Farmer Gundappa – Tumkur District, Karnataka
Farmer Gundappa beams with pride as he stands amidst the young mulberry saplings that shoot up from the once-parched earth.
“Although the past few monsoons have brought very little rain, I haven’t been worried at all,” he says, pointing to the open well at the corner of his field. “I now have enough water in my well to keep my fields green,” he says, his wizened old face breaking into a smile.
“Three consecutive years of drought had dried up the water in my well, making it difficult for me to grow anything,” he adds, echoing the insecurity of farmers on unirrigated lands who have to wait for uncertain monsoon clouds to breathe new life into withered soil.
Gundappa’s new-found sense of security stems from a small check dam that has been built by the ‘Sujala’ project across a nearby stream. The cement and stone check dam –looking somewhat like a speed breaker - has slowed the seasonal torrent of water that rages downstream during the monsoon rains.
By allowing the water to seep slowly into the ground, the little dam has recharged Gundappa’s long-dry well, enabling him to plant the big-leafed mulberry trees on land that could barely yield coarse grains till not so long ago. “I will use the mulberry leaves to raise silkworms, and feed the remainder to my cows,” says Gundappa. With the region being known for ‘milk and silk’, Gundappa’s mulberry trees will give him a double bang for his buck!