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Drought is a serious issue in the western Indian state of Gujarat, particularly for underprivileged female farmers whose livelihood depends on the monsoon.

Limited and unpredictable rainfall, exacerbated by climate change, leads to water logging during the peak cropping season and severe drought the rest of the year. But thanks to a life-changing technology called Bhungroo, poor farmers are now converting these crises into opportunities.

Bhungroo is a water-management system that injects and stores excess rainfall underground and lifts it out for use in dry spells. The massive underground reservoir can hold as much as 40 million litres of rain water. It harvests water for about 10 days per year and can supply water for as long as seven months. Adoption of this technology has decreased salt deposits on soil and increased fresh water supply, saving farmers from drought.

Naireeta Services, a social enterprise, trains and empowers women to run and monitor Bhungroo. Groups of women farmers jointly own the Bhungroo technology, which provides them with an income from their crops.

To learn how the initiative is helping women build resilience to climate change, we spoke to Biplab Paul, the Founder and Director of Naireeta Services.

Listen to the interview below, and subscribe to the Momentum for Change podcast. To stay connected with Momentum for Change, subscribe to the e-newsletter.

TRANSCRIPT 

Momentum for Change: Hello and thank you for joining the Momentum for Change podcast series!

This week’s podcast takes us to western India, where drought is a serious issue, especially for underprivileged female farmers.

Limited and unpredictable rainfall, exacerbated by climate change, leads to water logging during the peak cropping season and severe drought the rest of the year.

But thanks to a life-changing technology, called Bhungroo, poor farmers are now converting these crises into opportunities. Bhungroo is a water management system that injects and stores excess rainfall underground and lifts it out for use in dry spells.

To tell us more, we’re joined by Biplab Paul, who is the Founder and Director of Naireeta Services.

Momentum for Change: Hello, Biplab and welcome.

Biplab Paul: Thank you.

Momentum for Change: To start, can you give an update on what’s been happening since your project won a Momentum for Change Award in 2014?

Biplab Paul: The Momentum for Change Award has actually changed our whole life, for all the women farmers in the field. When we started, we were working in a very small corner of western India. But currently the Momentum for Change Award and Bhungroo is going places. From the place where we started, now our women farmers are now expanding the knowledge at the local level, at the district level, at the state level and then we are expanding at the national level, the federal level of the whole of India, and then the regional level in Southeast Asia, and in the global level we are in Africa.

Momentum for Change: Can you just give us a little bit about the history of Bhungroo? When did it begin and why did it start? Where did this idea come from?

Biplab Paul: It comes from failures. We failed and failed and failed [laughter]. So all these failures come together to make you a success. If we go back to the history of Bhungroo, we had a severe earthquake in Gujarat and then we saw severe drought and then we had severe rainfall and severe waterlogging. The problem we saw, all the disasters and the lives of the women, the worst affected were the women smallholder farmers where the male deserted them or they migrated and left the women back at the villages. So simple understanding that if there is a disaster, how we can solve the disaster into a productive cause and there the Bhungroo came. Our women members gave the idea and we worked together. That linked those challenges into an opportunity. So the excess water we were getting in the monsoon, which was devastating our crops, we wanted to take that water and store it somewhere and make the land free from desertification or salination. So what we did, we created a simple technology. Whatever excess water there is on the land is injected underground and stored at different depths and make your land waterlogging free and we are able to store the water underground at different depths and lift the water again for the winter and summer cultivation.

Momentum for Change: The last time we talked, which was in the Lima Climate Change Conference, Bhungroo at that point had worked with 18,000 farmers with 96,000 dependent family members in India. Have you increased those numbers since then?

Biplab Paul: We have increased our touching of hearts dramatically. Within India, now we are in more than seven states. Outside India, we are now expanding to the whole southeast Asia and touching the hearts of women from 96,000 we are now really, really going towards 100,000 people….we are now in six African countries. Everywhere we are creating partnerships and we are giving open-source knowledge so it is expanding. Only in Ghana itself we have reached 4,000 women within three months. And now women farmers are coming to us. Bangladesh, we have linked UK Aid to a local partner, so the local partner can take that knowledge to a larger and larger audience….coming to Southeast Asia, the Indian government has approached us. We are gradually going in the partnership model everywhere. So in a nutshell we have a quantum jump from nearly 100,000 to half a million people we are touching in the next 2015.

Momentum for Change: If there was one key message you really wanted to drive home, what would that one message be?

Biplab Paul: Mahatma Gandhi clarified finding the last person in the best possible way and by doing that create sustainable development for all living forms in this universe.

Momentum for Change: Thank you so much Biplab.

Biplab Paul: Thank you.

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