In recent years, a vast majority of farmers in Manipur have been struggling to carry out agricultural activities. Faced with new challenges, their woeful stories are endless. The major reasons cited for their plight are climate change and lack of irrigation facilities. However, amid the daunting challenges and increasingly frustrating situation, some farmers in Imphal East district have done away with their grievances. Coping with the changing scenario, farmers in the district are replacing traditional practices that are not gainful anymore with “Jalkund” - a low-cost water harvesting system.
This simple yet considered highly beneficial system, new to the area, is reportedly helping to address water woes of the people living in rural areas of Imphal East, whose main source of livelihood is agriculture.
It may be mentioned that agriculture is the mainstay of the state’s economy, with rice as staple. And, a majority of farmers in the state practice monocropping, depending solely on monsoon rain due to the absence of proper irrigation facilities. However, the state has been witnessing erratic rainfall patterns since the past few years. The change in rainfall pattern due to the impact of climate change is posing a major challenge for all types of farming activities.
However, with the introduction of Jalkund, farmers in Imphal East district are leading the way by engaging in water harvesting as the best option to address the problem of acute water scarcity for cultivation. Under the sponsorship of National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Imphal East, several farmers have set up Jalkund at various places.
Speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press, Gunajit Oinam, Subject Matter Specialist (SMS), agricultural engineer at KVK, Imphal East, said that the department has been promoting water harvesting among the farmers by organising training and spreading awareness. They had demonstrated through construction of location specific water harvesting structures according to the suitability of the particular land situation and farm size, he said.
“Jalkund is one such structure suitable for small holdings, having high seepage and infiltration problems where construction of farm ponds is not feasible for developing integrated farming systems,” Oinam said.
The adoption of such low-cost water harvesting technology can uplift the scope for adoption of an advanced scale farming system for the indigenous farmers of the state, he said. The technology provides livelihood to the farmers, particularly to those residing in the riverine area, he added.
Explaining about Jalkund, he said that it is made up of High-Density Polythene (HDPE) five-layer geomembrane sheet of 300-micron polyfilm with a size of five metre length, four metre breadth and 1.5 metre depth. The said size can hold the capacity of 30,000 litres of water for the farming purpose.
Before constructing Jalkund, excavation was done manually followed by plastering of the wall with clay. Once the clay is dry, a sufficient amount of banana leaves is put up all around the wall and the ground as a cushion before laying the HDPE poly film sheet. After laying the sheets, all the sides are earthen up with soil. The source of the water is taken from nearby rivers and channels through HDPE 25mm pipe, Oinam said.
Jalkund, with the above-mentioned size, is found to be most effective for giving protective field irrigation up to an area of 0.25 hectare of land during long dry spell with proper irrigation practices, he said.
The agricultural engineer said the system can also meet household water requirements for at least five members. The technology can address the problem of water scarcity both during pre-monsoon and post-monsoon months and its cost of construction is Rs 7,500, he added.
Oinam further informed IFP that Jalkund has been constructed at 35 various places in Imphal East so far. He said the people in most of the places they had selected for construction of Jalkund were not carrying out agricultural activities before the construction of the water harvesting system. But nowadays, they are successfully generating good income by doing integrated farming, he said, stressing the need for water as one of the essential components of making farming activities a grand success.
Success in agriculture not only helps to produce high yield but also keeps the soil healthy and fertile, Oinam added.
Owing to the change in climatic conditions, the state has been witnessing an increase in weather temperature since the last many years. This has led to the drying up of paddy fields. Vast areas of agricultural lands have lost their moisture level resulting in loss of soil fertility, he said.
In view of the rising temperature and the erratic rainfall pattern, effective implementation of water harvesting has become one of the most important practices for any successful enterprise of agriculture and allied sectors, Oinam added.
One of the farmers from Nungbrang, Maibam Ibohal Meitei, who is in his 60s, said his house is located just about 150 metres away from Thoubal River. Despite the proximity, he faced a lot of inconveniences in fetching water from the river, as a result of which, he was unable to cultivate his paddy field properly. Like Ibohal, several farmers face similar problems despite living near the river.
Considering the difficulties of water harvesting along the riverine area of Thoubal River, where farmers are residing, KVK Imphal East constructed a Jalkund in his field for demonstration, Ibohal told the IFP.
Since then, production of crops from his homestead land with an area of 0.25 hectare has increased manifold, he added.
“I used to grow paddy in the kharif season and vegetable in rabi season but it was not productive due to lack of irrigation facilities. But with the setting up of Jalkund, I switched to integrated farming where fishes are reared in Jalkund and varieties of crops such as cabbage, king chilli, cauliflower, tomato, etc. are planted throughout the year. With the help of this Jalkund, my income has increased three times to that of the amount received before Jalkund,” he said.
The farmer said that though agriculture is the backbone of the state’s economy, farmers continue to face endless woes. Their problems and difficulties continue to mount each year, mainly due to the impact of climate change. This is evident as in recent years farmers across the state have been facing drought or flood-like situations. he added.
The future of not only farmers, but also that of all the people living in the state would be at stake if cultivators continue to follow traditional agricultural practices, he said.
To ease the plight of the farmers who are facing the brunt of climate change, farmers in the state opine that the state government should intervene in promotion of climate resilient agricultural practices. Urgent measures should be taken to prevent any kind of catastrophic situation such as food insecurity in the future.