Tribal farmer “Our land is rich, but our people are poor”

But increasingly erratic rainfall in recent years has made life much harder for the region’s impoverished indigenous subsistence farmers, most of whom rely on monsoon rains between June and September to grow a thirsty rice crop.

By Soumya Sarkar

The Chotanagpur Plateau in eastern India, criss-crossed with streams, once was lush green even in winter.

But increasingly erratic rainfall in recent years has made life much harder for the region’s impoverished indigenous subsistence farmers, most of whom rely on monsoon rains between June and September to grow a thirsty rice crop.

“Our land is rich, but our people are poor,” said Gagu Oraon, a farmer from the Oraon indigenous community in Tukutoli, a village that has struggled with low yields and crop failure.

But now clean-energy technology is providing help, in the form of a new solar-powered irrigation system that helps about 30 local farmers get dependable water, allowing them to diversify their crops without producing planet-warming emissions.

Along with rice, the farmers now are growing vegetables and selling the surplus – something that is providing more income and stability at home, Oraon noted.

“For young people in the village, it’s a relief not migrating for work,” he said.

A rising number of Indian farmers are turning to solar-powered irrigation, which agricultural experts say can help communities feed their families and generate income while battling climate threats – all without producing more planet-warming emissions.

As part of a project by the Transform Rural India foundation (TRI), a non-profit based in New Delhi, farmers in Tukutoli installed a solar system that pumps water from a small rivulet and provides reliable irrigation to about 30 acres (12 hectares).

The farmers can control the amount of water that goes to their rice crops and also grow vegetables such as cauliflower, eggplant, okra and cabbage.

“Tribal communities, who typically do not have access to irrigation, are among the most vulnerable to climate risks,” said Anas Rahman, a researcher with the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a New Delhi-based think tank.

“Providing access to irrigation is important as a climate adaptation measure.”

Solar pumps can be the main pillar for a new vision of more climate-friendly agricultural development, he added.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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