With 77 percent Schedule Tribe agriculture households, Birjaberna is a tribal dominated village, located in the Sundargarh district in Odisha. In spite of 1,400 mm annual rainfall and existence of Ghurlijore minor irrigation project, the village was devoid of assured irrigation facility. Therefore, mono-cropping of rice in kharif with sub-optimum yield – 2.5–3.1 tonne/ha – was the only option for the farmers.
The reasons of non-assured irrigation facility were poor canal water supply and lack of other irrigation sources in the village. Moreover, the damage of the surplus escape structure of the Ghurlijore reservoir, which was aimed to modulate the canal water supply had drastically reduced the water availability. Therefore, rainfed agriculture was the only option till 2013.
In this backdrop, Indian Institute of Water Management (IIWM), Bhubaneshwar planned, designed and executed various water conservation and management strategies since 2013-14 in this village. The knowledge of farmers on efficient water management and livelihood improvement through multiple use of water in different enterprises of agriculture were taken up through series of capacity building programmes like training, field demonstration and exposure visit. Irrigation infrastructures like inlet, outlet and surplus escape structures were introduced in the canal linked community pond of the village to enhance its carrying capacity. This has resulted in enhanced water availability by 1.2 ha-m in the pond and thus increased command area by 30 percent in the village as compared to pre-intervention period.
Further, a dug well was dug out adjacent to the community pond along the drainage line. This intervention created 1.8 ha-m additional water availability thus increased additional 2.1 ha command area. Further, the water supply from the well was linked with the underground pipeline with sprinkler irrigation system. These interventions brought confidence among the resource poor tribal farmers in growing three crops during 2015-16 in a sequence of paddy in kharif, mustard in rabi, and groundnut and green gram in summer season instead of rice mono crop in kharif.
After the intervention, the yield of kharif rice was also improved by 30 percent with supplemental irrigation. Further, introduction of sprinkler irrigation system during rabi, enhanced yield by 28 percent with saving of 32 percent irrigation water, which resulted in improvement in water productivity by 60 percent compared to traditional check basin irrigation in groundnut.
The concept of multiple use management of harvested rain and canal water in agriculture and pisciculture (fish farming) in the community pond was also taken up. Low input based fish culture was undertaken in the pond to enhance the economic output and water productivity. After 210 days of rearing, farmers harvested 472 kg fish, resulted in net income of Rs 62,000 per hectare.
Through capacity building programmes, farmers were exposed to various modern agricultural water management practices and were trained about the package of practices of aquaculture activities; care and maintenance of flow irrigation in minor irrigation systems; benefits of drip and sprinkler irrigation systems and different Government schemes.
The interventions of water resource development and management in crop production and pisciculture enhanced the average annual net income in the target area – 2.1 ha crop area and 1 ha pond area – from Rs 17,000 to Rs 1.42 lakh during 2015-16. Enthused with the results, IIWM has taken up another tribal village Mohuljore for integrated water resource management activities during 2016-17.