Narayanpet: Decades ago, the family of Chintakunta Hanumanthu (60) was assigned agricultural land on an elevated landscape in Gudigandla village of Makthal mandal. The land lies close to a rain-fed stream that flows through the hillocks, but it was left barren after decades of drought.
“When we were kids, we didn’t even have food to eat,” Hanumathu recollected, holding back tears, while speaking to ‘Telangana Today’. But that was in the past. Thanks to a trickle down of innovative ideas, combined with effective work of grassroots-level NREGS workers, today, there are two farm ponds in his five acres of land and they are brimming with water after just a single rain the village experienced three days ago.
Digging farm ponds under NREGS was taken up on a large scale over the last couple of years in Mahabubnagar district on the direction of District Collector Ronald Rose. Even in Narayanpet, the newly carved district out of Mahabubnagar, the district administration, headed by District Collector Venkata Rao, has kept the work going.
For instance, in Gudigandla village itself, 20 farm ponds were dug up by NREGS workers. In 2017, the then NREGS Technical Assistant Anjaneyulu knew the place exactly where farm ponds could yield great results. There were check-dams already built 20 years ago, on that elevated plain area, from where rain water used to flow into the irrigation tanks. One such check-dam was built on Hanumanthu’s land. 10 years ago, Hanumanthu had dug a borewell close to the check-dam and that was his only source of irrigation. He has been cultivating paddy, red gram and castor crops, but water from that borewell is hardly sufficient.
In 2017, under the NREGS, just downstream of the check-dam, a farm pond — 10-ft-deep, 20-ft-wide and 20-ft-long farm pond — was dug by NREGS workers in just over a month. In 2018, Hanumanthu dug another borewell close to that farm pond and it was a success. He has been filling the farm pond with the water from borewell and channelling it through small canals to his fields.
This year, just before the spillway of the check-dam, another farm pond was dug with similar dimensions. Last weekend, there was heavy rain with hail storms in Makthal mandal. To the surprise of the villagers, rain water filled both the farm ponds besides others in that area.
As part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna, a check-dam was constructed in the village, which is also brimming with rain water even in the summer. There are other small farm ponds in the village which have started yielding the intended results.
So far, 20 such farm ponds were dug in Gudigandla village alone, and more farmers are showing interest to make use of NREGS to get farm ponds dug in their fields.
The effort has ensured not only water availability, but also good wages to NREGS workers during the summer. K Anjaiah, a young field assistant who made the magic of farm ponds work, claimed that NREGS workers were able to make Rs 200 per day.
“We had asked Hanumanthu to provide ‘Ambali’, a starch drink, to the workers while they were at work in his farm and he did so,” Anjaiah told ‘Telangana Today’.
Also, 500 teak saplings were planted on the boundaries of Hanumanthu’s field couple of years ago under Haritha Haram (EGS component), most of which are still alive. He built a cattle shed with his own money and has been raising four bulls and a few cows. He is one of those rare farmers who still till their lands using bulls. Hanumanthu was assured of cattle shed subsidy of Rs 1 lakh under a scheme which he had applied for, the benefits of which he is yet to receive.
He has two sons working in Hyderabad as construction workers (who built the cattle shed) and two sons working with him in his agricultural land. Hanumanthu sleeps inside his cattle shed which looks more like a house. He is planning to grow a yellow variety of sorghum, along with regular crops, this kharif.