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A dam idea that changed lives - Sandbags check rivulet water to turn parched fields green in Gumla village

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By SANTOSH K. KIRO
  • Published 11.06.12
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Ranchi, June 10: Some 550 sandbags, a day of labour by 500 villagers and a check dam’s ready for optimum irrigation. Result: green vegetables and rabi crop on parched land.

For farmers of Gunia — a small hamlet in Ghaghra block of Gumla district — prosperity has required only an innovative idea and not crores of rupees. All that villagers did was fill up empty cement sacks with sand and build temporary barriers on Mahasaria — a small rivulet that runs by Gunia — showing to the rest of the world how vast arid swathes can go green if there is will.

The inspiration to raise the temporary check dams came from scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, established by Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and Vikas Bharti Bishunpur, an NGO working with villagers in the district.

“We have set up check dams at eight different points on Mahasaria with the help of sandbags. We have already grown wheat in January-February and now, nearly 40 farmers have cultivated vegetables on around 50 hectares of land with the help of water from these check dams,” said 75-year-old resident Soma Bhagat, who also happens to be the traditional tribal chief of Gunia.

Villagers in 500-odd households on the banks of the 500-metre wide Mahasaria had never imagined that the water of this seasonal rivulet, which normally dries up by January, could help them grow vegetables in April-May. They had no option but to leave their lands empty after kharif crop, waiting for the monsoon to arrive.

But, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, which functions from the premises of Vikas Bharati Bishunpur, under its National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture project decided to develop a method to help farmers cultivate even during the dry season (after January).

In early December last year, the idea of setting up temporary check dams dawned collectively on the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, members of Vikash Bharti Bishunpur as well as villagers and it took only eight days to build the eight check dams on Mahasaria.

“We bought empty cement sacks at Rs 2 each, filled them with sand and put them one after another for about 100 metres into the rivulet. Each check dam was ready for use within a day,” said Sanjay Kumar, an agriculture scientist and programme co-ordinator at Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Gumla.

Like most rivers in Jharkhand, Mahasarai is a seasonal rivulet and its flow decreases in November-December. It was during this time that villagers raised the check dams. The first was ready on December 18 last year.

“During monsoon, the sandbags will be carried away by the waters. But, after the rains when the current of the rivulet is less, we can once again set up check dams,” Vijay Oraon, a farmer.

The innovative irrigation idea may find resonance in other villages by the end of this year. “The sandbag check dam has been a success in Gunia village and we will now want the same to work in other villages too. A small idea can go a long way in contributing towards food security in the state,” summed up Ashok Bhagat, a social activist and secretary of Vikas Bharti Bishunpur.