Rs38.80m irrigation project promises increased harvests

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu/ILAM

Dec 20, 2018-

Naren Shrestha, 48, is excited that he will be receiving an uninterrupted supply of water at his farm in Godak, a small village in the eastern hill district of Ilam. 

Shrestha grows high-value crops like beans, cauliflower, potato, ginger and large cardamom on his farm spread over 7 ropanis. However, he has not been able to increase his income from these highly sought after crops for the past several years because of lack of irrigation. But his water problems will soon be over.   

The reconstruction of a 1,945-metre farmer-managed canal into which water has been diverted from the Adheri Karphok Thapeni River is expected to provide round-the-year irrigation to 90 hectares of land in Wards 2 and 4 of Godak Municipality. 

Nearly 144 households will benefit from the scheme, said Sailesh Pokhrel, division chief of Water Resource and Irrigation Development, Ilam. “As the canal will ensure an uninterrupted supply of water, it will allow farmers to grow more crops and look for better alternatives in agriculture practices.”

The Department of Irrigation is implementing the Rs38.80-million project with a loan from the Asian Development Bank. 

The project aims to improve farmers’ economic condition through increased agricultural productivity.

“We have an old irrigation canal built in 1961, but we are facing problems because of a high rate of leakage. It is very difficult to repair the canal after it has been destroyed by flash floods because of high cost,” he said, adding that flash floods were a regular event. When the canal leaks and is destroyed, it takes months to repair it. “Most times, we do not get water during the peak crop planting period, and that year we have low productivity and reduced income,” Naren Shrestha said. 

“When the canal is destroyed in the night, we have to dig in the morning,” said Padam Kumari Shrestha. The 74-year-old farmer said that villagers had been doing that for decades. “We were happy even though we had to work hard because it was something for our future. But for how long? We were hit hard by low productivity because we could no longer depend on good rains for a successful harvest,” she said. “Now, we have a sustainable solution. We have a concrete structure. This will ensure round-the-year water for our crops.”

Farmer Naren Shrestha said that apart from vegetables, farmers had been planting a new species of large cardamom that will require more water as it is not grown on slopes. Like Shrestha, many farmers are expecting to increase their crop production by 50-60 percent after irrigation becomes available year-round. 

Farmer Sabita Khanal said that vegetables grown in Ilam were highly sought after, and that people in Jhapa and even across the border in India would pay any amount of money for them. “However, we are unable to meet the demand because we don’t have proper irrigation facility and good agriculture practices,” she said. 

Khanal said that due to growing demand, the vegetable acreage had been increasing each year. “We don’t have difficulty with regard to market access, pricing and transportation. All we need to do is produce more,” she said, adding that once sufficient water is available, crop production will also increase resulting in higher income for farmers.

Productivity can increase 30 percent if irrigation facility is provided year-round, said soil scientist and agro expert Satya Narayan Mandal. “The present cropping intensity of 168 percent is expected to increase to up to 222 percent after the implementation of the project,” he said. “As 100 percent is one crop cycle, round-the-year irrigation will ensure more than two crop cycles each year.”

The project is expected to be completed next year. 

Published: 20-12-2018 07:13

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