were organized to help in this process.
People participation was ensured through the formation of self-help groups (SHGs). These SHGs played a crucial role in the planning and implementation of the activities.
Shramadhan, which means voluntary contribution of labour, was organized to enable and empower the community to take up some of the very important agricultural practices on their own land, in addition to some community work.
The area was systematically treated with field bunds across the slope. The trench-cum-bund created helped to retain soil and moisture in situ. This also helped to promote good tree growth of various species planted on the bunds.
Every field bund is covered with forestry trees planted at a close spacing of 1 to 2 m in a row. The forestry trees comprise species such as teak, subabul, acacia, Glyricidia, Dalbergia, Cassia, Casuarina, neem, silver oak, Eucalyptus, Sesbania, etc., Approximately 500 to 1000 plants per hectare are accommodated on boundaries and bunds. These plants are regularly pruned to avoid shading and to obtain biomass for mulching and fertilizing. The twigs pruned also provide enough fuelwood to meet the requirement of the local community.
All fields are covered with live fences using species such as Cassia siamea, Glyricidia, Euphorbia, etc. These live fences in addition to providing protection to the plantations also help to increase biodiversity in the area and produce substantial quantities of biomass. This biomass obtained by pruning the fencing regularly helps in increasing soil moisture retention capacity and increased fertility.
Dryland horticultural species such as mango, tamarind and cashew are promoted for planting at a rate of 100 plants per hectare.
Farm ponds are opened at strategic locations to harvest excess runoff from the fields. These ponds help increase percolation. This increased percolation leads to maintenance of a better soil moisture regime, which in turn helps better tree growth.
The above measures have resulted in a congenial microclimate reducing aridity and crop losses due to moisture stress.
The tree-based farming system has resulted in increase of agricultural crop production due to reasons such as:
- better soil moisture regime;
- increased organic matter;
- windbreak effect due to live fences and tree plantation leading to better soil moisture retention;
- the farmer now being able to stay back on his/her land almost 12 months in a year and hence taking better care of the land;
- increased biomass availability that has helped integration of livestock into the farming systems;
- the horticultural trees providing sustained incomes even in bad rainy season, thereby providing substantial insurance cover to the farmers against fluctuations in agricultural crop production.
The tree-based farming model developed at Manjunathapura:
Need for in situ rainwater harvesting and conservation
The project realized very early that in situ rainwater harvesting is the only viable option for greening vast stretches of wastelands. A very innovative approach of dug-out farm ponds in individual fields was adopted to ensure maximum percolation of rainwater. A pond measuring 30 x 30 x 10 was dug at an appropriate location, which also created sufficient labour employment for the people. A pond of this size can harvest approximately 250 000 litres of water at a single filling. Water harvested in these ponds was used for protective watering of the plantations established. The ponds also helped increase the soil moisture regime in the area. At several locations the farmers have also reported increased water levels in their open wells and bore-wells as a result of farm ponds in the upper catchment.
To ensure ownership of the project by the participants several strategies were adopted from the beginning of the project. Some of these are:
The project in principle had decided in the beginning that all forestry seedlings required for the project are to be raised by the project participants themselves. Accordingly, arrangements were made to set up nurseries which were managed either by individuals or by groups. This process ensured that the project participants were empowered to select and raise the species of their own choice. The decentralized locations of these nurseries also helped to ensure timely plantations to avoid transportation of seedlings from a long distance. This has contributed sufficient income in lean seasons particularly for women.
Formation of self-help groups (SHGs)
SHGs were formed as project implementation mechanisms. They played a crucial role in the planning and distribution of inputs, execution of community activities such as establishing farm ponds, mobilization of savings and credit, important decision-making regarding control of grazing, etc. These groups also served as sharing platforms. The groups also promoted social bondage among the participants and encouraged voluntary participation such as common harvesting and other activities, which are highly labour oriented.
Groups also served as a platform for ensuring cooperation among participants in sharing assets such as bullocks and bullock-carts for carrying water and community assets. The groups managed the project-based inputs such as drums, bullock-carts, sprayers and donkeys (for watering).
The project inputs were so designed that the participants make substantial contribution towards the execution of the project activities. In addition to continuing their traditional agricultural inputs into the agroforestry block, there was substantial labour contribution for pitting, planting, watering and aftercare of plantations. Wherever the community water resources could be identified, mechanisms were established to share this precious input among all the participants.
Individual ownership at community/village level
The earlier experience elsewhere of community management of trees which has a direct effect on poverty alleviation has not been very encouraging. With this background, BAIF emphasized on family-level management of trees at a community level. Individual ownership beyond doubt has proved to promote a sense of ownership and involvement of the families thereby ensuring better care and protection.
Results and impacts
The successful incorporation of tree component into the farming systems in this programme has resulted in visibly improved protection to the area. Some of the visible results of the interventions are as follows:
The introduction of TBF systems has resulted in increased production of fodder. This has further led to integration of livestock such as goats, sheep, upgraded cows, etc. A well-reared sheep fetches a net income of Rs.1000 per year. Each goat generates an annual income of Rs.2000. A family at Manjunathapura today generates an average annual net income of Rs.5000 to Rs.6000 from livestock activities alone.
Sufficient availability of biomass has facilitated promotion of in situ organic composting practices like vermin-composting and NADEPP-composting, etc. This has further resulted in reduction of input cost which is one of the major factors that contribute to the vicious circle of poverty of Indian farmers.
The families could realize actual benefits from forestry trees much earlier than horticultural trees in terms of increased availability of fuelwood and fodder. The forestry trees planted on the boundaries and bunds are regularly pruned to avoid shade. Such pruned twigs meet the requirement of the family in terms of fodder and fuelwood.
The farmers could realize increased production of agricultural crops with the introduction of better dry land agricultural practices. There is an average increase in yield by 50 to 75 percent for crops such as finger millet, green gram, horse gram, jowar and cowpea.
The fertility of the land has improved as a result of application of compost and vermin-compost. This has also been partly due to the year-round presence of the family on their land. Mixed cropping has been introduced in blocks where only monocropping had been practised. The farming systems of the participants have been diversified.
Trees have helped in the production of fuelwood. Earlier women used to spend a day per week fetching the fuelwood from the forest that is located at a distance of about 5 to 10 km from their villages. No more do the women go to the forest for collection of fuelwood as it is sufficiently available in their own land.
From the fifth year onwards, the participant families have started earning an average amount of Rs.5000 to Rs.6000 every two years from the sale of poles or fuelwood.
From the fifth year onwards, from horticulture plants such as mango, cashew and tamarind, participants are earning an average amount of Rs.5000 to RS.10 000 per ha.
Many participants have shifted their residences to their plots. This in turn has resulted in further improvement in agricultural practices.
Some of the participants from here have become resource persons to train and motivate other farmers. This kind of farmer-to-farmer extension has been proved very effective in extending these technologies to new areas.
Manjunathapura today has virtually been converted to a training ground for a large number of farmers, NGOs and government departments. Participants from many BAIF projects have drawn inspiration from these blocks to establish similar systems on their own land. Government departments and other NGOs have also started taking keen interest in the agroforestry models that have emerged in the area.
With the improved agricultural situation and improved yields, the farmers have started dealing with the banks. The credit worthiness has increased due to the assets created on their land and sustainable income.
The successful incorporation of the tree component into the farming systems in this programme has resulted in visibly improved protection to the land that was under severe degradation earlier. This has helped us to conceptualize a new approach to watershed treatment, with more thrust on vegetation in agricultural fields.
During the course of the project implementation, given the pilot nature of the project, several lessons have been learnt which can guide in designing and implementing similar projects in future. Some of the very important lessons learnt are as follows:
It is possible to profitably combine trees and crops in a dryland agricultural situation.
With sufficient training and motivation, farmers realize the importance of trees in agriculture and will be willing to plant trees on field bunds and boundaries.
The species selected and the density of planting are determined by the people. However, intensive efforts are required to make the farmers understand the role of trees in the promotion of sustainable dryland agriculture.
The species choice and the density of plantation vary considerably from block to block depending on the agroclimatic conditions of the block. The highest density achieved per hectare of bund and boundary plantation was 1000 plants in Hanagodu block with moderate to good rainfall and deep soils to 400 plants per ha in Sulepet with poor rainfall and shallow soils.
Contrary to the popular notion, agroforestry is very relevant in small farms of 1 to 2 ha. This is one of the best tools to tie a migrant farmer to his own land by creating year-round employment in his own holding. This also helps diversify broad-base farming systems which become less vulnerable to the vagaries of monsoons.
To ensure better survival of forestry and horticulture plants the following practices are found to be very useful:
- Forestry plants survive better if planted in trenches in comparison with planting in pits.
- Create microcatchments for hortiplantations with broad V shaped basins for individual plants.
- Three-layered mulching using biomass in the basins helps better moisture conservation.
- To achieve optimum survival rate of forestry and horticultural species, planting at the onset of monsoon with good soil moisture regime is very crucial. However, low-cost pot irrigation and sip irrigation help to save water and achieve better survival rates in off-seasons.
Raising of in situ forestry nurseries reduces transport losses and overall external inputs.
Low-cost water harvesting systems such as percolation ponds help to harvest maximum runoff and retain better moisture regime in the soil.
It is to be clearly noted that it is not mere tree plantation. Just distribution of seedlings to farmers will not result in establishing tree-based farming systems, especially in a harsh dryland situation. The processes involved in motivating the farmers are very important. Understanding the complete farming systems and tailoring a suitable tree component to the farmers requirements is very critical.
The horticulture component is very essential to ensure that the farmers get enough returns for his labour.
Though the project had a thrust on mango in the beginning, in the later years the introduction of other dryland species such as tamarind and cashew has proved to be very fruitful.
In situ rainwater harvesting and conservation are very crucial to the promotion of TBFS.
Why tree-based farming systems?
The dryland agriculture situation is becoming more and more burdensome because of the rising cost of inputs and uncertain monsoons. Precious land resources remain vacant for most part of the year as most of the farmers can take only one crop of about 3-4 months duration. This situation results in forced migration for small and marginal farmers during off-seasons leading to related social problems such as isolation of families and depravation. Tree-based farming system (agroforestry) can to a great extent come to the rescue of small marginal farmers and help them to design a system of production which is spread throughout the year with least external inputs. The benefits of this system can be broadly listed as:
Suitable incorporation of the tree component in dryland agricultural situation helps to provide most needed biomass, which can be ploughed into the fields to sustain land fertility.
Availability of continuous biomass improves the soil texture, organic carbon content and improves the soil holding capacity of the land.
In the long run, the improved soil condition will result in better agricultural production and reduce crop wilting in seasons of scanty rainfall.
The planting of trees in boundaries and bunds in large tracks brings about windbreak effect and improves microclimatic conditions for better crop production.
The tree component enhances fodder resources to sustain livestock in the farming systems.
The trees need to be managed regularly by pruning the branches to avoid shade effect on the crops. These pruned materials will be more than enough to meet the fuelwood requirement of the families who otherwise would be forced to undergo drudgery in fuelwood collection.
The agroforestry concepts which, broadly defined, include forestry, horticulture and agricultural components in the right proportions to meet the farmers requirements, help to spread the income generation possibilities throughout year. Hence farmers will be forced to stay back on their lands, which in turn triggers better agricultural production.
This facilitates incremental growth of the trees located on boundaries and bunds every year. It creates a sort of wealth for the farmers who can in turn negotiate it in times of need and this would provide a sense of security for the whole family. Tree-wealth is also seen as a status symbol in the society.
The horticulture component provides the most essential cash income for the farmers in addition to the food-grain needs from their agricultural crops.
Hence this model of tree-based farming has been designed to cover all aspects of farming to meet the farmers specific needs.
CASE STUDY 2:
VEGETATING WATERSHEDS-The Mylanahalli experience
The constant search for new and better alternatives to address the issues of poverty through natural resource management has resulted in the introduction of many innovative technologies and approaches. The treebased approach to watershed development is one of them. Intensive vegetation across the watershed, combined with a network of farm ponds in strategic locations, has been able to bring about tremendous transformation in the socio-economic life of the local community.
In conventional models of watershed development, construction of check-dams on the drainage line is the major focus. This approach is costlier and energy intensive. Moreover, it does not benefit farmers in the upland from where water flows down carrying fertile soil. This has led to many equity issues in watershed development. It is against this background that BAIF experimented with this novel approach to watershed development.
This model integrates the traditional concept of locating dug-out structures at strategic locations with issues concerned with on-farm biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources. This work was initially carried out in 1000 ha of watershed area in Mylanahalli and three surrounding villages in the state of Karnataka, India.
Project area description:
Salient features of the model:
Project activities and output
To encourage in situ harvesting of rainwater for the promotion of sustainable dryland farming systems the following activities have been undertaken:
The trench-cum-bund formed is used for plantation of mixed species of forestry trees numbering up to 1000 per ha.
The formation of trench-cum-bund across the slope helps to retain silt and water in situ.
The fields have been planted with dryland fruit species such as tamarind, cashew and mango.
For every two hectares of catchment area, one farm pond measuring 25 x 25 x 10 ft has been excavated.
A series of farm ponds are located on contour lines.
These ponds are located in such a way that the field trench-cum-bunds act as conducting channels for excess water from each pond to be conducted to the next pond in the same contour.
Once a pond is filled with rainwater the excess water flows horizontally to the next pond through the conducting channels. The last pond in the chain discharges to a check-dam in the drainage line. In a line normally there can be 5 to 15 ponds.
The ponds are not lined with any impervious material. Instead the ponds are regularly desilted to encourage maximum percolation.
It is estimated that in one rainy season up to 6 lakh litres of water percolate from a pond of 30 x 30 x 10 ft size. At present, there are 350 such farm ponds in the project area.
A good quantity of water also is evaporated. This has resulted in reduction of the aridity and creating a congenial microclimate in the area.
The horizontal connection of ponds helps to retain water for the maximum possible time in the upper reaches of the watershed.
The water seeping into the soil helps to maintain good moisture regime in the subsoil, which feeds the crops and other vegetation in the watershed for long periods, even after the rainy season is over.
The area is characterized by coconut plantations in the valleys. The effect of percolation of substantial quantity of water in the upper reaches of the watershed results in very good moisture regime in the valleys due to seepage and subsoil flow. This reduces the need for irrigating the coconut orchards.
Since year 4 after the project interventions, the farmers started reporting longer duration of flow of water in the drainage line after the rains have subsided.
The mounds formed around the ponds due to the excavated soil are also very fruitfully utilized for plantations of medicinal plants such as Aloe vera and Witania somnifera. Many vegetable and fruit species are also planted on the mounds, which yield substantial quantities of fruits and vegetables to meet the families requirements.
Some of the ponds that retain water for more than six months are also used for rearing fish. Each pond can hold up to 85 fingerlings of the common carp variety. Average fish yield is around 120 kg per pond per year which can fetch around Rs.2000-2500.
The increased vegetation, particularly fodder trees has facilitated the local community taking up livelihood activities such as bee-keeping, sheep, goat and cattle rearing.
Trees have also helped abundant generation of biomass. This has led to people practising in situ composting methods such as vermin-composting and NADEPP-composting. In addition to the production of compost for their own use, farmers have taken up these activities for subsidiary income generation.
Awareness and motivation for tree plantation have encouraged individual farmers to take up activities like decentralized nursery raising for they open new avenues for additional income generation.
The project has become a milestone in the approaches taken to watershed development. Its success has invited large-scale attention from various interest groups such as farmers, government departments, voluntary development agencies and research institutes. Consequently, some of the recently designed projects by other development agencies have heavily drawn on this model.
Rationale for this novel approach
Maintenance of good subsoil moisture for a longer time can stimulate and promote living organisms in the soil. The mounds of soil formed around the ponds are planted with diverse plants to meet the farmers dayto- day requirements. The mounds formed are utilized for plantations of medicinal herbs such as Aloe vera and Witania somnifer, which can give a return of up to Rs.2000 per pond per year. Many vegetable and fruit plants are planted on the mounds; this helps the harvesting of substantial quantities of fruits and vegetables for the families requirements. The water available within a farmers land brings about a change in the behavioral aspects of the farmer. He/she tends to stay longer in his/her field with useful livestock. This binding of family members to their land will result in an improved farming system taking shape slowly but surely.
The ponds attract birds of diverse nature. This further stimulates the onset of a series of developments, which collectively can be termed as pond ecology. Ponds located on the relatively lower reaches of the catchment tend to retain water for a longer time even in summer. These ponds can very effectively be used for small-scale fisheries. The effect of 350 farm ponds in an area of about 1000 ha can itself bring about a relative change in the humidity levels reducing the intensity of aridity in the microclimate.
Water from the catchment normally flows down to the valley with considerable speed carrying silt. If this water is to be lifted for watering plants/crops in the upper reaches, either manually, using bullock power, or by pumping, the energy required will be enormous. This gravitational energy can very well be utilized to make water percolate in the upper reaches itself. By providing a very slight gradient in locating the ponds in the same contour we can conduct the water across the watershed horizontally. This can ensure that water stays in the upper reaches for a longer time.
With integration of livestock and vegetation, animal dung and other biomass are available in abundance. This opens new opportunities for optimum utilization of energy through promotion of biogas plants and fuelefficient smokeless chulahs. In addition to promotion of biogas plants at the household level for cooking purposes, such initiatives can also be made to promote electricity generation for purposes such as illumination and water supply. This is very relevant in regions where supply is scarce and erratic.
Economics of fishery in farm ponds
Distribution of water
The water harvested at the structures in the nalla such as check-dams is normally not very democratically distributed. The people in the upper reaches of the catchment, where water is more required, almost get no share in this water harvested. Very few people located close to the structures derive benefits.
The series of ponds located in the upper reaches of the catchment help to maintain good soil moisture levels throughout the watershed. This also encourages good water percolation for groundwater recharging. The check-dams are fed even during the drier periods with the seepage water in the valleys. This seepage tends to increase year after year as most of the subsoil strata gets saturated with water during the first or second year of execution of these percolation structures. During subsequent years, most of the percolated water tends to seep out. This is very much determined by the nature of the soils and the underground strata.
There is very little individual initiative from farmers for the maintenance of community structures such as check-dams. The individual farmer maintains the ponds located on his land, though treated as community assets. The silt trap is regularly desilted after every rain. The silt accumulated in the pond also provides valuable material for his land, which does not require much effort for transportation.
The effect of these farm ponds is regularly monitored. Three important indicators are fixed for monitoring:
1) water level in the open wells monitored monthly;
2) water level in selected ponds monitored daily;
3) yield of coconuts in the valley portion in 20 selected gardens monitored as and when the coconuts are harvested.
From year 4 onwards the farmers have started reporting better performance of their coconut gardens. The need for irrigating these gardens has reduced. The effect of percolation of substantial quantity of water in the upper reaches of the watershed helps to maintain good moisture regime in the valleys. However, it is too early to conclude on the actual coconut yields as the data collection is to be continued for at least a couple of years more.
The farmers are reporting longer duration of flow of water in the drainage line even after the rains have subsided. This seepage continues to feed the check-dams in the valley with clean water without silt.
The farm pond technology can be utilized very fruitfully in all watersheds with suitable modifications depending on the soil types and slopes. The check-dams where water is stored against a head are very costly, ranging between Rs.50 000/- and Rs.200 000/-. A combination of check-dams and farm ponds can very well be designed for maximum efficiency. This will reduce the number of check-dams required in a catchment.
The water stored in big check-dams is normally used by a few rich farmers in the valleys which is hence not a very democratic way of water distribution.
The cost of lifting water to the upper reaches of the watershed from the check-dams will be enormous and hence is not feasible.
The farm pond network with approximately one pond for every 2 ha is grossly underdesigned. Hence during peak downpour (2 or 3 times in a year), a huge quantity of water is lost due to overflowing of all the ponds.
Though 0.5 to 1 percent of the land area becomes unavailable for cultivation, the benefits accumulated over a period of time will far outweigh the loss. In fact increased direct benefits can be perceived from the very second year.
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