Logo Stone Lining the Watershed Pond i2 i3 Watercatchment Area Organic Farming on the Model Farm
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Sustainable Agriculture
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  Sustainable Agriculture including Organic Farming  
  Water Management  

Water is a key ingredient for life and development especially for the development of an economy which is predominantly agrarian in nature as in India. Increases in the demand for water and development pressures have changed the characteristics of the water courses in India. Erosion of the land due to poor land management practices and increased development has resulted in increased siltation of rivers and alterations to stream hydraulics. Due to the increase in demand groundwater reserves are becoming more and more depleted and the surface water sources are becoming too polluted for human use or fall victim to runoff into rivers and smaller drainage systems. Most of the cultivable areas of Nagpur District are dependent on the monsoon rains. The district has a high water runoff rate and the water bodies are disappearing at a fast pace due to siltation. The erosion of the top soil is resulting in low productivity of the land.

To address some of these problems and educate the farmers on the importance of soil and moisture conservation practices the Sangam has developed a model demonstration farm at its Base Centre in Bamhani. At the model farm the Sangam presents easily feasible Water Management techniques including the farm ponds, bunds, ridges and gully plugs. Thanks to these techniques farmers are given an alternative to the unsustainable use of bore wells for irrigation. Throughout the villages there are many wells, often 100 metres deep, which are the main source of water. The construction of deep-bore wells started in the 1960s and unfortunately continues today. This is being done without taking into consideration the long term consequences of depleting the aquifers (= natural water storage), which cannot be refilled simply during a monsoon season which takes hundreds, if not thousands of years in the natural course of things. Now the time has come to abandon or at least reduce the dependability on the well-system in the villages. The Sangam’s Watershed Project is the first step in transforming the way in which villages acquire water. The Sangam's model farm has also introduced drip irrigation, which saves 80 % of the water that is used in the traditional techniques of irrigation.

Thus our Water Management project is serving as a model for similar future projects. Saving water not only relies on making a successful watershed scheme to ensure that runoff from the monsoon rains is limited and the rain soaks into the ground but it also involves informing and teaching the villagers, who are not easily persuaded, about the necessity of building watershed schemes and taking action to conserve the existing supply of ground water.

The latest step in the development of the Model Farm has been in the installation of a drip irrigation system. One of the main benefits of utilising drip irrigation is in that some 60 percent less water is utilised than conventional irrigation and so for the first time all the model farms fields can be cultivated during the dry season, without the usual concerns of water scarcity in the summer months. Additionally the amount of work required to keep the crop weed free is greatly reduced and with the installation of the irrigation pipes the water as well as a liquid fertiliser can be precisely and easily released directly to the roots of each plant. In addition through providing independence from the rain fall, the drip irrigation system makes the planting out of young seedlings possible without the need to rely on the increasingly unreliable monsoon season.   

Catchment Area and Silt Settlement Tank in Bamhani Base Centre Plugged trenches for water and soil conservation in Bamhani Base Centre

  Organic Farming  

Agriculture in India has been strongly influenced by the Green Revolution in the 1970's. Due to the increased use of hybrid seeds and cash crops, such as Cotton and Soybean, minerals have been leached from the soil. Simultaneously, the Green Revolution increased the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers and since many farmers lack the knowledge on the use of artificial fertilizers, the wrong use can cause tremendous loss of soil fertility. The rising prices of fertilizers and dependency on hybrid seeds are furthermore threatening the financial stability of the farmers. The hybrid seeds are less resistant to weather changes than traditional seeds and unlike the traditional seeds cannot be re-sown for the following crop. Each season therefore the farmers are forced to take out expensive loans to purchase the new hybrid seeds, which might well be destroyed by the unpredictable rainfall.

The Sangam's Model Farm has shifted completely to organic farming in order to promote sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture in the region while helping to improve the livelihoods of farmers. Instead of hybrid seeds the Sangam's Model Farm uses traditional seeds and produces its own organic fertilizers (a mixture of cow dung, urine, leaves, seeds, Gud and Jawar) in order to avoid the need to purchase artificial fertilizers. With the help of the local agricultural experts the Sangam are aiming to educating the local farmers not only in Water Management but also in the different techniques of organic farming.


Silk Worms feeding on mulberry leaves

In 2002 we started a silk production project that now serves as an example for small farmers looking for an alternative and more reliable way of making a living in this part of India, where the monsoon is becoming less and less predictable.

India is the second largest silk producer in the world after China. As the market for silk in India is still growing every year there is a chance for many small farmers to diversify their income and move away from their present reliance a cotton crop with falling world prices.

The principle of silk farming is quite easy:
In an airy and cross-ventilated room, the silkworm eggs are put on mulberry leaves that have been laid out on shelves. After hatching from the egg, the larvae go through four moults as they grow. During each moult, the old skin is cast away and a larger one is produced. Once the silkworm starts to cover itself with a yellowish thread (four weeks after hatching) it takes only another four days for the silkworm to finish the process. Then the cocoon is ready for sale.

Cocoons cleaned ready for Sale/ Worms spinning Cocoons/ Silk Worms feeding on chopped mulberry leaves

The Maharashtra State buys the cocoons, the price being dependant on the quality of the cocoons at rates bet­ween Rs. 90-125 per kilogramme, and extracts the actual silk thread in expensive machines. For example, in the Sangam’s silk farm every month 24,000 silkworm cocoons can be bred in a room of about 18 square meters. Silkworms only feed on mulberry leaves and for 24,000 worms only half an acre of quality land is needed to grow enough mul­berry leaves to feed them. The yield every month is about 40 kilogrammes of cocoons, which approximately earns Rs. 4,000 when sold to the government.

Our aim is to upgrade the present facilities in cooperation with the Sericulture Department and to build a training centre for silk farming offering demonstrations and training for farmers from this area.