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AB Provision of irrigation has been thought to be crucial in improving the livelihoods of millions of tribals in Central belt of India, who are locked in perpetual poverty. Green Revolution Technology, which has been at the heart of India’s agricultural development, has more or less bypassed the tribal population. For one, irrigation infrastructure is inadequate in the tribal regions and again when irrigation infrastructure is made available, the tribals do not seem to make adequate use of them. Creating demand for irrigation among the tribal farmers seems to be most important challenge. It is in this backdrop that we undertook our case study in a tribal dominated block of Gujarat. Unlike the other tribal dominated areas Jharkhand and Chattisgarh), the tribals in our study area were third generation farmers and therefore they faced no cognitive barriers in adopting irrigated agriculture. They are also as skilled a farmer as any other, which is reflected by the fact that there are no discernable yield differences between a tribal and a non-tribal farmer. We studied four canal irrigation schemes, which have been all turned over to the farmers at the behest of AKRSP (I)’s intervention. All these four schemes are tribal dominated, some of them are completely so, others have a handful of non-tribal population. The schemes we studied were Pingot RBMC, Baldeva LBMC, Pingot LBMC and Issar Minor Irrigation scheme. Our results confirm that irrigated agriculture has brought about tremendous benefits to a tribal farmer in the form of yield increases, higher cropping intensity, lower out migration and higher wage rates within the village. The trajectory of change for a typical tribal farming has been from cultivating local paddy in Kharif and migrating in Rabi and summer to cultivating hybrid paddy in kharif and irrigated groundnut or moong in summer. Irrigated agriculture has become central to their livelihoods and this in part explains why Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) has been more or less successful here. However, the non-tribal farmers have benefited more from PIM than tribal farmers, because they shifted to very lucrative sugarcane farming. The non-tribals (Patels) have also played a significant role in these irrigation co-operatives in that they have provided the much needed “demonstration effect” of profitability of irrigated agriculture. AKRSP (I)’s role as facilitator of PIM in Pingot RBMC and Baldeva LBMC has been acclaimed nationally. But we propose that the success of these two schemes lies in the creation of Pingot LBMC society, where tribal farmers came forward on their own and formed irrigation society to take over management of the canal system. The very fact that an all-tribal farmer group could successfully replicate PIM experiment in Gujarat that was started with Pingot RBMC and Baldeva LBMC is a proof enough for the success of PIM as a whole. We also propose that in the long term, the sustainability of PIM will depend on the overall profitability of irrigated agriculture and therefore efforts should be made to make farming a more profitable venture for the tribal farmers. Encouraging them to shift to highly lucrative crops such as sugarcane and orchard crops could perhaps make irrigated agriculture more profitable in future.


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