Marathwada: Drought, crop failure and farmer suicides. Those are the headlines emerging from Maharashtra’s rain shadow region of Marathwada.
But as the monsoon sets in over the state, are there any lessons which farmers have learnt from the terrible droughts over the past four years in this rain shadow region? Some certainly have.
As we travel under an overcast sky in Beed district’s Pendgaon village, in the middle of a field we come across a dam-like structure. Climb over the 20-foot high mud walls and one is greeted by a massive black sheet wherein lies the “lesson from the drought.” Water.
“For four years we have been struggling because of the severe drought. One day I was watching television and they explained how water harvesting can be a solution. And I was convinced. Now, see the result with just the first few monsoon showers!” explains cotton farmer Amol Dhat.
Mr Dhat’s water harvesting initiative is simply a massive pit, 70 feet by 70 feet in size and 40 feet deep with a holding capacity of 32 lakh litres. “That’s enough. Once it fills up it will last for 18 months.”
The 32-year-old spent ₹7 lakh on two such water harvesting projects, still an expensive investment for most farmers. But awareness has increased with others turning to inexpensive do-it-yourself initiatives.
In Pendgaon itself, 25-year-old Sayyed Salim says he and his friends got together and made a stone and sand filter which will clean rain and waste water that can be reused.
“We dug a 6 foot hole and put sand and stones inside. All the waste and rainwater is directed through a small channel and gets collected here. Now the level in the nearby hand pump will slowly increase. It’s simple and we did this without any government help,” Salim explains.
However the full benefits can only be reaped if the monsoon does not play truant as has been the case for the past several years. And farmers are hoping the rain clouds will deliver this season.