Pareshamma diverts farmers of arid region towards millets
Reaching out to every farmer in the 16 villages of Thamballapalle mandal in Chittoor district was not a tough job for T. Pareshamma, but convincing them to shun water-intensive crops was. Thanks to her perseverant efforts since 2015, the farmers have switched over, which resulted in a tangible increase in the acreage of millets.
Thamballapalle, located on the northwestern corner of Chittoor district abutting Anantapur, is known as the most drought-prone constituency. The parched throats have been looking to support for decades, but to no avail. The sharp dip in the ground water level over the last two decades has been a matter of concern, but the situation continued to remain grim. As the community resource person of Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), a Gujarat-based voluntary organisation, she touched almost every individual in the mandal and motivated them towards water conservation measures.
The Madanapalle belt is known for rampant cultivation of tomatoes, notwithstanding the high usage of water and price fluctuation that often let down the farmers. Ms. Pareshamma prevailed upon the farmers to conserve groundwater by switching over to simpler alternatives such as millets.
Over the last two years, the farmers have grown millets in vast tracts. “Foxtail millet, kodo millet, little millet, green millet, ragi, sorghum, pearl millet are grown in large extents in the mandal today, which has considerably brought down water usage”, Ms. Pareshamma told The Hindu. As a logical extension, the morning cup of tea has been replaced with a porridge made of millet powder. “Several women have admitted to have been relieved of knee pain. I feel happy to be behind this”, she adds.
The woman is now focussing on improving greenery atop the hillocks and desilting streams and tank beds to ensure water percolation. She also encourages farmers to build check dams, dig trenches and plant trees in common areas. Her efforts received a pat from none other than the representatives of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and National Water Mission, New Delhi, who heard her voice at a virtual conference conducted recently.
Pareshamma is among those water champions chosen for an award in recognition of their services towards maintaining the ecology.
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