LiquidPrep - Solving our farmer’s water crisis one drop at a time!
While the “water” crisis is complicated and can be attributed to the culmination of a variety of issues, the major cause of the crisis lies within the agricultural industry, where 70 percent of all water drawn is used for agriculture.
Water is being drawn round the clock to support agriculture in various parts of the world – often to grow highly water intensive crops (such as rice, sugarcane, cotton and banana). Sometimes this happens to be in severely water stressed regions of the world where they solely depend on the rains or the existing groundwater. A recent research explains the extent of water scarcity in the world today, that poses a significant threat to the agriculture industry, which lead us to think - in today’s day and age, why not use the progression of technology to help the farmers best utilize the little of this valuable resource they have at their disposal. This thought led us to this great idea called Liquid Prep, an end-to-end solution for farmers looking to optimize their usage of water; especially during times of drought. More details about the Liquid Prep idea is covered in another blog written by Ilse Breedvelt.
To better understand how farmers predict the rainfall and how they ensure their crops get the water it needs, I packed my bags and travelled halfway across the world to reach home - India.
Fact: India supports 15 percent of the world’s population, but has only 4 percent of the world’s water resources - this in itself is concerning. World Bank data shows that only 35 percent of India’s agricultural land is irrigated. This means that a huge 65 percent of farming depends totally on rain.
While on my trip I got in touch with a friend of mine (wearing red and blue t-shirt seen in picture 1), who was kind enough to invite me to his home in a little village by the name of Nuggehalli near Hirisave town in Hassan district of Karnataka, India where I was presented with an opportunity to interview a few farmers who lived and owned farmland around the area.
I first spoke to 52 year old Karibassappa Sashtry (wearing white shirt in picture 2), who lives with his wife and two daughters, and his only source of income is farming. He owns about 1.7 acres of land and he grows millets and grams, while these are low water consuming crops and he relies on the rain to water them.
I also had a chance to speak to Prabakar DK (41) (wearing pink shirt in picture 3), Nagaraju Thammaiah (35) (wearing white shirt in picture 3) and Dinesh Manjegowda (41) (waering white and blue stripe shirt in picture 3) and like Karibassapa they all owned about 3-5 acres of land and farming was their only source of income to support their family who was living with them.
Their crops included millet (ragi), coconut trees, pulses, bananas and grams. In my conversation with all of them there was a common theme that emerged and that was their concern of how to harvest water since they heavily rely on the rains for their crops to grow.
Through my conversations I was not surprised to learn that all of their common concern was “water” considering their lands were dry, ponds and lakes barely had any water due to no rainfall.
Their only source of information is the local news channel or newspapers for predictions of what the weather may look like in the days to come. When asked about how reliable this source is, they very disappointedly nodded their heads and said it’s never accurate, so in short they have no way of truly knowing when it is going to rain and when it does, they have no knowledge nor the resources at their disposal to harvest the rainwater.
Another area of concern for them was not knowing how much water their different crops needed, so for them harvesting the rainwater was secondary, because more often than not, they use all the water from the rains and otherwise (e.g. borewell) to water their crops. They were ecstatic to hear that we were building an application that will help them understand their soil condition and also help them learn how much water their crops actually need.
When explaining the idea of Liquid Prep and everything it can help them achieve, they were extremely happy and were even willing to invest in something like that so it would help them not only water their crops effectively and also harvest the remaining water for times in need.
Improved water management in agriculture, requires us to nurture a stronger relationship between farmers and the precious resource of water, education is key and therefore investment needs to be made in educating and empowering farmers on the various solutions to harvesting and conserving water – to work towards making the agricultural sector a key part of the solution to the world’s water crisis, as opposed to a key part of the problem!