India accounts for 18% of the world’s population yet just 4% of the world’s water resources. It is the 13th most water stressed country in the world. Agriculture uses 84% of this water. At the same time, our utilization of agricultural water is clearly inefficient – 38% efficiency in comparison to 70-80% in the USA; in other words, 62% of water used for agriculture is being wasted. Groundwater in India contributes 62% of irrigated farming, while groundwater withdrawal increased tenfold between 1980 and 2015.
The challenge is practically nationwide with 256 districts experiencing water stress, and increasingly farmers must rely on expensive tanker water as local groundwater is unavailable. Groundwater is used to grow high-value farm income crops of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and agro-forestry whose demand is rising. Most fruit trees mature to peak yield phase and fetch high income only after 3 to 5 years; in the absence of steady water supply and expensive tanker water, many farmers retain a few high productivity trees and let the others wither. At the same time, farmers face little incentive to conserve water, and often overuse water, to the point of requiring excess fertilizer consumption and sub-optimal yields.
In short, inefficient use of water is devastating to both India’s natural environment as well as agricultural incomes. We need to urgently address our groundwater levels, and radically improving agricultural water utilization is an important starting point for this.
We are excited to fund CEC (Centre for Environmental Concerns) – the creator of SWAR – to dramatically reduce water consumption, promote soil health, reduce fertilizer requirements and improve crop yields and thus farmer incomes.
System of Water for Agricultural Rejuvenation (SWAR) is a sub-soil water diffuser which can connect to existing drip irrigation systems to deliver moisture in a calibrated manner to the root zone, where it is most needed, ensuring optimal absorption and eliminating evaporation losses. It has been proven to yield water savings of 30-70%, reduce soil nutrient requirements by approximately 30%, improve crop quality and yield (5-10%) and increase farmer incomes by Rs. 35,000+ per acre.
The product was developed with scientists and farmers with the dual purpose of ensuring water security and increasing livelihoods for small and marginal farmers.
The SWAR system is much more comprehensive than just water savings and covers the 5 Ms:
- Mychorisae (Fungi to support plant root health)
To us, this holistic and systemic approach to soil health, farmer needs, and agricultural water efficiency is an enormous area of differentiation.
ACT For Environment will be working with the CEC team to ensure the widespread adoption of SWAR, scaling the business side of operations and accelerating sales to reach more farmers across India, while continuing to serve marginal farmers.