Vidarbha and Marathwada regions in Maharashtra are drought prone areas leading to low farm productivity. Degradation of natural resources, rampant soil erosion, practice of monoculture, choking of streams due to silt accumulation, irrigation deficit, lack of processing facilities for agricultural produce and lack of market access are responsible for chronic farmer distress in these areas. These regions have also been severely impacted by the adverse consequences of climate change such as hailstorms and long dry spells causing repeated droughts. Multiple interventions such as farmers’ co-operatives, change in cropping patterns, community farming, encouraging best practices in agriculture, post-harvest management, processing and marketing of processed products to add value, are necessary to ensure sustainable development that promote livelihoods.
At ICICI Bank, we have provided grants and initiated a holistic intervention in these regions which includes four integrated development initiatives for water conservation, sustainable agriculture and livelihood generation. The intervention also aims at promoting financial empowerment of women and mitigating climate change.
Farmers in the cotton growing belt of Vidarbha region have faced continuous distress due to their inability to repay farm loans either because of crop failure or due to very low prices for their produce in the market. In collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra, ICICI Bank provided a grant to set up a decentralised cluster of charkhas (spinning wheels) operating on solar energy in Amravati district. The objective was to provide alternate off-farm livelihood opportunities to women from vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.
The grant provided by ICICI Bank provided 100 solar powered charkhas which were installed in the homes of women beneficiaries and 10 power looms which were installed at a community centre. These women used the charkhas to spin yarn and to weave fabric on the power looms. The fabric was sold to Kasturba Solar Khadi Mahila Samiti (KSKMS), a Public Trust of which they are members. They now produce grey khadi fabric, which is processed to make garments. They also sell these garments, under the brand ‘MahaKhadi’, to various institutions including government offices and retail stores. The project employs about 300 women - spinners, weavers, packers, trainers and administrative staff - from the local area.
ICICI Bank provided another grant to set up a Common Facilitation Centre (CFC) on the land provided by the Government of Maharashtra on a nominal lease. This centre is used for in-house ginning which is the process of separating cotton fibres from cotton seeds, pre-weaving, post-weaving, bleaching, dyeing and printing. This has improved the profit margins of the beneficiaries significantly by eliminating the costs of outsourcing and transport.
Both the programmes are now sustainable. They have provided livelihood opportunities to nearly 1,000 underprivileged women directly and indirectly.
Melghat region of Amravati district is infamous for malnutrition. Livelihood of tribal people in this district largely depends on forest and agricultural produce. Due to lack of irrigation facilities, they manage to harvest only one crop in the kharif season during the year. Their income is also inadequate due to low yields and the absence of processing facilities that can add value to their produce. After the rainy season, as water sources dry up, these people migrate to urban centres which affects their quality of life adversely.
ICICI Bank sanctioned a grant to Melghat Gramonnati Bahu-Uddeshiya Sangha, a local NGO which is operated by the tribal community, to implement a watershed development project in three tribal villages of this region. The project also incorporated multiple agricultural interventions with community participation to generate sustainable livelihoods.
The region is being developed by undertaking natural resource management activities based on the ‘ridge to valley’ principle which aims at controlling surface water run-off, checking soil erosion and recharging ground water aquifers. The project also undertakes in-situ soil and water conservation measures to improve soil fertility, and surface and groundwater levels.
The initiative is intended to make sustainable agriculture possible in a water scarce region and help in generating sustainable livelihoods. Surface water storage capacity is also expected to increase due to the drainage line treatment. The intervention is expected to improve soil aeration and help improve soil fertility for crops in both kharif and rabi seasons.
The project has facilitated the availability of ample potable drinking water and fodder for cattle. The objectives of multi-tier cropping and crop diversification have also been achieved. Once water availability improves significantly, it will be possible for farmers to continue farming in both the seasons, kharif and rabi, instead of migrating to urban areas.
Beed is one of the underdeveloped and drought prone districts of Maharashtra. Shirur (Kasar) taluka of Beed district has a hilly topography with poor rainfall and meagre water resources. The average rainfall in Beed district is 660 mm, drastically lower than the state average of 1007 mm. Due to the low and irregular rainfall in the district, the area has almost no green cover to allow rainwater to percolate into the ground. In addition, the hard basalt rock in many areas also prohibits percolation of water. Rainwater also runs off due to the absence of reservoirs and the undulating topography. As a result, there is little groundwater recharge leading to receding water table levels. This leads to scarcity of water for drinking as well as irrigation. On account of this regular drought like situation, the local labourers migrate to other parts of Maharashtra in search of livelihood.
Twenty large farm ponds, with an aggregate water storage capacity of 24 crore litres have been constructed to help in harvesting rainwater and tapping water from the local river during the rainy season. These ponds cater to the needs of the adjoining farms and also provide drinking water for residents in the vicinity. ICICI Bank provided a grant to Madhavanand Pratishthan, a local NGO, to implement the project.
This intervention has resulted in self-sufficiency of water and reduced migration to cities. The initiative has helped recharge ground water aquifers, thereby ensuring adequate water for crops. Some of the farm ponds are also being used for aquaculture ensuring additional income for farmers.
ICICI Bank has provided a grant for implementing a project involving organic farming and conservation of natural resources in villages of Washim district in Maharashtra to Samvardhan, an NGO. The project comprises de-siltation of the local river, farm bunding and growing indigenous crops organically on the farms of 30 farmers. The farm produce is processed to a semi-finished state for better price realisation.
The initiative involves activities to check soil erosion, de-siltation of first order streams and watershed management of each farm selected for the project. We expect to achieve sustainable agriculture through careful selection of appropriate crops, value addition and marketing. A range of crops including pulses are grown and processing facilities are set up. Besides, the project is nurturing two farmer producer organisations through various capacity building initiatives.
This initiative provides employment and enables sustainable livelihoods. In addition to improving household incomes, the project aims to eliminate the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
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