Harvesting the elixir of life

Harvesting the elixir of life

Harvesting the elixir of life

“Harvest rain water, and get rid of water woes,” Ayyappa Masagi suggests as he points at the water harvesting structures of his farm. He had a successful career as a mechanical engineer in a reputed company until the drought that hit North Karnataka in the 1990s changed the course of his life.

A native of Gadag, he was deeply moved by the grave impacts of drought on the village life. He left his job and began creating awareness about the significance of water harvesting in the rural areas.

Water harvesting efforts

He led by example and started experimenting with physical structures for water management in his ancestral farm in the village. As an extension of his work, he founded Water Literacy Foundation and launched grassroot-level campaigns to help poor farmers take charge of their water resources responsibly. The educational programmes and the construction of water harvesting structures helped farmers to reduce the impact of drought and secure sustainable sources of water for their regions.

In 2002, he purchased four acres of land near Holavanahalli in Tumakuru district. The land was hard and barren sans any water source. Going by his previous experiences, Ayyappa, decided to improve the  situation. He then divided the land into six parts and dug trenches.

Two farm ponds of 40,000 litre capacity each were dug. Two 1,000 foot-long compartment bunds were constructed to hold flowing water. “My main objective was to harvest every single drop of rainwater in my field,” says Ayyappa, who built water harvesting structures prior to the planting of saplings. “Drilling a borewell is not a difficult task, but we must harvest water to keep continuous availability of water,” he opines.

Having created basic structures, he decided to construct a tank to harvest large amounts of water. Ayyappa covered the tank with tarpaulin sheet (a multi-layered, cross-laminated plastic sheet) to avoid water seepage. Even a check dam was built on a nearby stream. Then he drilled a borewell and made necessary arrangements to direct water from the tank to a pit near the borewell.

“Two spells of rain replenished the tank and even recharged the borewell. The recharging pit has helped in increasing the borewell’s water level,” opines
Ayyappa. Though groundwater is available in plenty in this region, he uses it judiciously. Recently, he installed a sub-surface drip system in his farm. He has found this method more efficient than the commonly- used drip system.

According to him, as much as 40 per cent of water gets evaporated in the normal drip system. But in the sub-surface drip, there is no room for water loss by means of evaporation, as the water pipes are laid underground. Installation costs of both the methods are the same.

Diverse crops

Ever since Ayyappa has employed these new methods, he has observed that the soil in his farm has become soft and more fertile. He is experimenting with varied crops that range from millets and vegetables to horticultural plants and trees. Apart from these, he grows kodo millet, finger millet, red gram and maize and uses organic farmyard manure.

His dream is to develop his farm into a horticultural hotspot. He is working steadily to achieve this objective. Lemon, tamarind, custard apple, papaya, tree apple and coconut are some of the crops that are already bearing fruits. Silver oak and neem are planted as border crops.

Many training camps and workshops are organised in the farm to create awareness among farmers. Many farmers in the village have shifted from flood irrigation to water-saving techniques and have adopted water harvesting methods. Thanks to his conservative efforts, a barren land is slowly turning into a green patch.
“Water scarcity has become a crucial factor for abandoning farming.

Before extracting groundwater, we must deposit water in the earth. If there is no sufficient money in your bank account, how can you take it from ATM?’, Ayyappa draws an everyday analogy.


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