Gopal Meena lives with six members of his family in Kankra Dungar village in Bundi district of Rajasthan. His single source of income comes from cultivating five bighas of land. He was dependent on rain to irrigate his farm and grew only one crop in a year. The returns were not enough to make ends meet and he had to take up menial labour jobs.
Things began to look up after the Lift Irrigation System was installed in his village. This enabled Gopal to get sufficient water to irrigate his fields efficiently and economically. He now diversified his crops across harvest seasons and grows Urad and Soyabean in Kharif season and Wheat and Mustard in Rabi season. In the first year itself, he was able to produce 16 quintals of Wheat and 14 quintals of Mustard having market value of more than INR 1 lakh. This has boosted his morale. What is wonderful is that his daughter Priyanka is back in college.
The seeds of this change were sown in the year 2021 after a thorough need assessment. A majority of the farmers were dependent on rain-fed agriculture and the average land holding was 1.22 hectares. Before the intervention, more than 90% farmers used to grow one crop per year i.e., Urad and Soyabean in Kharif season. Hardly 10% farmers were able to grow Rabi season crops like Mustard, Wheat and Gram. Cropping intensity was also low due to insufficient groundwater level and lack of irrigation facilities.
The region receives 638 mm rainfall annually and most of the rainwater is lost as run-off. This is normal in a hilly topography coupled with the fact that there are hardly any rainwater harvesting structures. As a result, in the peak summer season, the villagers even faced acute shortage of drinking water. They were unable to survive on limited earnings and were forced to do labour jobs at brick kilns or migrate in search of work.
To address this situation, the Adani Foundation worked alongside the communities to facilitate a long-term solution in Kankra Dungar and Utrana villages. The Mej tributary of Chambal River passes at roughly 4 kms away from both villages. A lift irrigation project was planned and commissioned in a phased manner – Kankra Dungar village in FY 2021-22 with catchment area of 200 hectares and Utrana village in FY 2022-23 with catchment area of 250 hectares. The system pumps water out of the Chambal River's tributary, which is then supplied through underground PVC pipelines to the fields.
The project beneficiaries are all 500 farmers families who are permanent residents of the two villages. The other criterion for beneficiary selection was that they must have cultivable land in ACC Lakheri Cement project catchment area. The idea was to cover both villages completely under the irrigation project, thereby contributing to the well-being and prosperity of its residents.
Just after commissioning the first phase in Kankra Dungar, farmers started growing Rabi crops – there was a bumper production of Mustard and Wheat in the first year itself. The farmers got an additional income of over INR 50,000 per hectare. This was followed by the successful commissioning of phase 2 in Utrana village.
The irrigation project’s cost was recovered within the first year of commissioning as an additional crop was cultivated. In addition, an increase in crop productivity has been observed. The average yield per hectare was enhanced by 20-30% in comparison to other farmers, due to timely availability of water as per crop cycle requirements.
This Lift Irrigation System in Lakheri is a replicable model which demonstrates the effective use of available water resources through a collaborative approach. It was made possible through active participation of various stakeholders in project planning and implementation. At the village level, the project has promoted and registered water user samitis (Balaji Samudayik Jal Utthan Samiti Kankra Dungar and Samudayik Jal Utthan Sichai Yajna Samiti Utrana) for operation, management, and maintenance. The objective is to keep the ownership with the water users i.e., the farmers.
This scale of multi-cropping was a dream for farmers like Gopal Meena. Today, it is a reality for 500 farmer families who are reaping a higher and more sustainable income, which is giving them an opportunity to opt for regular education and proper healthcare. Just like Gopal Meena’s daughter Priyanka, lives are flourishing in the two villages of Bundi because livelihoods are thriving.