Friday, November 18, 2011

Gravity drip systems for small plot farmers in Orissa

by Sarah Lee

Driptech’s affordable drip irrigation systems are dotting the countryside in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. Phase two of the Kechla drip irrigation project is being rolled out in collaboration with Kopernik, an international technology marketplace, and Auro-Mira Service Society (AMSS), a local NGO involved in education and environment work. Nearly 70 small plot farmers are investing in drip irrigation to bolster their incomes and food security throughout the year.

Back in April, prior to the monsoon rain, farmers attended local language community meetings to learn about the water-saving, labor-saving, and yield-increasing benefits of drip irrigation. They vied with one another to be selected for one of the two demonstration plots during the phase one pilot project.

Rogenath (pictured below) was one of these eager farmers, but since his field was tucked away from the view of passersby it didn’t have the high visibility needed for the initial demonstration plots. After the monsoon rains ended and the rollout of phase two of the Kechla drip irrigation project started, Rogenath’s system was the first to be installed. His 250 square meter plot is located right beside a small creek, which, when dammed to create a small reservoir, will provide an easy water source just steps away from his drip irrigation tank. As the first installation wrapped up and Rogenath could see his system in place, he asked how many drip holes were on the plot. When he calculated that he could grow at least 875 tomato plants during the dry season, a broad smile spread across his face.

Excited at the prospect of a dry season tomato crop, Rogenath poses with his daughter in front of his Driptech system

For some farmers in Kechla like Rogenath, drip irrigation provides the only realistic means of cultivating vegetables during the dry season. Nakul (pictured below in blue) previously carried buckets of water from a small stream in a ravine 50m away to hand water his chili crop. Now he can deliver this hard-earned water precisely to his crops rather than wastefully splashing it across the earth and inadvertently irrigating weeds.

Nakul with project installation team Annie (Kopernik), Sudam (AMSS), and Runa (AMSS), is relieved that drip irrigation will save him from the burden of hand-watering his chili crop

For other farmers in Kechla, drip irrigation represents a step-wise improvement from labor-intensive flood irrigation. Jogenath, another farmer in the community, wanted to install a Driptech system so that he wouldn’t have to spend time and energy moving mud to temporarily channel the flow of a stream through furrows in his field. Now he can simply fill his tank and control irrigation with the turn of a valve.

Driptech irrigation saves time and labor when compared to flood irrigation

Phase two of the Kechla drip irrigation project is in full swing. After a five day training by Driptech, the implementation team composed of AMSS staff, a Kopernik fellow, and local day laborers are disbursing materials and teaching Kechla farmers how to install and maintain their drip systems.

Farmers come to the local NGO to pick up their supplies