On the morning of 4th Nov, 2011 a team of villagers from Ravirala, one of project sites at Hyderabad, visited Mondigowrelly at Yacharam mandal to study the “contours and dynamics” of watershed development. The main aim was to expose the team to possible watershed activities that they could take up to improve water availability for agriculture in general, and to increase the groundwater table in and around Ravirala, in particular. The visit was also motivated by the need for villagers to come together to form a Village Water and Sanitation Committee which could act as a coordinating body for water and sanitation related work in the village and work around the restoration of the Ravirala cheruvu.
Mondigowrelly is village in Yacharam mandal, Ranga Reddy district which has benefitted tremendously from watershed related activities carried out by the village with technical help from MV Foundation, a NGO in Secunderabad and funding from NABARD.
It was a good opportunity for the team to discuss various aspect of funding available, and the process and science behind watershed development. A NET study which maps the topography of the area is undertaken prior to the project to identify the terrain and slope of the land, the water spots and agricultural and other land use patterns in the area under study. Watershed structures are built in accordance with the plan drawn up, and the team got to visit a few of these.
Contour bunds at Mondigowrelly are constructed on a number of farmlands depending on the slope of the land. These break the flow of water from uphill and also allow water to percolate into the ground at regular intervals. At certain points along the area, percolation bunds have also been set up which allow water to stagnate and percolate into the ground more slowly.
The Ravirala team appeared very interested in the dynamics of cooperation between farmers on the placement of these bunds as certain farmlands would stand to be disadvantaged for certain time periods during the course of the project.
A stop at the check dam built at the lower end of the watershed area led to an interesting debate between the members present, on the advantages and disadvantages of the dam being a useful method to convert dry and barren land into agricultural land. The group was interested in a comparison of the perceived increase in the level of the groundwater table before and after the project was introduced.
The team also visited the agricultural fields of a few farmers in the village to get a more nuanced understanding of how the project has started to improve their irrigation and agricultural operations. The farmers at Mondigowrelly had chosen a wide variety of crops including jatropha, mint and castor that are less water intensive. Drip irrigation is also practiced. These practices complemented the gradual rise of the water table in an area that was once dry and barren, the technical team explained
Funding for watershed development is given by NABARD which requires that a farming village that requests funds for watershed development must pitch in 20 % of the total estimated cost of the project (worked out in the NET plan) locally, to carry out any small activity related to the larger project. This can pertain to something as simple as constructing a contour bund with the village pitching in, in cash or in other forms.
*Team at Contour/Percolation Bund constructed by villagers of Mondigowrelly as a pilot project to procure funding from NABARD
At Mondigowrelly, as informed to the team, it was decided that every family in the village, farming or otherwise had to put in 4 man days of work. While some people contributed money for construction materials, others contributed provisions and the like for the entire construction phase of the pilot project. This site was then inspected by NABARD officials who have sanctioned funds for the project for 5 years.
Overall, the team from Ravirala appeared to appreciate this informative visit as was evident from their discussions amongst themselves and the team from MVF. They raised a lot of technical questions and were interested in knowing the kind of watershed development that could take place in Ravirala. They spoke of feeder channels to the Ravirala cheruvu being blocked by construction of check dams in these channels itself by settlements upstream. The exposure thus gained should help this team convey their field experiences to other members of their village at subsequent meetings and contribute to a better understanding of the issues that a Village Water and Sanitation Committee can initiate.