Under the Bundelkhand Rural Poverty Alleviation Model (BRPAM) development Project in Tikamgarh block of Tikamgarh district, MP, Akhil Bhartiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan (ABSSS) encouraged small and marginal farmers, particularly of SC/ST groups, to take up vegetable production on a small but commercial scale.

The Project also motivated 38 families to take advantage of a state government subsidy scheme and invest in drip irrigation systems for small-plot vegetable cultivation. The present study is aimed at understanding the benefits and implications of subsidized drip irrigation for vegetable cultivation by small and marginal farmers.

The study was conducted through focused group discussions (FGDs) and intensive survey. Actual area under vegetable crop, with drip irrigation, and actual production of each vegetable from each plot, from September 2013 (when drip systems began to be installed) till June 2014 were tracked. The quantum of vegetable sold in markets, as also price obtained, was also recorded.

Of the total 6823 acres of cultivable land in the 20 villages covered intensively by the Project, around 80% is sown in the kharif season, and around 70% is sown in the rabi season. Area under cereals and oilseeds is almost the same and together these two crop categories account for nearly 70% of the gross cropped area, followed by pulses (around 25% of area). Vegetables account for only 4% of gross cropped area. Chilli, tomato and brinjal account for two-thirds of the area under commercial vegetable-cultivation.

Analysis of data obtained from KVK Tikamgarh shows that vegetables account for only 4% of total cropped area in the district. Yields of most major vegetables in Tikamgarh are comparable with average MP and India yields.

The 38 families who chose to install drip irrigation systems for vegetable cultivation were beneficiaries of a government assistance-scheme for a maximum area of 0.5ha. The cost of a drip-irrigation system for this unit of land is Rs 70,710, as per MP government rates. The quantum of government subsidy is Rs 56,566 (80% of total cost); the remaining Rs 14,144 has to be paid by the farmer.

Despite the high subsidy, no farmer in the Project area availed of the scheme till Project intervention, for the following reasons:

  • Few farmers were not aware of the scheme.
  • The contribution of Rs 14,000 was considered risky, as the benefits of drip irrigation had not been established in the Project area.

Under the above circumstances, ABSSS held many farmer meetings, to inform target group families about the government scheme, and encourage them to take its benefit. Farmers were urged to undertake commercial-scale vegetable cultivation on a plot size of half an acre (2000 sqm). To establish benefits of drip irrigation, ABSSS offered to pay 100% of farmer’s contribution, through Project funding, to interested farmers selected by SHGs and farmer’s groups. In this way, 13 farmers were initially supported towards the beginning of rabi 2013 for vegetable cultivation on half-acre plots. Subsequently, after the benefits of drip irrigation became clear, the Project support to farmers was reduced, to Rs 9000 for SC/ST farmers, and Rs 5000 for OBC farmers.

All participating farmers, as well as some other target-group farmers who were motivated to do vegetable cultivation, were given inputs including quality seeds, seed treatment materials, crop management chemicals and some fertilizers. The Project has been promoting use of Beejamrut, Jeevamrut, Ghanbeejamrut, Aagneyaashatra & Saptdhanankur and all participating farmers were encouraged to produce Jeevamrut and use it, through the drip irrigation system.

Most of the drip-irrigation beneficiaries started vegetable cultivation in October-November 2013 (three beneficiaries subsequently chose to cultivate wheat rather than vegetables). All the beneficiaries were doing commercial-scale vegetable cultivation for the first time. Crops were damaged in December 2013, due to unseasonal rains. But even with these limitations, the net income from vegetable cultivation with drip irrigation was attractive, compared to net income from other crops, and income that could have been got through equivalent wage labour. There were also other significant benefits reported by farmers.

Nevertheless, heavily subsidized drip irrigation is not a complete solution for addressing income-poverty of small and marginal farmers. The subsidy implicitly favours farmers owning wells, having large households, and a tradition of growing vegetables. Subsidized drip irrigation cannot be a substitute to investment in water-resource development for the benefit of poor farmers. That said, even without using subsidized drip irrigation, vegetable cultivation is a remunerative livelihood option for small farmers in the Project area who have access to water.

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