Drip Pool Programme vastly improves the livelihoods of marginal farmers in India

Farmers in the Drip Pool Programme have been able to enjoy a 31% higher net income from their cotton cultivation compared with farmers that are not using drip irrigation

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New Delhi: A recent case study report by PWC reveals that the Drip Pool Programme, a programme that enables cotton farmers in India to use micro irrigation technology (drip irrigation) via a community funding mechanism, saves cotton farmers significant labor, money and water. The programme addresses environmental challenges and highlights the importance of agro-ecological innovation and community-run initiatives in improving the livelihoods of smallholder and marginal farmers in India.

The Drip Pool Programme, founded by C&A Foundation in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), has resulted in a 31% higher net income from cotton cultivation compared to non-drip farmers in Gujarat, India. A farmer who recently joined the programme, reported that his gross earnings increased by Rs 20,775 (EUR 277). Another farmer reported 80% reduction of his farming costs.

The programmes help farmers access drip irrigation technology, which involves irrigating crops with tiny drops of water, saving farmers time and money, and decreasing water waste. Farmers are seeing environmental and agronomic impacts as well. Programme farmers have reported using just 1,191 liters of water per kilogram of cotton, compared to the 5,923 liters consumed by non-programme farmers. They have also reported benefits such as uniformity in production, better yield of seed cotton and increased fertilizer cost efficiency as well as reduced weeding and lower labour costs.

Main results from the programme:

  • Farmers save up to 7% on fertilizer usage, leading to less water and soil contamination;

  • Drip Pool Irrigation saves approx. 2.5 million liters of water per acre of cotton cultivation;

  • Farmers participating in the programme have reported reduction in seed cost by 6% and increase in productivity by 24%, compared to farmers without drip irrigation;

  • Better yields and uniform flushes of cotton have resulted in 31% higher income for programme farmers

Anita Chester, Head of Sustainable Raw Materials at C&A Foundation: “We are thrilled to see that the programme has taken off so successfully. Working together helps implement new, successful initiatives and encourages shared ownership. Technology such as drip irrigation may not be enough to address the problem of water scarcity in the region, but we see this as a step in the right direction. At the very least, it has trigged the need for an increased focus on promoting water availability along with effective water management.”

Vallabh, a drip farmer from the Gujarat area, says: “The main benefit of installing drip irrigation for me is that labor has reduced due to the little water required to manage the crops. Before using drip irrigation, we needed many people to regulate water use. Now, the decrease in the work required means that there is labor available to focus on growing additional crops, like vegetables and peanuts.”

The Drip Pool Programme

Recognising the devastating effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity on rural life in India, the Government of Gujarat created the Gujarat Green Revolution Corporation (GGRC) to provide subsidies to farmers to install drip irrigation technology. The GGRC currently subsidizes approximately 40% of the cost of installation, while farmers cover the remaining 30%.

Lack of documentation and collateral can prevent small and marginal farmers in India from obtaining formal credits to fund the remaining amount necessary to avail the benefit of the subsidy. To bridge this gap, C&A Foundation, in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), established a community financing mechanism to provide interest free loans to smallholder cotton farmers in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. With their loans, farmers have been able to pay the remaining amount to access the GGRC subsidy and install drip irrigation on their cotton farms. As farmers repay their loan within a period of two years, the amount goes back into the community financing mechanism, managed by farmers groups and is used to provide support to additional farmers for drip irrigation

Improving farmer livelihoods         

India is the world’s largest producer of cotton, with an estimated crop area of about 12 million hectares, accounting for 40% of the global area under cotton production. Two-thirds of India’s cotton is grown in three states – Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana.

Almost half of India’s population depends on farming and agriculture for their livelihood, with smallholder and marginal farmers making up more than 85% of total farming households. These farmers play a critical role in India’s organic cotton production. Yet, they face ever-increasing challenges; from water scarcity and the growing risk of climate change to poor soil fertility and farmer poverty.