As water insecurity sets in, farmers are investing more and more into securing water access and control of the resource. Each of these stories is interesting and could be pursued to attain a greater understanding of how farmers are constantly evolving and adapting to the various dimensions of water insecurity. Meanings attached to water insecurity also differ across different villages and within social groups and genders. The current study converses with women across diverse social and age groups on their work in agriculture, how they look at changes in their work and labour relations, and relations at home with respect to shifts in water and agricultural uses.
Surface water and canal network in Ravangaon, India. (Credit: Dhaval Joshi)
The India team’s objective for the first year of the project was to understand the various water extraction and use practices that different groups of farmers employ, how those practices have changed over time in tandem with cropping patterns, and how they are altering labour and social relations in the village. To achieve these, the team has done transect walks through the canal; focus group discussions and interviews with farmers, including women farmers and landless labourers; well and borewell monitoring, and crop mapping to assess water requirements.
Inventory of dug-well in Ravangaon. (Credit: Dhaval Joshi - August 2019)
Ravangaon in the Pune district is in the command area of the Khadakwasla project. A command area refers to an area served by a gravity-fed canal. The Khadakwasla project is a major source of water for the city of Pune and other small towns in the district. Ravangaon typifies the unbridled expansion of groundwater use in canal commands in India. The village is served by the two minor canals of the dam and receives water from a colonial irrigation tank called the Shirsuphal tank. Groundwater rather than surface water supplies much of the area in the command of canals. The number of wells and boreholes in the command is estimated to be more than 3,000. This is a large number of wells considering that the village has about 900 households and an area of about 1,000 hectares.
Minor irrigation canal in Ravangaon (Credit: Sneha Bhat)
Farmers invest in various measures to ensure water security for their cash crops, notably in sugarcane and horticulture. The horticultural practices include constructing farm ponds or buffer storages to store groundwater or canal water, installing kilometres of pipelines from their wells, tanks or streams to deliver water to their farms, siphoning water from the canals into their wells, and paying bribes to government officials to permit them to illegally lift the water.
Farmers irrigating a sugarcane field (Credit: Dhaval Joshi)
Group discussions with farmers demonstrate how their thirst for water increased after 2010 when canals stopped functioning properly. By that time, crop choices had changed drastically as a result of the macro policies stimulating agrarian change. Over the years, Ravangaon has seen a number of shifts in the agrarian landscape, of which water reallocations are a significant part. Boreholes, drip and sprinkler systems, and farm ponds are the new symbols of economic power in the increasingly water insecure village.
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