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Karnataka - Farmer Somanna

Karnataka Watershed Development Project
Karnataka Watershed Development Project

Farmer Somanna – Haveri District, Karnataka

Farmer Somanna is a happy man these days. His five acres of land that had lain parched and unyielding for years has now become a valuable asset.

Somanna’s small land holding lies amidst the rolling brown hills of Haveri district in Karnataka. The district, which falls largely in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats, is one of the driest in the state. Whatever rainfall the scanty monsoon brings to the region flows down the undulating slopes taking much of the top-soil with it, leaving the land scorched, worthless and barren.

For years, all Somanna could grow on the coarse dry soil of his eroded fields was millet – and that too, only one crop during the rains– barely enough for his family’s subsistence. In the lean season, when no crops would grow, Somanna was left with no other option but to migrate to nearby Hubli town to search of work as a daily wage laborer.

But now Somanna’s eyes brim with hope. The training and assistance given by the World Bank supported Karnataka Watershed Development Project, also known as ‘Sujala’ – or ‘good water’ has turned his life around. “I have learnt how to make bunds along the contours of my fields to conserve water and prevent the top soil from being washed away by the rain,” he adds pointing to the vast stretches of arid brown hills rolling away in the distance.

He also has a new borewell, dug with the project’s help and with part contribution from him. This deep well is especially helpful in these areas where only ten percent of the farmland has access to groundwater irrigation.

The project has also trained Somanna to diversify away from coarse millets and plant an orchard of prized alphonso mango trees that should fetch him a rich harvest when the trees are fully mature. “I have learnt the right way to plant mango trees, and to keep them alive by digging a small trench around the roots to retain water,” he says, happy to display his newly acquired knowledge.

Till the trees begin to yield their golden fruit, the saplings have been interspersed with cotton bushes to provide the farmer with income. “My mango trees will begin to bear fruit in less then ten years time,” he adds. “Then I should be able to earn about Rs.100,000 from one hectare of land,” an enormous sum for this small farmer. “Till then, the cotton will bring in some money,” he says happily.

With his land having been transformed into a productive asset, Somanna no longer needs to migrate to Hubli to search for work. “I have also begun to save money regularly, and I put aside a small sum every fifteen days,” he adds. “I plan to buy a cow, and plant other fruit trees – maybe more mango trees and some chickoo.”