Kandikere's village body manages scarce water
With fields of dry crops like ragi and jowar all around, it's not surprising when the trail leads to a tank that has hit rock bottom and has some stalks of corn growing from its dry bed. Even when the tank is full, its water is not enough to meet the needs of all the farmers in the command area. Lean times could mean despair.
Yet the villagers of Kandikere, in Tumkur district, Karnataka, are not despondent. The Hirekere tank in this village is in good hands. If the rains fill it a little more than halfway, the village system of tank management ensures equitable distribution, affirming that good practices can tide over crises.
This group comprises leading members of the village, from all the local castes. The rules for sharing tank water are maintained in a kere pustaka or tank book, as are the distribution records. "For the last three years or so, the water situation here has been really bad. But once the tank gets more than half full in the rains, it will be distributed according to the book, '' says Panchakshariah KG, whose family has been maintaining Kandikere's kere pustaka for years.
Rotation reaches all Hirekere tank's command area is 49.25 hectares. Of this, the official localisation is 30.15 hectares for wet crops and 19.10 hectares for coconut trees and garden plants. The tank's irrigated area is divided into three blocks: Dhalegadhe, Kalagadhe and Honnebayalu. As all the blocks cannot be irrigated even when the tank is full, the villagers have devised a rotation system that is useful especially (as in recent times) when the rains fail. When the tank is two-thirds full, one block is given water for irrigation and when the tank fills up, water is provided to the other two blocks.
"When it rains, we keep track of water filling in the tank, call a gunchidharu meeting and then decide which of the three blocks should be irrigated,'' says Panchakshariah. Paddy is grown during the rains but during the lean season the village switches to crops that require less moisture. The gunchidharu decides what crop can be grown depending on the availability of water.
Kandikere's example shows how the community can be the best manager of its own, often limited, resources, be it a question of sharing water, or seeds, or the commons. Rather than have a top down system where state bodies dictate arrangements, which then anyway have to be implemented by the villagers, management by the community in a participatory manner is a more equitable and practical solution.
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