Mahavir Singh always wanted to grow chillies, but the only water available was far too salty. Since Excellent Development supported his village of Thumba Ka Goliya to build a sand dam in 2013, his family farm has the kick start needed to prosper.

Surviving the land of death

Mahavir lives in the region of Marwar, Rajasthan - one of the harshest places on earth. Indeed, the word Marwar is derived from the Sanskrit ‘Maruwat’ which means ‘land of death.’ Rainfall is low and erratic, droughts are frequent, and crops do not grow. Any groundwater that is available is incredibly salty – up to 10 times the salinity of what is considered safe for human consumption. And, it is useless for growing crops.Mahavir Singh from the Thumba Ka Goliya community in India

Mahavir told us: “In this particular area no one is doing vegetable cultivation... There was a water crises.”

“I am now getting water on a continual basis throughout the day, every day, since October. I am using the water to irrigate crops: castor, mustard, wheat, chilli and aubergine.”

Mahavir Singh, farmer from the Thumba ka Goliya community, India.

Sweet taste of success

In 2014, Excellent Development supported the integration of sand dam technology with a Talab (local rainwater harvesting technique) in Thumba Ka Goliya. It is having an incredible impact on Mahavir’s life – and the lives of 100 families (about 600 people) nearby.

The government Public Health and Engineering Department reports a 50% increase in the supply of water in nearby tube wells (long, slim, stainless steel tubes bored into an underground aquifer) and a significant decrease in salinity.

Mahavir told us: “After getting my tube well recharged from this structure [sand dam talab] I have planted more than 150 chilli plants, which grow well in the sweeter water. The plant growth is very nice. I tried earlier twice (to plant chillies) but I was not successful. This time, I am successful.”

The sand dam Talab has enabled such success that Mahavir is now planning to expand his 1,600m2 (1,700ft2) farm by ten-fold, as well as to diversify his crop production to increase his family’s income.

He said: “I am very confident I am going to multiply and put in 10 Bighas (about 16,000m2 (17,000ft2) of land in total).

“Next year I am going to have carrots which will get me 50,000 rupees (about £525) per Bigha. These prices are more than the traditional crops (like cumin and mustard seed) which earn me about 15,000 - 20,000 rupees (about £160 to £210) per Bigha. So, I will be earning almost three times as much.”

Learning from your neighbour

Mahavir’s story isn’t just impressing us – he’s also inspired his neighbours to take up farming chillies too. Bhawar Singh, a member of Thumba Ka Goliya community, told us: “Before my chilli plants would dry up because of the high TDS (salinity).

“I was not very interested in seasonal vegetables, but after I saw Mahavar Singh’s chilli plantation that he started after the sand dam, I was inspired to start growing chillies also.

“I am now getting water on a continual basis throughout the day, every day, since October. I am using the water to irrigate crops: castor, mustard, wheat, chilli and aubergine.”

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