Innovative approach for promoting drip irrigation in cotton

Improving crop productivity and water use efficiency in drought-prone region of


Surendranagar is a hilly, semi-arid region which is among the most drought-prone districts of Gujarat. The district receives scanty average annual rainfall of about 450 mm. Other factors affecting water availability are the absence of perennial rivers or streams and the lack of major irrigation projects. The thin, rocky soil, over-grazing and deforestation increase soil erosion. Cotton, of which Gujarat is the largest producer, provides farmers a higher cash income in comparison to other crops, but the cost of cultivation continues to be high due to heavy use of seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. These factors together contribute to a low agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the acute scarcity of drinking water has affected the livelihood security
of the many marginalized communities in the district. Despite government schemes promoting Micro Irrigation System (MIS), lack of awareness and the considerable financial investment hinder large-scale adoption of this technology.

With a view to addressing these issues, Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) (India) has been conducting field operations in the Sayla, Chotila and Muli talukas of Surendranagar district and the adjacent Jasdan taluka of Rajkot district since 1985. More recently, a drip pool project was undertaken by AKRSP to improve the productivity of cotton by reducing water footprint through the promotion of drip irrigation in Sayla and Chotila blocks of Surendranagar and Jasdan block of Rajkot district. The project began in April 2011 ending in March 2016.


• AKRSP (India) implemented the Drip Pool project playing a major role in mobilisation of small and marginal farmers who cultivated cotton through the flood irrigation method.
• The project was primarily funded by Cotton Connect South Asia Pvt Ltd.
• The Gujarat Green Revolution Company (GGRC) was the other main stakeholder and provided GGRC subsidies to farmers for installation of drip systems at 50% of the total cost, as per state government norms.


The study aimed to propose suitable water-loss management tools for the specific water distribution system in consideration, and to provide recommendations for the future. To measure the quantity of water entering the system and the amount reaching the consumer, DWF procured bulk water meters for the main distribution lines and domestic water meters for consumers, so as to conduct a water audit and assess the water lost for the pilot area. A leakage model for gauging water loss management was developed.
The average cost of installation of a drip system was approximately INR 45,000 per acre of land. The beneficiary farmer contributed INR 7,500 (17 per cent) in cash; INR
20,000 (44 per cent) was given as subsidy by GGRC) through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), and INR 17,500 (39 per cent) was provided as an interest-free loan from the Drip Pool Fund, an amount which had to be paid back by farmers within 24 months. The breakup is shown diagrammatically in Figure 1.

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The intervention followed the steps mentioned below.
(i) Mobilisation of the target group, i.e., small and marginal farmers with land holdings of up to 5 acres growing cotton using drip irrigation;
(ii) Educating the farmers about the uses of micro-drips to reduce water consumption and ultimately in improving crop productivity;
(iii) Obtaining the farmer’s consent, after which the farmer was given an interest-free loan from the drip pool fund. The farmer was required to contribute his share (17 per cent) of the total cost;
(iv) The farmer’s contribution was combined with the loan amount and deposited in the account of the GGRC; and,
(v) The GGRC then provided the subsidy amount as per government norms and sent work orders to the certified drip supplier.
The figure below provides a systematic representation of the process.

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By Apoorva Oza
Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India)



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