N P Singh and Ellora Mubashir
Farm bunds are simply retaining walls along the boundary of agricultural fields. Their advantage is to contain rainwater in the field itself, which helps in retaining soil moisture for longer time, reducing soil erosion during heavy rain and protecting fertile soil. Farm bunds have the potential to bring substantial acreages of dry agricultural land under seasonal cultivation. These structures were introduced by S M Sehgal Foundation in the water scarce villages of Nangal Chaudhary block in Mahendragarh district of Haryana. Besides, in a dry region like Mahendragarh, farmers cannot buy water to irrigate low value crops.
One of many farmers, Mukesh Kumar of Sareli adopted this technique in April 2019. Educated to tenth grade, he has a family of four, four acres of land, and an income of about INR 1,50,000 annually. After trying out this method, Mukesh said, “Farm bunding of 400 meters has saved the entire soil of my field, which otherwise used to flow to the adjacent land. Now the quantity of my guar plantation has increased by 250 kg due to increased availability of soil moisture; and my income has increased by INR 11,000.” Upto the current cropping season of kharif 2020, his cumulative increase in income due to farm bunding since adoption, is INR 32,000.
Sheobai, is a farmer also from Sareli. She is educated to fifth grade, has a family of five, seven acres of land, and an annual income of about INR 2,20,000. Using farm bunding in April 2019, she harvested seventeen sacks of pearl millet, while earlier she could only produce five to seven sacks in a season. Due to this, she gained INR 10,000. Sheobai says, “The rainwater did not adequately moisten my field, which resulted in premature seeds. I farm‑bunded an acre of land in the direction of the water flow, and as a result did not require an external source of water to irrigate my field, which used to cost me INR 2,200”. Her net increase in income in the season was INR 12,200. As of the current cropping season, kharif 2020, her cumulative increase in income, since adoption, due to farm bunding is INR 24,000.
Surender from village Niaz Alipur is educated to twelfth grade, has a family of four, three acres of land, and an annual income of about INR 65,000. He barricaded one acre of land in April 2019 and grew millet. He says, “For the first time, I did not have to water my field two or three times, as the seasonal rains were adequate. I saved INR 3,000 in irrigation costs”. As of the current cropping season, kharif 2020, his cumulative savings due to farm bunding, since adoption, is INR 8,800
Farm bunds are low cost, rapidly responsive and a high adoption intervention. They are useful for both dry and high rainfall regions. In dry regions they hold rainwater in the fields and improve the soil moisture, whereas in heavy rainfall areas they hold water in the fields and protect from soil erosion. In both the situations the farmers get the benefit of increased crop yield, protection from soil erosion and improvement in soil moisture.
(N P Singh is program lead, Agriculture Development and Ellora Mubashir is communications specialist, Partnerships at S M Sehgal Foundation)