25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Water is a elixir if life. It has economic, social, ecological and spiritual functions. It was on the banks of rivers and water bodies, human civilization flourished. The hydrological characteristics of the Indian monsoon necessitated the creation of storage facilities to hold the rainwater of the monsoon. With extraordinary engineering, managerial and social skills, an extensive system of rainwater harvesting structures like tanks and ponds had been built and maintained by the people for centuries. Behind these existing indigenous systems of irrigation, there are thousands of years of tradition.

Promoting Community Governance in Water Resources

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

DHAN lays emphasis in building social capital for reviving the age old practice of community management (kudimaramath). It organises the framers and farm labourers dependent on each tank into Vayalagam Associations, networks them at the cascade level (chain of tanks linked hydrologically) and federates them at the block or district level to take up conservation drive on the large scale, as well as builds alliances with private, public and non-profit organisations working on tank systems.

Augmenting Storage Capacity of the Tanks

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Through the Vayalagam Farmers Organisations, DHAN facilitates rehabilitation of tanks for not only restoring the physical structures to their originally designed standard, but more importantly, facilitating the proper maintenance of the tanks, efficient water management and implementing improved cropping practices in a sustainable manner. Vayalagam institutions have always been insisting on farmers to contribute one fourth of the cost of rehabilitation through monetary or labour contribution. Rehabilitation of irrigation tanks to their original storage capacity increases availability of water for more area for cropping. Earlier all these tanks and the command area were facing the problem of water shortage towards the end of the cropping period as tank water was inadequate to provide adequate water for even a single full crop.

Enhanced Water Management

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Traditionally, most of the tanks in south India had water managers to effectively manage the water distribution. Each tank had one or more Neerkattis. The Neerkattis had several functions to perform ranging from supply of water to every field at the farm level to safeguarding the tank structures from all natural and manmade calamities.

Tank-based Watershed Development

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

An individual tank with its own catchment, water spread and command area is an integral part of a watershed within which it is situated. A cascade of tanks forms a micro-watershed by itself as the tanks are interlinked, often by a common stream or by the surplus water of an upper tank feeding a lower one.

Farm ponds for life-saving-irrigation

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Heavy downpour during a few rainy days is a phenomenon caused by climate change. It necessitates more water harvesting structures to augment the storage.

Creating access to drinking water

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

In the water-starved regions of southern peninsular India, acute shortage of drinking water is a common phenomenon every year. The ground water is saline and unfit for drinking and irrigation. Traditionally, surface drinking water ponds (Ooranis) maintained and nurtured over generations by the local communities have been the source of water needs for the millions of people in this region.

Safe Drinking Water through Household Water Treatment

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Next to ensuring access to drinking water, DHAN addresses the issues of quality of drinking water, as more than 80 per cent of the diseases among the poor communities are attributed directly or indirectly to unsafe water, for which at least 25-30 percent of family's income is drained towards healthcare expenses.

Endowments for Sustainable Management of Water Resources

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

DHAN has made an institutional arrangement in the form of endowment funds at each Tank Farmers' Association for the sustainability of the association and for future maintenance of tanks. It could mobilise support from the traditional philanthropies like Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT), Mumbai.

Demonstration of Different Partnership Models

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

DHAN ayalagam institutions have demonstrated different models of partnerships for developing tank systems. In addition to state-sponsored programmes with the water resource departments, they have promoted individual philanthropy for water conservation and mobilised support under Corporate Social Responsibility.

Facilitating farm finance

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Agricultural Finance Groups (AFGs) are part of Vayalagams, promoted by organising 15 to 20 members from Vayalagams. they provide continuity to the conservation and development works and facilitate continuous access to credit facility for tankfed farming.

Farmers Producer Organisations

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

Small and marginal land holders are mostly unorganized, characterised by lack of access to capital, technology and market information.

Contributions to the Water Sector

25 years of Vayalagam Programme in Poverty Reduction through Water Resources and Agricultural Development

DHAN Foundation has set up a Resource Support Organisation for popularising community tank management and tank-based watershed models in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. DHAN has prepared a strategy for Water Security through Integrated watershed development for the State Planning commission during 2004.

Read more on Vayalagam Tankfed Agriculture Development Programme

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