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Friday, January 4, 2019

In Tuticorin, too much water is as big a problem as too little water

Families in southeast India’s drought-prone Tuticorin district face two critical agricultural challenges.

The first challenge is related to an overabundance of water during the raining season, which floods their farm fields and damages or destroys crops.

The second challenge is related to a shortage of water during the dry season, which makes it very challenging, despite the use of crops well suited to arid conditions, to grow food.

Both challenges lead to the same problem; food insecurity. And food insecurity, if it happens frequently like it does in Tuticorin, ensures that families can never be free of the poverty that has held them captive for generations.

In general, there are two different kinds of agriculture: rain-fed agriculture and irrigated agriculture. Rain-fed farming relies on direct rainfall to water the soil and plants. In the right climate, rain-fed agriculture is less resource intensive and is an inexpensive way for farmers to cultivate their crops. Unfortunately, this kind of agriculture heavily depends on rainfall and therefore is vulnerable to shortage of rainfall, a frequent occurrence in arid areas.

Where rainfall is irregular, dry times or droughts are expected. Irrigation is an important way for farmers to ensure adequate water for their crops. Irrigation requires various types of systems (hoses, pumps, sprayers, drip irrigators) to apply water to the soil. There can be various sources of water used, such as ground water, springs, wells, rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs, surface water, or even other sources like gray water or desalinated water. Whatever the source, it is crucial for the farmers to ensure that the water itself is not contaminated, in order to prevent diseases.

In Tuticorin farmers are using ponds to collect water. The ponds capture runoff water which is then used for irrigation. Each pond collects and holds up to 500 m3 of water. In rainy times, the ponds serve as catchment areas for excess water, preventing flooding and damage to crops. In dry times, the water stored in the ponds enables farming families to irrigate their crops, ensuring a bountiful harvest.

HOPE International Development Agency is helping farming families construct ponds that will ensure that there is the right amount of water available throughout the year - enabling families to improve their agricultural production, become self-sufficient, have additional food to eat, and generate income by selling excess harvests at local markets.