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Farmer Earns Lakhs Through Drip Irrigation System Made out of Used Glucose Bottles

For many years, and several monsoons, the farmers of Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh looked to the skies for showers. As they witnessed their crops die, lands go dry and families starve to near-death, many abandoned their villages to migrate for daily wage jobs in urban areas. Ramesh Bariya was one such farmer.

Ayushi Raina
MP Farmer Made Drip Irrigation System out of Used Glucose Bottles
MP Farmer Made Drip Irrigation System out of Used Glucose Bottles

For many years and numerous monsoons, the farmers of Madhya Pradesh's Jhabua area looked to the skies for rain. As they saw their harvests fail, fields dry up, and families starve to near-death, many left their villages to seek daily wage employment in cities. Ramesh Bariya was also one of those farmers.

Ramesh was a native of Rotla village in the same district, which is characterised by undulating topography, rainfed farming, shallow and degraded soils, poor and stagnant soil production, fragmented and vacant holdings, and little revenue from ancestral farming, Ramesh was as much frustrated as most of the farmers there.

All of his farming endeavours were thwarted by the unpredictability of the weather and shortage of water, forcing him to roam around Gujarat and Rajasthan as a daily wage labourer.

"I needed to feed my family anyhow and the property was not helping." So I had to do whatever job I could find to save my family from starving to death," says Ramesh, who had to return home after few months due to the shortage of livelihood possibilities.

While this is an unpleasant story that has become all too typical, what sets Ramesh apart is his solution to all his problems: a unique DIY drip irrigation system that not only tackles the problem of water scarcity but also recycles trash. From nearly nothing to Rs.25000 in a single harvest in the first year, he quickly became an example for the whole district.

And his epic journey began at Jhabua's Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK).

A Farmer's New Beginnings

In 2009, the National Agricultural Innovation Sub Project (NAIP) under KVK was launched to help farmers in the area to increase their revenue. The goal of their integrated farming method was to enhance rural livelihoods in the undulating and rainfed areas of MP's Jhabua and Dhar districts.

Ramesh was one of the lucky farmers who, with the help of NAIP-KVK scientists, began growing vegetables on a 0.1-hectare field. Encouraged by them, he prepared the ground and sowed bitter gourd and sponge gourd seeds in 2012.

After an early profit, the delayed monsoons and a severe water deficit drove his farm to the verge of crop disaster.

"At the same time, we were forced to go to Balaram Patidar's farm. He is a well-known papaya grower, and being surrounded by healthy trees was incredible. 

He even urged us to pick and eat some fruits. I just stood there in wonder while the rest of the farmers followed the KVK guide to the next spot. Then Balaramji approached me and inquired as to why I was so quiet. I explained him about my predicament and how surprised I was to see the polar opposite at his farm. That's when he demonstrated his drip irrigation technique with matka or earthen pots to me. Later, the NAIP experts advised me to use this creative approach using saline bottles," Ramesh adds.

However, Ramesh could not afford to acquire so many earthen pots for his farm at the time. They were both breakable and expensive to purchase in big quantities, so he resorted to the do-it-yourself method of recycling plastic glucose bottles instead.

"If a single bottle of glucose can help resuscitate a dying patient in a hospital, why can't the same bottle help revive my failing crops? This made perfect sense, so I started asking about and got 6 kgs of plastic glucose bottles (total of 350) for Rs.20 per kg," he says.

Dr. IS Tomar of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) Krishi Vigyan Kendra near Rajgarh Naka in Jhabua explained how Ramesh's technique was the first attempt for a cheap and successful drip irrigation system that could be reproduced.

"This was an innovative option for farmers like Ramesh who couldn't afford to acquire drip irrigation equipment. The main problem was the amount of hard work that went into it, as well as a lot of patience," he adds.

Installation and management

Cutting the bottom of the bottle with a sharp knife and hanging it upside down from a wooden stake close to the saplings was the technique. The bottom flat portion, which is now positioned on top, is the inlet via which water enters the system.

A plastic tube with a nozzle is then placed on the ground near the plant's root system to allow for a controlled release of water.

Rather than immediately pouring water on crops or routing it across the field, this technique allows the water to drip constantly, keeping the surface wet at all times. This not only ensures that the roots are constantly wet, but it also greatly reduces wastage of water.

"Almost the entire family joined in to help with the installation and management of this system." In the morning, all the children in the home would form a line near the field and begin pouring water into bottles from two drums that I had previously filled with well water or a hand pump. We'd do it again later in the evening. So each of my crops would get two litres of water per day," he says. His whole expense, including the cost of drums, was approximately Rs.500, and he managed to generate a net profit of Rs.25000 in a couple of months with the crops.

According to a study in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR),this approach can enable tribal farmers like Ramesh earn between Rs.1.5 and 1.7 lakhs per hectare of vegetable production in a single season.

Dr. Tomar pushes more farmers to adopt this practise, which is prevalent in numerous Countries in africa. Many farmers in the region are now replicating this approach with his instructions and Ramesh's success story.

Ramesh's efforts, on the other hand, were recognized by the Madhya Pradesh government's District Administration and Minister of Agriculture with Rs.10000 achievement award. Over the next few years, KVK also assisted him in installing a full-fledged drip irrigation system for free.

"I used to be a man who was neck-deep in debt and hardly made Rs.5 each day." But today I simply make around 2 lakh every year through farming.  Today, I am a happy man as a father of three mischievous boys and a beautiful daughter, since I know that with this, I can aspire to offer them a better future," he concludes.

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