In India, more than 6.72 million hectares of land—equivalent to a space 40 times the size of London—is affected by “seasonal water logging and salinity.” While it may not sound like much, the reality for more than five million small farmers is a constant lurch from monsoon-level downpours to Sahara-level drought and an uphill struggle to maintain the optimum conditions for harvest in the face of gruelling environmental conditions.
As a result, vast numbers of farmers have an unstable access to food and income. With no way to afford scientific and soil analysis solutions usually used to solve such problems, they end managing however they can. Sometimes, that means one or no harvests a year or moving into exploitative working conditions through bonded labour.
Naireeta Services (NS), a social enterprise co-founded in 2011 by Trupti Jain, has long focused on supporting such communities. And it’s recently been rolling out a World Bank-backed tech answer that provides food security to 30–100 people and generates additional income of approximately $5,700 per year.
The innovation is called Bhungroo, a hollow pipe mechanism that filters and stores stormwater in the subsoil—ensuring excess water is prevented from damaging crops and during storms while making it available for farming use during droughts. Every year, the technology claims to free between 5–10 acres from waterlogging in the monsoon and more than 22 acres each winter through irrigation.
The Global Food Security Symposium 2019 invited @trbjain, founder and director of @MADevImpact portfolio @bhungroo, to share the simple technology they developed for storing water that ultimately helps empower #women farmers in India. Watch it here https://t.co/vPW7aj2Jos pic.twitter.com/OHIymXdHiD
— Millennium Alliance (@MADevImpact) May 1, 2019
Without Bhungroo, the entreprise says farmers are at risk of having one or no crops a year. But with the technology, they can “harvest two crops a year and access threefold increase in income, increase soil productivity, reduce salt deposition of topsoil, and reclaim land from desertification.”
The initiative primarily equips women farmers, leading to a big impact on their role in the community as decision makers. More than 3,500 units have been installed in India and countries including Bangladesh, Ghana and Vietnam since 2011.
In addition, NS trains runs the “Women Climate Leaders programme” to train female smallholder farmers to provide fee-based services to other farmers in their village.
These include “preliminary geo-hydro studies” to assess the feasibility of implementing Bhungroo, overseeing the Bhungroo erection and managing the distribution of irrigation water. To date, 21 women have been trained by the programme.
Jain’s work was celebrated in December 2018 as one of three winners of the UN-backed Women and Gender Constituency’s Gender-Just Climate Solution Awards, which recognises female-focused initiatives that “put equity and sustainability at their heart.”
“These award winners are not only challenging the status quo, they are turning the system upside down,” the award site adds.
Other winners were Dorothee Lisenga, who had organised dialogues on women’s inheritance rights between local actors in the Congo to give women access to land and forest rights; and Green Living Movement Zambia’s Clive Chibule, who was honoured for training female farmers to diversify their income.
Saad Sherida al-Kaabi