About three or four times a week, Yogesh Verma takes government officials and farmers from various parts of India on a tour of the olive plantation he manages. The visitors travel to the plantation near Jaipur in the desert state of Rajasthan to see the 100,000 trees covering 520 acres (210 hectares) of land using an advanced irrigation system. Imported from Israel, the system continuously monitors moisture levels of the soil and reduces the plantation’s water consumption by as much as 90%, says Mr. Verma. His work is part of a pilot project set up two years ago, which was designed to improve agricultural sustainability in rain-deficient regions of the country. The promoter of the three-year project, Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Ltd., is a joint venture between the Israeli government, Rajasthan’s state government and Finolex, a Pune-based industrial group. According to Mr. Verma, the plantation’s aim is to grow a million trees and find global markets for its olive oil, with projected revenue in the pilot phase of about 90 million rupees ($2 million).
Agriculture and water experts say grassroots initiatives such as the one in Rajasthan that combine public agencies and private organizations hold the key to survival for India’s 235 million farmers. As this year’s lack of rainfall during the kharif — the first of the country’s main annual sowing seasons — showed, many of these farmers teeter on the brink of losing their livelihoods due to severe droughts and the vagaries of climate change.
Experts, meanwhile, warn that the situation will get worse before it gets better if the country doesn’t improve how it mitigates and manages rainfall shortages.
The good news is that the general public won’t let that happen. According to Chand and Raju of the NCAEPR, the public’s awareness about the impact of droughts on the country is higher than ever, and people are “no longer willing to accept that the consequences of monsoon failures are treated as purely the effects of nature.”
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