Forty Adivasi families in Sauryana village owning a total of around 75 acres of land were compelled to migrate regularly for their survival, as the lands they owned were entirely un-irrigated and hence almost entirely uncultivated. Even after a minor irrigation dam was constructed near the village, the families could not get benefit from it, as the dam is at an elevation, and there were no channels to bring the water to their lands.

In 2007-08, a landlord from the neighboring Laar village offered to give the 40 Adivasi families a temporary pipeline to draw the water from the dam through gravity-based diversion. However, the terms laid down by the landlord were highly exploitative. The families had to lay the pipeline through their own effort. They then had to give half their produce to the landlord as “payment” for the water they had drawn for irrigation. The poor Adivasi families required capital to purchase inputs and get their lands ploughed with the help of a tractor. They had to take a loan for these purposes from the same landlord, and to repay the loan, they had to give nearly half their produce to the landlord. Thus, they were left with barely any produce for their own use.

When ABSSS came to know of this exploitation, it proposed that a permanent, gravity-based diversion irrigation system could be installed for the benefit of the families, if they were ready to contribute through their labour, and set up a formal system to regulate and manage use of water for irrigation. The families agreed to both conditions, and after getting due permission, in December 2011, a channel of around 660 metres length was dug for laying a pipeline. The channel was strengthened with bricks and sand. An underground PVC pipeline was laid in the channel, from the irrigation department’s dam to a chamber, from where water is released through mud channels to individual fields, at specific times.

Beneficiary farmers farmers did all the labour work of excavating a channel for laying the pipe, and constructing the chamber. They also contributed construction materials for the chamber. The project had to incur expenditure of only Rs 1.30 lakhs for the PVC pipe. With this minimal investment, around 75 acres of fallow land was brought under cultivation.

In 2013-14, the total wheat production from the 75 acres was 630 quintals, worth Rs 8.50 lakhs. Around 7 families having poor quality land have used the irrigation water to manufacture and sell bricks. The gross annual income from this enterprise is around Rs 1.60 lakhs.

The simple and innovative irrigation system in Sauryana has drawn the attention of many senior government officials. As a result, the village has received several other benefits: 62 families have received residential land pattas, pension papers of 10 families were cleared, 40 families received grants for construction of toilets, and one new handpump has been installed in the village.