By Jincy Chacko
“Laser leveling helped me increase my profits to Rs. 2,500 from one bigha of land,” says Kulwant Singh of village Raysikwar, Alwar, in Rajasthan. Kulwant Singh grows wheat, cotton, mustard, and sometimes pearl millet in his six-bigha land (six bighas = 1 hectare, and 1 hectare = 2.47 acres).
Under the partnership project Krishi Jyoti, village Raysikwas in Alwar, Rajasthan; Sehgal Foundation; and Mosaic teams promoted laser leveling looking at the need of the farmers in the region. Majority of farmers in Raysikwas were struggling with the same issue, were curios, and interested to know about and adopt solutions that came their way. Uneven land is one of the prime reasons where water fail to penetrate the field evenly. As a result, the crop at few particular patches grow healthier than the rest.
Laser leveling evens the land, spreading extra soil across the field, which negates water accumulation and reduces the need of excess water. “It used to take six hours for one bigha to get irrigated, and now it takes 4.5 hours. We are not just saving time, but also electricity, water, and fertilizers,” explains Kulwant. Farmers often have to borrow water, but with the land leveled, optimum water spreads evenly in less time, resulting in balanced and quality yield. Many farmers have also observed that, since their land was leveled, there has been a reduced need for micronutrients and fertilizers as well, resulting in surprising profits.
Kulwant Singh was the first farmer to adopt the mechanism for having his field leveled. Seeing the difference in produce, nearby farmers took inspiration, and the village has become a model village in farm mechanization. Having invested 4,000 rupees for a bigha, the land continues to benefit farmers with each passing season.
“Earlier, my cotton produce in one bigha of land was 9–10 mann (one mann=40 kgs), whereas after laser leveling, I got 13–14 mann produce from the same piece of land,” says Gurnam Singh. With the increase in cotton yield, Gurnam Singh is profiting more. Farmers of this village had a constant struggle with non-uniform quality in farm produce, resulting in marginal profits. Now he claims his produce is pure white. With land leveled, there has been a decrease in the need for hard work as well. Farmers leave for their homes and return in four hours to find their field uniformly watered without the need for them to be present to move the water hose around the land. A simple mechanism has helped farmers reduce their need for water by 25 percent.
News about the difference in yield spread like wildfire, and villagers took notice. Village Raysikwas has approximately 200 families, with many farmers having an impressive literacy level and a few being graduates. With this level of literacy, farmers are progressive and understand new techniques and machineries, so much that over fifty farmers have adopted the farming procedure. The prime source of irrigation in the region has been with submersible pumps, and farmers often had to borrow water at Rs. 500/hour or Rs. 800/bigha, which ended up creating a hole in their pockets. The need for a solution was undoubtedly urgent. With this adapted technology, there has been a significant dip in the need of water for irrigation.
The change in farm practice was quick, and the fields of the village testify to how this Sehgal Foundation intervention has brought positive impact in the economic status of the villagers.
(Jincy Chacko is communications associate at S M Sehgal Foundation)