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Farm ponds’ many merits over check-dams[continued]

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After effects:

Farm productivity rose. But why? Water stagnation in ponds and channels increased sub-soil mositure. Slow evaporation over long periods of the year changed the micro climate and increased soil animal population. This attracted birds with their own cross fertlisation and seed delivery processes. This brought vigorous undergrowth. Trees grew steadily and shaded the land. Farms retained top soil. Assured of water resources, farmers stayed longer on their holdings. Some have even moved in and made homes. Fodder availability encouraged animal husbandry and that brought in synergistic animal-soil interaction. Farmers living on land are more observant of fine details and shape and mould their land continually.

The food basket is more varied with fruits and vegetables on the table. Many ponds are small fisheries. Income streams are more numerous and with small money surpluses, farmers --as always with all Indians-- have turned to giving their children quality education. Management of schools, health centres, the watershed and community interests invite wide participation.Women have formed themselves into self help groups and run micro credit schemes. The striking impression is that even given that India is ever-smiling, Adihalli-Mylanhalli valley has a high smile-index.

Underlying all this change is the subtlest of all reasons. "Farm ponds are democratic and decentralised," says Reddy. "check-dams are monolithic and autocratic." Also check-dam maintenance calls for community partipation which is good when it happens, but harder to coordinate. Farm ponds and channels are constantly cared for by the owner. Farmers discover a greater sense of control and destiny when they see water standing in their own patch. Water from check-dams if it ever comes to the upper reaches is after all 'piped' water. Water on the land, --with fishes, frogs, dragon-flies and birds-- creates a pond ecology and makes the farmer connect with his inner self. When that happens he excels.

Therefore, BIRD-K's greatest success are the people it has created. There are today about 800 locals who are farm pond experts. Bus loads of curious visitors, NGO personnel and eager farmers arrive every year at Adihalli-Mylanhalli. They receive ready exposition of all matters involved. But perhaps, none can match a barely literate, colourful character who farms a small patch in the valley, they call 'Campaign' Thimmaiah. He is a member of the watershed committee that makes the rules. One of them for instance, is that no one may use a powered device to pump water from the drainage lake in the valley. Thimmaiah polices the lake and is everywhere in the watershed busying himself and preaching the virtues of farm ponds to anyone who cares to listen -- or even doesn't. BIRD-K uses him as a mascot and a living testimonial. It is people like him --who have sprung up from the soil-- that truly matter for a transforming India. They share their time, knowledge and enthusiasm. It is comforting that people like 'Campaign' Thimmaiah ignore the doomsdayers and over-educated Cassandras. They are too busy helping people solving problems.


BAIF Institute for Rural Development - Karnataka [BIRD-K]
Post Box 3,
Tiptur 572 202
Phone - [08134] 250659, 251337

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