Tuesday is World Water Day. iDE is planning to launch a new program to turn water into wine; a replication of the famous miracle at the marriage celebration feast at Cana several centuries ago. To explain how we will do this, and actually, how we are doing this already, I have to start with this last week’s visit to the state of Orissa in India.
It is many months past the monsoon season in India, and the season for rain fed agriculture is also long past. By far, the majority of fields are laying fallow waiting for the next monsoon, still some time away. In Phulbani, however, there are more than a few enterprising smallplot farmers who have dug open wells on their own one acre farm sites. The next thing is to add a surface treadle pump, a simple and inexpensive device which lifts the water out of the well – water which is a key ingredient for irrigation, and also the miraculous transformation to wine.
The results are dramatic: Aubergines, potatoes, beans, chilies, cabbages, cauliflours, tomatoes, okra – we saw them all. No grapes but we will get to that. These horticultural crops are carefully tended with local organic fertilizer applied. Weeding is manual. The result is three crops annually in place of the usual single rain fed crop. Annual farm income goes from $200 per family member to $600 per person; for the family of five approaching $4000 from one acre of land. In nominal terms, that makes these farmer almost $2/day; still poor but no longer at the subsistence level. Children are going to school. Family nutrition has become a lot more adequate. There is no longer the need to migrate in search of day labor opportunities in the dry season. There is even a little money left over for jewelry and cosmetics – witness the feet of the female farmer on her treadle pump. These are great indicators.
Now to the wine dimension. Also cultivated to a small extent around the edges of the field is a small fruit which is ideal for a local fermentation process. The result is somewhat akin to wine. iDE is not promoting home brewing per se, but we do realize that people around the world like to celebrate their farm successes, and doing so with a little wine, homebrew or local hooch is rather common.
It starts with water. In so many part of the world, providing access to irrigation water and accompanying technologies for lifting and distribution is the single greatest point of income leverage for small plot farmers. iDE develops these technologies, and arranges for their distribution through local market channels. Local farmers assess the opportunities, invest and harvest the results. Worth celebrating?
May I offer you a glass of wine to celebrate World Water Day?