When this year’s drought hit several Indian states including Maharashtra, the water scarcity did not affect the grape farms spread across Vadner Bahirav village in Nashik. For over a decade, grape farmer Bapu Bhausaheb Salunke has been perfecting the application of water conservation techniques. With his success, including an increase in the yield of grapes, his friends, relatives and neighbours have followed suit, making Vadner Bahirav a high yielding grape village.
On September 25, Salunke received the first prize for “Increasing water use efficiency by an individual’’ from Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat at India’s first Water Awards in New Delhi.
“My family owns 8 ha of land. I started farming along with my father when I was 18 years old. We lived in a modest home then and would only manage to grow crops 6 months of the year. While there is no severe water paucity in Nashik, where my village is located, my village has always suffered from water scarcity. In years hit by drought we would grow for fewer months,’’ said Salunke. Even in a good water year, the family would sow in only 2 ha of the total farmland.
About 15 years ago, Salunke heard of a farmer’s training programme at Maharashtra’s Water and Land Management Institute at Aurangabad. He enrolled in the 5-day training programme, came back to his village and used the family’s savings to build a one-acre watershed pond on his farm. That year, the water accumulated in the pond during the monsoons was used to irrigate a larger swathe of land. The year after, Salunke built another half-acre watershed, and then a deep well and installed two borewells. And then he started micro-irrigation methods to grow grapes.