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A check dam constructed under the watershed development programme in Ayalur in Erode district. —
Erode: A Central government-sponsored watershed development programme has given a new lease of life to the farming community in Ayalur in Gobichettipalayam block in Erode district. The programme has helped the farmers to adopt best water management practices and take up integrated nutrient management to enhance crop yield. These initiatives have also helped improve the quality of life of the farmers.
Ayalur was one of the nine model watershed development projects sanctioned by the government as part of the macro management of agriculture under the National Watershed Development Project for rain-fed Areas. All the projects were implemented through the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute (CSWCRTI) and its eight regional research centres in the country.
The Ayalur watershed, covering a total area of 782 hectares, comprises five revenue villages – Mallipalayam, Semmandampalayam, Kulaimuppanur, Palapalayam and Puliyangadu _ and comes under the semi-arid region with a meagre annual average rainfall of about 600 mm.
A majority of the farmers in the area come under the small and marginal categories and cultivate groundnut, tobacco and a few other foodgrains. The ground water level had depleted to below 600 feet when the project commenced in 2008.
A team of scientific and technical staff from CSWCRTI began working with the farmers of Ayalur and constructed three loose-boulder, three gabion and two masonry check dams, five percolation ponds and a number of other water harvesting structures. “Two years of our efforts have paid rich dividends. The increase in the groundwater level ranges from 3.4 to 13.9 m in the Ayalur watershed,” Senior Scientist D.V. Singh pointed out.
The CSWCRTI team also introduced improved seed and integrated nutrient management techniques to the farmers and helped a number of them to go for micro irrigation.
“There is significant increase in the crop yield in the Ayalur watershed. For instance, farmers registered about 73 percent higher yield in the groundnut,” said Senior Scientist K. Kannan.
Farmers were also being given assistance for switching to less water-intensive crops, including fruit crops and forestry species such as Melia dubea (Malai vembu in Tamil). The institute has also planned to help more farmers in the watershed to take advantage of modern techniques for the effective utilisation of water and enhance their yield further, V. Selvi, Scientist (Engineering) said.
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