The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken up Andhra Pradesh Drought Mitigation Project (APDMP) to find a longer-term solution to manage droughts and mitigate distress arising out of it. The project has been started with the goal to improve the incomes and strengthen the drought resilience of 165,000 farm households with an estimated project cost of Rs. 1103 crores of which Rs. 75 million USD (Rs.500 crores) is loan from IFAD and the rest Rs. 603 crores by state government through convergence investments from MGNREGS; RKVY; RIDF (NABARD); other departments.
The project is being implemented in the five most drought-prone districts in the State of Andhra Pradesh i.e Chittoor, Anantapur, Kurnool, Kadapa and Prakasam. The targeted group of farmers are those who relied on rain fed agriculture and ground water based irrigation and basically Small and marginal farmers including poor, landless, SC, ST vulnerable households. The project will be implemented in 315 GPs of 105 mandals in 5 districts addressing the needs of 1, 65,000 households.
The project will address the low productivity and high risk of farming in the drought-prone districts of southern AP. The project will have a concerted and coordinated effort to address the problem of repeated drought and enable farmers to increase their income in a very difficult farming environment. The project has three major components.
Component 1: Climate resilient production systems :Aim to increase the resilience of crop and livestock production systems to drought, and provide farmers with information to provide adequate supplementary irrigation (locally called protective irrigation), improve soil fertility, irrigation efficiency, diversify cropping systems, and improve livestock productivity. The component’s objective will be achieved through the following sub-components.
Sub-component 1.1: Improved crop production systems : Through support to farmer information centres, farmer field schools, and promotion of integrated soil fertility management and protective irrigation.
Sub-component 1.2: Improved livestock production systems: Through support to community livestock facilitators providing fee-based services to sheep producers (improved housing, feeding and breeding) and a backyard poultry scheme targeted at the poorest women.
Component 1.3: Strengthened farmer organizations: Whereby the project will take a flexible approach and work with existing organisations where possible and form new organisations where needed to support farmers through input supply, seed multiplication, production services, and machinery hiring centers and marketing support.
Component 2: Drought proofing through NRM and water governance: Aims to mitigate drought and make agriculture more productive through the management of, and investment in, common property resources. The component’s objective will be achieved through the following sub-components:
Sub-component 2.1: Water governance: will support water planning, and supply and demand management via water sub-committees at the Gram Panchayat level, with these forming Hydrological Unit Network (HUN) at the drainage basin level. Training and workshops will build local capacity and support development of surface water and groundwater planning and monitoring.
Sub-component 2.2: Water monitoring and conservation: Will invest in local hydrological and meteorological monitoring to support local decision making and planning of water resources, and in ensuring that GP water sub-committees and HUNs establish adequate working relationships with relevant administrations involved in water supply and demand monitoring. A pilot hydrological mapping of aquifers is proposed to complement available knowledge of and information on groundwater. Soil and water conservation activities will support the recharge of soil moisture and groundwater, and geographically targeted water harvesting activities will complement local water supply management.
Sub-component 2.3: Regeneration of common property rangeland: Will support vegetative methods for water conservation and strengthen community management of grazing, rainwater harvesting and other environmental services on 130 ha per village cluster totalling 42 900 Ha.
Component 3: Management and Lesson Learning. A State Project Management Unit (SPMU) would be established, with District PMUs located in each of the five districts. Lesson learning will cover water resource planning and management, drought-resilient agriculture and climate change adaptation, and development of policies for the crop and livestock sectors, especially for small ruminants.
In Ananthapuramu district 33 mandals were selected and these mandals were divided into three assignment areas. APMAS consortium (Jana Jagruthi, Foundation for Ecological Security, Annadatha and APMAS) is implementing the project in 12 mandals.
APMAS consortium actively engaged in the project activities to mitigate drought in the 12 mandals of Ananthapuramu district. The one journey thought many lessons to us. This year Ananthapuramu district hit with a massive drought. This year is characterised by early rains, prolonged dry spells and competition for water between animals and crops. Our initiatives couldn’t yield expected results due to the above situation.
As per the project design we promoted 12 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) which were registered under MACS act. These FPOs are expected act as Project Implementation Agency and also to deliver services to it’s members. The biggest challenge in mobilising farmers into FPOs is to convince the farmers about the benefits of being a member in FPOs. The farmers had bitter experiences with Ryhtu mithra groups etc earlier they have apprehensions in joining FPOs. Paying share capital is difficult for most of the farmers as they are hit by series of droughts. Our regular efforts lead to mobilise 3000 farmers into the FPOs. These FPOs are now started delivering services to the farmers. We entered in informal agreement with Godrej Agrovet for supply of feed. Now the FPO members able to get the quality feed at their doorsteps at lower price than the market. Some of the FPOs worked on seed business and earned about Rs.1 Lakh as profit. Now the FPOs are under the process of developing vision statements and business plans for next five years.
To pilot different drought mitigation technologies we identified twelve learning sites (each 100 ha). Learning sites compact block of 100 ha which are marginal soils and belongs to SC/STs. 85% of the lands are rain fed and about 15% are under irrigated dry conditions. The average rain fall is less than 550 mm. The main crops are ground nut + Red gram, sericulture and millets. We developed climate resilient production plans to test the impact of technologies and to scale up the learnings. The learning sites were treated with soil and moisture conservation works like farm ponds, contour trenches, boundary trenches etc. Secondly we promoted Navadhanya system of cropping (growing five to nine varieties of crops) to sustain the drought situations. Navadhanya system enabled the farmers to reduce risk of crop failure. We also promoted organic farming practices and measures to convert the crop residue into manure.
During the prolonged dry spells in August, the project provided protective irrigation to ground nut and red gram crops. Protective irrigation enabled the crops to sustain the dry spells and also in some cases we found 20% additional germination particularly in the fields where farmer sown seeds in July. Spraying of 2% Urea is not useful in dry spell management; some farmers reported burning of the crop.
The biggest challenge for dry land farmers is to bring seed and water together. The project promoted new technology called “Row water sowing”. Sowing of red gram crop is done in rows by providing irrigation in the rows. This technology proved successful and farmers could able to harvest redgram with an additional investment of Rs.3000/- per acre otherwise the land will be kept as fallow. These experiences thought us the importance of specialised equipment for land preparation and bringing seed and water together. Equipment like aqua seed drill, tractor tanker seed drill, rain guns, sprinklers, power weeders and brush cutters are key equipment required for dry land farmers.
The lands in the project area are very poor and shallow in nature. Another challenge for dry land farmers is to improve water holding capacity of the soils. APMAS consortium facilitated tank silt application in three learning sites in convergence with Minor irrigation department and SC Corporation. Tank silt application enabled the farmers to withstand drought to certain extent. The project also tried ZEBA (made with corn) a product of UPL, we noticed mixed results. We promoted Sheep penning in about 20 Acres and proved to be the best method to improve the soil fertility. We used Farmer Field Schools as tool for transferring the technologies. Farmers were tried different technologies in Farmer Field Schools and identified certain technologies are suitable for them.
Live stock is another important livelihood for the dry land farmers. Situation analysis of livestock sector in the project area revealed that the following are the core issues:
- Absence of preventive health care – Indiscriminate treatment for worms
- Migrations – Scarcity of fodder and drinking water
- Poor pregnant animal health care
- Absence of Semi intensive method of rearing
- Absence of animal shelters
To address these issues we promoted preventive health care, about 1 lakh sheep and goat were vaccinated and de-worming drugs were administered. Parasite mapping was done and vaccination and de worming calendar developed. Fodder security plans were developed and promoted super napier gross in about 45 acres and 240 Kg of stylo seed distributed. Super napier is high yielding gross and expected provide 80 tons of gross per year per acre.
Capacity building is another key activity where the project invested heavily. FPO BOD members trained on FPO concept, MACS act, legal compliances, services etc. Farmers were trained on Farmer Field Schools, soil fertility management and other drought mitigation practices. FPO staffs were trained on FPO concepts, accounting etc.
Following are the key learning’s from the journey of last one year:
- Biggest challenge is to bring seed and water together for this we need to invest on innovative technologies for land preparation and sowings
- Soil health improvement is key to dry spell management, without improving water holding capacities of soils one can’t mitigate drought
- Crop residue management is another critical issue to meet manure requirements in dry lands
- Investments on rain water harvesting structures particularly farm ponds is critical. Farm ponds need not to be used for ground water recharge but also consider for providing protective irrigation
- Investment on protective irrigation is critical for managing dry spells
- Traditional cropping systems like Navadhanya should be restored to mitigate drought