Raj land turning into green zone despite no water, power

A desert area in Sikar disrict of Rajasthan, a part of dark zone with no water table and no power connection, is fast turning into a green zone with jojoba plantations, giving new opportunities to people to earn their livelihoods.

All credit for this goes to scientist-turned-farmer Khemaram Kumawat, who introduced a unique and innovative technique to harvest rain water while adopting progressive farming means.

Kumawat, who retired as deputy GM in ONGC Gujarat, returned to his native village Danta in 2011 with an aim to do something for the people.

Speaking to IANS, Kumawat said, “Being PhD in chemistry, I knew that the village situated in Sikar district falls under the Dark Zone where there is no water table and hence tubewells cannot be dug for irrigation.”

Dark zones are areas demarcated by the government where no water table exists due to over exploitation of groundwater.

Hence, Kumawat created a pond by applying a plastic layer on jojoba fields, creating a sloppy layer. Eventually, the rain water collected on the plastic sheets went into the pond.

“As the mud is sandy here, it becomes difficult to store rain water. But little innovation on our part helped us create this pond with an average length of 27.30m, width of 15.8m and depth of 3.50m, that is a capacity of approx 1,510 cu mt (15,10,000 litres) which is filled during the monsoon and water in it remains sufficient for irrigation of jojoba garden (1,400 plants) spread over an area of one hectare of land. This pond also irrigates vegetables in the 1920 square metre polyhouse by drip irrigation system run by Solar power,” he said.

We have installed a solar panel while a solar motor has been fitted in the pond which helps irrigate the fields and polyhouses, he added.

“It is not mandatory to use traditional irrigation water for farming by using tubewells, as nature has given us everything and the only way is to think differently how to use the resources spread around here,” Kumawat said.

In dark zones, the government can’t provide power connection for running tubewells, and hence discovering an alternative means was mandatory, he said, adding, “Such kind of innovation has been done for the first time in the country where progressive farming has been made possible in the dry lands of Rajasthan where there is no groundwater and no power connection.”

“A jojoba plant can live up to one hundred years. The oil extracted from its seeds is used for lubrication of ATF, treatment of skin diseases, hair nourishment, cosmetics etc. The seed extracts left after oil extraction is also used for cosmetics and treatment of skin diseases. The seed sells Rs 400-500 per kg and the oil at Rs 1,500-2,000 per litre. This means that a farmer can earn up to Rs 8-10 lakh by farming jojoba on one hectare of land which can produce over 2 quintals of seeds,” Kumawat said.

Many farmers in the village, inspired by Kumawat’s work, have started creating such ponds while taking up jojoba plantation, which is not affected by temperature fluctuations, can hardly get attacked by pests and hence can create strong opportunities for earning livelihood in the arid villages of Rajasthan, he added.