Dry Land Horticulture Proposal (December 1997)



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In all, 47,504 hectares of land are cropped in spite of an adverse land:person ratio and strong thirst for cultivable land. This is because less than one half of the total land is fit for cultivation, with the remaining taken over by the hills and rocky fields. Only 1,925 hectares (4.5% of the cropped lands) are irrigated by an age old network of rainfed tanks (small lakes), each irrigating 2-5 hectares of wet land. The low water table is tapped through bore wells drilled to more than 100 meters depth, irrigating a paltry 648 hectares. Even these dry up in the summer months when temperatures rise to 38° Celsius.

The average rainfall is 560 mm a year and this is, moreover, erratic and spatial. As a result there is only 1 rainfed crop a year, whose stand is from late June till December. Groundnuts are grown on these dry lands, intercropped with red gram, cowpea, field beans, green gram, jowar, maize and castor on the field bunds. Irrigated groundnut, mulberry, onions and sunflower are the common bore well irrigated crops. Ragi and a coarse variety of paddy are cultivated on the command areas of irrigation tanks. Every sixth year is a drought, followed by near famine conditions.

Daily wages during the 7 cropping months of June to December fluctuates between Rs 12 and 15. During the off season these drop to as low as Rs 7 per day. Seasonal migration by agricultural labourers is an annual occurrence during the summer months. They come back every June in order to scratch a subsistence cultivation from small patches of scattered holdings, far away from the villages and hugging the hillsides, totalling to an average of 3.6 acres per coolie family.



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