A micro-irrigation initiative partnered by the state is a win-win for farmers in all aspects.
Good earth, Bhikabhai More at his farm in Khoraj village, Gandhinagar
Clusters of tiny plastic pipes snake around the neat rows of guava trees interspersed with musk melon plants at the five-hectare farm of Ramesh Bhai Bhikabhai More in Khoraj village in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar district. Bhikabhai More is among the first farmers in his village to experiment with micro-irrigation systems to grow horticultural produce rather than the conventional crops such as cotton and wheat that he used to before. In his new endeavour, Bhikabhai More is being hand-held by the Gujarat Green Revolution Company (GGRC), a unique joint venture between a consortium of three Gujarat public sector units involved in agriculture and the Indian government.
Formed in 2005, the GGRC is a one-stop shop for farmers who want to adopt advanced micro-irrigation techniques. Drip irrigation systems usually cost between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh per hectare, which is why most farmers shy away from investing. But the GGRC not only provides a 70-90 per cent subsidy to attract farmers, but it also has officials working along with them to select the best micro systems at fixed prices. They even see them through the first crop, giving specialist advice. The pipes for micro-irrigation, including sprinklers, drippers and rain guns, are placed and monitored using geo-fencing and tagging for quick response by GGRC officials. Hardik Pancholi, technical officer, GGRC, says, “We treat farmers as customers and subsidies as investment. We really want to ensure their success.”
An Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad study done in collaboration with an NGO recently found that micro irrigation saves as much as 35-50 per cent in terms of both water and labour costs for farmers. Apart from that, there is a substantial saving in fertiliser and power costs, helping crop yields go up by as much as 30 per cent as compared to conventional farming. The study found that the farmer gets an increase in return of at least Rs 15,500 per hectare by adopting micro-irrigation techniques.
Over 1.2 million farmers in the state have already adopted this advanced method of farming. GGRC officials claim that they have covered almost 60 per cent of the potential for farms to adopt micro-irrigation systems, and hope to woo the remaining in the next five years. They have one more convert in Ranjit Sinh Harikrishna Jadhav, the nephew of Bhikabhai More, who is the co-owner of the land. “We are confident that we have made the right investment and plan to extend it to another five acres that we own next year,” Jadhav says.