Save Indian Farmers

Project: Project Jal
Location: Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh
Category: Environment and Income Generation

Borewell Recharge Project

Borewells are vertically drilled wells that are bored into an underground aquifer in order to extract water. Borewells are expensive to drill, their water yield is not guaranteed, and even successful borewells tend to run dry after a few years because the system lacks a method to conserve the stored water. Many farmers in Andhra Pradesh go into debt to drill multiple borewells which produce water for only a limited time.

Save Indian Farmers’ Project Jal received IDS support for the first time in 2017. The goal of Project Jal was to provide a sustainable rain water harvesting solution to debt-ridden farmers by means of a borewell recharge system. According to the grant application, “the direct beneficiary of the project is the farmer who currently relies solely on the monsoon season to harvest crops.”

With the aid of Save Indian Farmers’ borewell recharge technique, these farmers will be able to harvest two or even three crops per year. Once installed, the recharged borewell will be self-sustaining, and the stored rain water can be used long after the monsoon rains are over.

First, Save Indian Farmers identified needy farmers with borewells in the drought-affected villages of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.

Heavy equipment had to be rented and supplies (e.g., cement rings, nylon mesh) needed to be purchased. Implementation consultants were paid for their expert advice. The farmers themselves contributed to this effort in two ways: they purchased all the material needed for the filtration system and they provided all necessary labor.

While the work funded by the IDS grant directly benefited 20 needy families, the impact of Project Jal went much further. The effects of the recharged borewells are felt in the surrounding areas: because the water table in the region rises, all bodies of water—borewells, ponds, open wells—see an increase in water levels.

Despite the obvious success of Project Jal, there were some rough spots. In some cases, the work was delayed because some farmers had standing crops in their fields, making it impossible to get the excavators near the borewell. Farmers in some villages had trouble obtaining filtration materials—sand, gravel, and rocks—because they were unavailable locally and had to be brought from neighboring towns at a higher cost. Sometimes the digging equipment hit hard rock, causing excavation to take longer than expected.

Next year, Save Indian Farmers hopes to expand the borewell recharge initiative across five different Indian states. The plan for 2018 is to recharge 200+ borewells in drought-stricken areas of India.

IDS Coordinators: Navin Sanghavi and Nila Vora
Project Manager: Mahesh Wani

–2017 IDS annual report


My family is totally dependent on agriculture. We cultivate sweet lemon and groundnut. We sell the sweet lemon in the urban market and get income twice a year”, says Sathyanaryan, a farmer in the Anantapur district. However, he and many other farmers face water scarcity during post-monsoon and summer seasons because the underground water level has been depleted due to the digging of many borewells in that area. All open wells in villages are dry. As a result, farmers are giving up agriculture and have begun to migrate to the nearest cities in search of their livelihood. The core problem is the lack of groundwater availability.

This is where Save Indian Farmers (SIF) and its successful efforts to provide a sustainable source of irrigation water to needy farmers through the installation of a borewell recharge system comes to rescue.  The IDS grant money to SIF directly benefits the needy farmers with continuous water supply for their irrigation; but more importantly, the impact of the borewell recharge is felt in surrounding areas as well. The water table rises in the region, and all bodies of water, including borewells, gain an increase in water levels. The intervention also indirectly benefits farmers’ extended families as it brings an increase in overall prosperity to the farmers’ lives.

In Goridinda village where Sathyanaryan lives, most of the farmers depend on borewells for irrigation because they have neither rivers nor canals. “My friend told me that one NGO was doing borewell recharge in our villages,” said Sathyanaryan. “So I decided to take up this implementation of borewell recharge. After only four months, the borewell is recharged and now gives a good amount of water. This has solved many issues related to my farming. Now my life is much easier, and my family is happy.”

SIF did a case study of the farmer beneficiaries where borewell recharge work was completed in 2018. The study showed that because of the increased water flow, farmers can use the water they need for farming, ensuring good yields and income. In addition, farmers have begun to recognize the importance of harvesting and saving water. The borewell recharge project has brought hope to farmers who, because of water scarcity, were on the verge of selling their land and migrating to urban areas to find other work.

According to SIF’s progress report to IDS, the borewell recharge project “is gaining high confidence in farmers in those areas where there is no natural source of water” such as a river or canal. Outcome data shows an increase in farm acreage, an increase in the number of crops planted (from two to three per year), and the regular sale of crops in urban markets, offering a steady source of income.

“It was extremely heartening— seeing the flow of water from previously dried-up borewells—hearing the reports of farmers who are now able to irrigate their whole land and grow more than one crop per year.”

Each borewell recharge costs about $300. SIF’s goal for 2019 is to once again recharge 200 or more borewells to help farmers in India’s drought-affected areas.

–2018 IDS annual report