Photo – 1: Moharmani Devi in her Five Per Cent pond in Ulman village of Chainpur block in Palamau.
Photo – 2: Villagers dig their Five Per cent ponds in Ulman village of Chinapur block in Palamau ahead of monsoon.
New ideas have always become vehicles of change, whether it is in the field of science or in traditional fields like agriculture. In Palamau villages, a new idea of rainwater conservation is slowly gaining ground, which promises to change the farming scenario in the usually drought-hit Palamau district. The villagers like to call it ‘Idea Five Per Cent’.
While the common man who has to deal with rogue bureaucracy in his daily life may un-astonishingly mistake it, Idea Five Per Cent simply means that each farmer has to dig a small pond on five decimal of each acre of his land in order to harvest the gushing waters during rainfall. This will ensure moisture in his otherwise perched lands, which in turn will help him in growing paddy and vegetables.
‘So far, we have motivated about 125 farmers in Chainpur block to dig small ponds in their lands and we have as many small ponds. While we partially help them with labour charge, thanks to the grants by Germany-based Welthungerhilfe, majority of the work has to be done by the farmers themselves on their own,’ said Vinod Kumar, secretary of Sampurn Gram Vikas Kendra, an NGO which developed the Idea Five Per Cent.
Palamau is a rain-shadow zone and the district does not get more than an average of 500-600 mm of rainfall annually. Areas like Chainpur block, which is inhabited by tribes, are surrounded by hills all around and the rainwater rushes off to the rivers soon after rainfall, leaving very little water on farmers’ lands.
The Five Per Cent ponds in farmers’ lands have come up in villages like Ulman, Aragarha, Uter, Kukaru, Chuga, Bansdihkhurd, Pidhe and Munder—all in Chainpur block and inhabited mostly by tribal families.
Many more families in this block are now busy digging Five Per Cent ponds in their respective lands so that the rainwater this monsoon does not rush off and a good portion of it stays in their lands. This will ensure moisture for their lands, which will help them go for multi-crops.
‘I have completed digging quite a few small ponds on my lands and desperately waiting for the rains to arrive. I am sure from this monsoon, the new concept will change our life,’ said Heeraman Singh, a Kharwar tribal of Chainpur block.
Due to acute scarcity of water, off-season farming is an alien thing in most villages of drought-prone Palamau district. The situation in forest villages, particularly those situated below hills, is pitiable. Large-scale migration in search of livelihood is therefore common from these villages.
‘We would soon be introducing this Idea Five Per Cent pond even in villages of other blocks of Palamau district, particularly in Paton block, another water-scarce block,’ said Vinod Kumar.
The idea costs next to nothing, but holds potency to change the water and agriculture scenario in villages drastically. Maybe, the state government can buy a leaf of this new idea and change the uncommonly misunderstood ‘Per Cent’, popularizing it in other villages across Jharkhand.