Various studies on water have been claiming that both surface and ground water sources have been fast declining and the demand for water is expected to increase by 20% in the next decade. As the agriculture sector is often blamed to use the most amount of water, effective ways to improve agricultural production with judicious use of irrigated water is underway. Studies have demonstrated that efficient use of irrigated water by 2025 can help in meeting the 50% increase in demand for water (Seckler et al 1998).
Thus moving towards irrigated farmlands is the need for water use efficiency. More that 85% of water is used by the agriculture sector and it has been reported that this water efficiency in this sector is relatively poor.
As per, Bhalage2, P., et al., 2015, in India, the average water use efficiency of Irrigation Projects is assessed to be only 30-35%. Out of approximately 160 million hectare of cultivable land in the country, only approximately 65 million hectare (41%) is currently covered under irrigation. The current area under micro irrigation is only 8.6 million Ha compared to the potential of 69.5 million Ha.
Of the 8.6 million hectare, 4.7 million hectare is under sprinkler irrigation (54.64%), while 3.9 million hectare is under drip irrigation (45.4%). Irrigation plays a critical role in enhancing yields, cropping intensity, and productivity of crops for which the agriculture water demand could be managed. However while this directly benefits farmers, it also increases the duration of employment and wages of labourers, essential in alleviating poverty (Narayanamoorthy and Despande 2003)1.
Micro irrigation methods is known for very high irrigated water use efficiency (70%- 90%). It is a rational method of irrigation where in the required amount of water and nutrients are given to the root zone of the plant. It saves significant amount of water and also leads to an increase in crop production. At present flood irrigation is the most prevalent form, which has low efficiency. The systems enables regulated supply of water at a required quantity and at required interval using pipe network, emitters and nozzles. Two main micro irrigation systems are Drip and Sprinkler irrigation.
Limitations in adapting Micro irrigation techniques:
In spite of several advantages, the transformation to micro irrigation practices is limited to some pockets across India. Based on primary information collected as part of the project performance monitoring in operational villages of Gujarat, Ambuja Cement Foundation has listed the main factors responsible for low adaptation.
- The perception that the decline of water availability is a critical situation had been attained; hence its conservation is not viewed as a high priority
- Winding and laying of lateral pipes is considered too much of an effort.
- Land plots are too fragmented for installation of micro irrigation.
- Fear of damage to micro irrigation systems or equipment by wild animals.
- Non-adopters (mostly among the marginal, small and medium land categories) within project villages too considered that the capital investment to get the system installed was high.
- They also mention that more effort is needed to adjust the distance between the pipes to tackle incidence of pests due to change in the moisture content of the soil.
- Farmers with large families also think that MI Micro Irrigation is unnecessary. According to them only farmers who need to cut down on labour require it, farmers with large families use their family members for labour purposes.
- The main reason for them to not have installed the systems is affordability, even with the available subsidy. They do not want to take loans because the returns they get from farming are quite less and they have no way to repay the loan if the crop fails.
How do we change focus
The priorities of the farmers are very different from organizations like us who promote micro irrigation systems. Farmers want more crop per unit of water and implementing agency are advocates that these systems will save water. Therefore, key factors like helping adaption of micro irrigation systems and creating awareness about technology and its real benefit like increase yield and quality of product, require minimum skill to operate or control functions of the system, post installation services, availability of parts in local areas and return on investment.
Ambuja Cement Foundation has focussed to address these issues in the field and facilitated farmers to get subsidy from government schemes and also linking with financial institutions. Farmers producer organisation is created to link all farmers in the supply chain. Impact assessment conducted found that the recurring reason for installing these systems in farm lands was to save water (32%).
This reason was followed by expecting higher yields and close to no requirement to monitor water supply at odd hours. 13% of the farmers thought adoption of micro irrigation systems would lead to savings on labour. 7% of the farmers attributed it to increase in efficiency in usage of fertilisers followed by reduction in growth of weed and faster growth of crops and higher yields. The similar finding is reported in the economic survey that micro-irrigation is a proven technology which has gained immense popularity amongst farmers.
- Farmers have been able to save irrigation water from 20% to 48%;
- Energy saving from 10% to 17%
- Saving of labour cost from 30% to 40%
- Saving of fertilizers from 11% to 19%
- Increase in crop production from 20% to 38%
Micro irrigation has a potential to solve water scarcity in the country and increased food production. However it only needs a proactive approach to reach farmers and build their capacity to maximise their returns on investment. At Ambuja Cement Foundation, we discuss, promote and subsidise micro-irrigation techniques to farmers to help them use water more efficiently. Today working with over 2 lakh farmers from 2903 villages we raise awareness in the communities and empower local institutions to manage water and ensure optimum efficiency.
- Narayanamoorthy, A. (2003). “Averting Water Crisis by Drip Method of Irrigation: A Study of Two WaterIntensive Crops”. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics. Vol. 58 (3): 427- 437.
- Bhalage1, P., et al., 2015, Case studies of Innovative Irrigation Management Techniques, online https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aqpro.2015.02.152, also available online sciencedirect.com
- Nity Ayog 2017, Draft concept note on public private partnership in integrated micro irrigation in India.
- Final Report on Assessment water foot prints of India’s long term energy scenario, Niti Agyog, GoI, study conducted by TERI New Delhi
- https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/agriculture/push-for-micro-irrigation-says-economic survey/articleshow/73800221.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst