Ulhas Paranjpe, a civil engineer, was challenged by his cousin to provide water year round for the crops in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.
This question drove Paranjpe to use his education to help farmers get access to water throughout the year.
After a lot of research, he concluded that rainwater harvesting was the solution to Maharashtra’s woes.
In 2003, the 75-YO Mumbai resident started working on rainwater harvesting systems for farmers and Adivasi tribes of Maharashtra through his trust Jalvardhini Pratishthan.
The trust has built over 350 such systems in 17 districts and taught its principles to thousands of others.
Konkan and Western Maharashtra receive about 46 percent of the state’s total rainfall. Agriculture is one of the primary occupations but most of the rainwater is washed into the sea.
“Many farmers thus can utilise just four months of the year for their crops. They sow seeds in the kharif season but cannot utilise the rabi season given the scarcity of water in those months,” says Paranjpe.
He wants farmers to take charge of their land and store water. They teach farmers how to build their own rainwater harvesting system.
This stored water will help farmers water their crops between January to May, when water in wells and borewells runs out.
Their ‘natural fibre cement tank’ is an innovative technique of using eco-friendly materials for the construction of rainwater harvesting systems.
They bear half the cost of the rainwater system if farmers aren’t able to afford it.