Rajasthan looks to engage firm to improve livelihood of farmers in agriculture and...

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Jaipur: Rajasthan government is looking at engaging an organisation from July in its bid to improve farmers’ livelihood and empower women in the desert state.

The outfit, which is likely to be either a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or a private consulting firm, would start its work from July, said officials of the state water resources department (WRD).

The organisation would be entrusted with the responsibility of building the capacity of water user associations (WUAs) and self-help groups (SHGs), develop agricultural technique, improve the food value chain, and promote high-value agriculture produces, agro-processing and marketing, they added.

These activities would help empower women, which is the major thrust of Ashok Gehlot-led government’s initiative, they said.

The drive is part of the Rajasthan Water Sector Livelihood Improvement Project (RWSLIP), an eight-year-old project funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the rehabilitation of 137 irrigation projects in 27 districts of the state. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 2,348.87 crore.

“The objective of the project is to improve the livelihood of farmers and promote women empowerment in the agriculture and irrigation sector by improving water use efficiency and agricultural productivity,” said Naveen Mahajan, secretary, WRD.

Mahajan cited the spirit of the amended Rajasthan Farmer Participation in Management of Irrigation System Act, which has led to the formation of the gender advisory group (GAG) in a bid to promote women empowerment in the project.

JICA will finance RWSLIP in two tranches, including the first payout for Rs 908.64 crore in line with the agreement signed on March 31, 2017. In the first phase, 65 irrigation subprojects in 21 districts are being undertaken.

“Work is in progress in 39 subprojects that are estimated to cost Rs 432.14 crore. Tenders have been invited for 24 sub-projects and two more will be done by June,” said Mahajan.

“The use of the advanced farming techniques will increase agricultural yield, which will help farmers’ income and living standards to go up,” he added.

Public participation in irrigation management is a key component of the project, he added.

WUAs are being formed for adopting water management techniques, modern farming practices, and equitable distribution of irrigation water. The WUA task force has been formed for providing technical support and also monitoring of activities.

Plans are afoot to form WUA women’s wings at each-sub-project level, Mahajan said.

“SHGs are being trained for vegetable cultivation. Sprinkler and drip irrigation techniques are being promoted for implementation in up to 12% of the project area in a bid to conserve water and also grow market-oriented crops. Besides, there’s an outlay of Rs 60 crore in the current financial year for micro-irrigation facilities. We’ll provide subsidies between 5% and 25% to farmers for adopting sprinkler and drip irrigation techniques,” he added.

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