Meghalaya is tucked away in the most serene places on earth. A state blessed with nature’s untouched forests, high plateaus, crystal clear waterfalls, rivers and winding streamlets. Regardless of time, the weather here is pleasant with abundant sunshine, clear blue sky and yes, the impending gray clouds showering ample rainfall.
Meghalaya is well-known for having the highest rainfall in the world of about 11500 mm recorded annually. This makes Meghalaya the wettest places on earth. Though the local areas get a lot of rain during the monsoon season, a well-managed water system is a need during the dry season. Topography in these areas is hilly, with steep slopes due to which there are two challenges. First, water-retention capacity of the terrain is poor. Second, bringing water from distant water sources to the fields is a big challenge for the farmers in the rural areas. Ground channeling is also impractical due to the harsh landscape. Confronted with such adverse conditions for irrigation, the traditional farmers of Meghalaya have come up with an innovative way that works.
Since olden times, traditional farmers of Meghalaya have been utilizing an indigenous method of bamboo drip irrigation system to water their plantation crops. It is an innovative irrigation system that taps streams and spring water sources using bamboo channels. This intricate design for irrigation has been perfected over 200 years of practice.
What is Bamboo Drip Irrigation?
Bamboo Drip Irrigation is an innovative irrigation method that makes use of streams and spring water sources on hilltops and directs them to fields of Betel Leaf and dark pepper crops planted in Arecanut plantations. Bamboo channels are utilized to tap perennial water from upslopes, which is cleverly diverted to the lower parts using gravity An ingenious system that wastes very little water and works to this day.
Bamboo Drip irrigation framework is widely prevalent in the War areas, Jaintia hills of Meghalaya and extends to the Muktapur area adjoining Bangladesh. These areas have steep slopes with a rough landscape. Hence, using ground channels in this area is unfavorable. So, bamboo drip irrigation is widely preferred.
Usually, water sources are distant from plantation sites and so the main bamboo channel runs several meters, sometimes even couple of kilometers. Water is thus obtained and managed through a brilliant bamboo system of secondary and tertiary channels to reach each part and corners of the plantation, up to the base of the hill.
Channel sections are made of bamboos of different diameters, to control the water flow in such a way that the water reaches the site in the lower reaches, where it is circulated without spillage. The channels are supported by forked branches. Bamboo has a natural hollow inside, which is why it becomes possible to use it as a conduit for water. We understand that to create the channels about one-third to half of the diameter of the bamboo is sliced off, including the inter-nodes.
Depending on the slope and the direction in which the water needs to travel to reach the field, different sizes of bamboo are used. One must see it to understand the intricacy and the smartness of the system. It is estimated that even up to 20 liters of water flows into the channel every minute, from the main water source, which further travels a few hundred meters and becomes a trickle so that when it drops there is a better chance of absorption. A true drip irrigation system. The last channel segment allows the water to be dropped close to the base of the plant.
According to research done by A.Singh, in his book Bamboo Drip Irrigation Systems, two workers can construct a system covering one hectare of land in 15 days.
Upkeep and maintenance is done by the farmers themselves. They agree on utilizing their skill sets and labor to maintain this water system. Repair work is done as and when required.
Efforts have been made to introduce modern pipe frameworks, but traditional farmers prefer to utilize their indigenous method of water system. And, why not! They have such a holistic and beautiful system going. These farmers trust their old traditional methods and continue to use them.
Why Do Farmers in Meghalaya Prefer Using Bamboo?
In a time when global warming, depletion of resources and deforestation threatens the balance of the delicate natural world and its diverse ecosystems, bamboo is a viable solution and resource that is both remarkably useful and eco-friendly. It is a sustainable renewable resource.
- Bamboo is a miracle plant used by locals as a sturdy building material for drip irrigation. It has the same strength as steel, but lighter in weight and cheaper.
- It grows rapidly – bamboo plant can grow a few feet a day and reach maturity within two years. Even after the harvesting season, it self-propagates and new bamboo forest can quickly spring up preventing deforestation and soil erosion. It is thus easily available for farmers.
- Unlike other plants, bamboo is naturally antibacterial and does not need harmful pesticides and fertilizers to grow. It also produces about 35% oxygen which keeps the air clean.
- Bamboos are easily repairable and are bio-degradable substance. It can naturally turn into humus which can keep the soil fertile.
Traditional farmers are aware of the green and sustainable use of bamboo. It is a renewable resource that regrows almost as quickly as it can be consumed and is thus a reliable resource for farmers for centuries to come.
Zizira is working with traditional farmers who farm their land sustainably. We are sourcing these produce directly from them and creating traditional remedies based on ancient knowlege of medicinal plants. If you are looking to regenerate your lifestyle with a purpose, try our traditional concoctions, visit our store.