Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Addressing water scarcity in agriculture: how can indigenous or traditional practices help?

Mithare Prasad
Mithare PrasadKVAFSUIndia

Mithare Prasad

Assistant Professor (Agronomy), Department of ILFC, Karnataka Veterinary Animal and Fisheries Science University, Bidar Karnataka (India)

Addressing Water Scarcity in Agriculture: How Can Indigenous or Traditional Practices Help?

· Water scarcity in agriculture is increasing day by day for which, various factor are responsible; like climate change, improper rainfall, excess runoff, decline in water table, extensive use of water without necessary (Wastage of water), water logging, salinity-alkalinity and reduced in water flow in rivers & lakes and increased water pollution.

· The emerging scenario from different parts of the globe, which shows the scarcity of water for irrigation purpose in agriculture for crop production and livestock production. Indigenous or traditional practices which address the scarcity of water which follows certain practices like: Stone bunding, stone-cum vegetative bunding, Spur structures, Grassed water ways, Brushwood water ways, contour bunding, terracing, trenching, basin-listing and check dams etc. These are the knowledge based and skill based practices which are come from our ancestors and even today these are working very effectively in rural areas of India.

· Ground water is most important source in agriculture sector for various purpose but day today the water table has lost its stability to supply the sufficient amount of water for livelihood, for this purpose the ground water recharge is very necessary aspect for the future purpose: The various measures are followed for recharging the ground water are Rejuvenation of streams, inter-linking of rivers, construction of check dams, construction of percolation tanks, and farm pounds. Other way soil and water conservation measures are also very essential for water storage & avoid soil erosion; Construction of Farm bunds, contour bunds, graded bunds, mulching with crop residues and planting with erosion restricting crops all along the bunds (ex; Vitever grass).

· Water scarcity can also be reduced with proper grazing management in livestock production: Livestock need abundance of water for its various purpose so restricted use and efficient use of water in dairy & livestock will be ultimately profitable to tackle the water scarcity in agriculture.

· Picture Irrigation practice is an ancient and traditional system followed in Karnataka, kerala & Tamilnadu states of (India). It is extensively used in plantation crops like coconut, Areca nut, Cocoa, Black pepper, Beetle wine, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon and many vegetables etc. It consist of small porous earthen pots which are 10-15 liters carrying capacity of water and a small trench is dugged in the root zone of the plantation crop, by which a drop by drop water is supplied to the plant directly to root zone so that the maximum water use efficiency can be achieved during the water scarcity.

· Forest Ecosystem and Bio diversity will play an important role in fight against water scarcity: When it comes to the water, the rain is the only major source of water for all agriculture sectors, for which the forest & biodiversity will play an important role in rainfall occurrence. The forest areas receive the high amount of rainfall and also involved in the water cycle which contribute to rain formation in the atmosphere.

· In India approximately 35-40 % of agriculture land is irrigated & 60% of area is entirely dependent on rainfed ultimately (Dryland farming). India is having two types of mansoon; South west mansoon (75%) & north east monsoon (25 %). Large of the rainfall is received by south west monsoon and cropping intensity will be more during it, but also the large amount of rain water is lost in the form of runoff & soil erosion, for collection & storage of excess water there are various traditional or indigenous practices are playing an vital role in conservation of water and utilization of such water during the lean period for agriculture & livestock for: Addressing Water Scarcity in Agriculture.

Various Traditional or Indigenous Practices Followed in India since Ancient time to Till date:

Note for kind information: These bold letters sub-heading are typically a Sanskrit/Hindi local words of India which cannot be translated as similarly in English.

Jhalara: Jhalaras are typically rectangular-shaped stepwells that have tiered steps on three or four sides. These stepwells collect the subterranean seepage of an upstream reservoir or a lake. Jhalaras were built to ensure easy and regular supply of water for religious rites, royal ceremonies and community use.

Talab/Bandhi: These are reservoirs that store water for household consumption and drinking purposes. They may be natural, such as ponds at Tikamgarh in the Bundelkhand region or man made, such as the lakes of Udaipur (India). A reservoir with an area less than five bighas is called a talai, a medium sized lake is called a bandhi and bigger lakes are called sagar or samand.

Bawari: Bawaris are unique stepwells that were once a part of the ancient networks of water storage in the cities of Rajasthan and Deccan region of India. The little rain that the region received would be diverted to man-made tanks through canals built on the hilly outskirts of cities. The water would then percolate into the ground, raising the water table and recharging a deep and intricate network of aquifers. To minimise water loss through evaporation, a series of layered steps were built around the reservoirs to narrow and deepen the wells.

Taanka: It called as tank in English is a traditional rainwater harvesting technique indigenous to the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan and Gujarat (India). A Taanka is a cylindrical paved underground pit into which rainwater from rooftops, courtyards or artificially prepared catchments flows. Once completely filled, the water stored in a taanka can last throughout the dry season and is sufficient for a family of 5-6 members. An important element of water security in these arid regions, taankas can save families from the everyday drudgery of fetching water from distant sources.

Johads: These are one of the oldest systems used to conserve and recharge ground water, are small earthen check dams that capture and store rainwater. Constructed in an area with naturally high elevation on three sides, a storage pit is made by excavating the area, and excavated soil is used to create a wall on the fourth side. Sometimes, several johads are interconnected through deep channels, with a single outlet opening into a river or stream nearby. This prevents structural damage to the water pits that are also called madakas in Karnataka and pemghara in Odisha (India).

Khadin: These are indigenous constructions designed to harvest surface runoff water for agriculture. The main feature of a khadin, also called dhora in India, it is a long earthen embankment that is built across the hill slopes of gravelly uplands. Sluices and spillways allow the excess water to drain off and the water-saturated land is then used for crop production.

Kund: A kund is a saucer-shaped catchment area that gently slopes towards the central circular underground well. Its main purpose is to harvest rainwater for drinking. Kunds dot the sandier tracts of western Rajasthan and Gujarat (India). Traditionally, these well-pits were covered in disinfectant lime and ash, though many modern kunds have been constructed simply with cement.

Baolis: These were secular structures from which everyone could draw water. These beautiful stepwells typically have beautiful arches, carved motifs and sometimes, rooms on their sides. The locations of baolis often suggest the way in which they were used. Baolis within villages were mainly used for utilitarian purposes and social gatherings. Baolis on trade routes were often frequented as resting places. Stepwells used exclusively for agriculture had drainage systems that channelled water into the fields.

Nadi: These are village ponds that store rain water collected from adjoining natural catchment areas. The location of a nadi has a strong bearing on its storage capacity and hence the site of a nadi is chosen after careful deliberation of its catchment and runoff characteristics. Since nadis received their water supply from erratic, torrential rainfall, large amounts of sandy sediments were regularly deposited in them, resulting in quick siltation.

 Bhandara Phad: The system starts with a bhandhara (check dam) built across a river, from which kalvas (canals) branch out to carry water into the fields in the phad (agricultural block). Sandams (escapes outlets) ensure that the excess water is removed from the canals by charis (distributaries) and sarangs (field channels).

Zing: These can be found in Ladakh region of Himalayas (India), are small tanks that collect melting glacier water. A network of guiding channels brings water from the glacier to the tank. A trickle in the morning, the melting waters of the glacier turn into a flowing stream by the afternoon. The water, collected by evening, is used in the fields on the following day. A water official called a Chirpun is responsible for the equitable distribution of water in this dry region that relies on melting glacial water to meet its farming needs.

Kuhls: Kuhls are surface water channels found in the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh (India). The channels carry glacial waters from rivers and streams into the fields. An important cultural tradition, the kuhls were built either through public donations or by royal rulers. A kohli would be designated as the master of the kuhl and he would be responsible for the maintenance of the kuhl.

Zabo: The Zabo (meaning ‘impounding run-off’) system combines water conservation with forestry, agriculture and animal care. Practised in Nagaland and Indian sub-continent. Rainwater that falls on forested hilltops is collected by channels that deposit the run-off water in pond-like structures created on the terraced hillsides. The channels also pass through cattle yards, collecting the dung and urine of animals, before ultimately meandering into paddy fields at the foot of the hill. Ponds created in the paddy field are then used to rear fish and foster the growth of medicinal plants.

Bamboo Drip Irrigation: This is an indigenous system of efficient water management that has been practised for over two centuries in northeast India. The tribal farmers of the region have developed a system for irrigation in which water from perennial springs is diverted to the terrace fields using varying sizes and shapes of bamboo pipes. Best suited for crops requiring less water, the system ensures that small drops of water are delivered directly to the roots of the plants.

Jackwells: The Shompen tribe of the Great Nicobar Islands lives in a region of rugged topography that they make full use of to harvest water. In this system, the low-lying region of the island is covered with jackwells (pits encircled by bunds made from logs of hard wood). A full-length bamboo is cut longitudinally and placed on a gentle slope with the lower end leading the water into the jackwell. Often, these split bamboos are placed under trees to collect the runoff water from leaves. Big jackwells are interconnected with more bamboos so that the overflow from one jackwell leads to the other, ultimately leading to the biggest jackwell.