Atpadi, a taluka (administrative division) in the Sangli district of southern Maharashtra, covers approximately 60 villages with a population of over 1.5 lakh (1,50,000). It falls on the upper reaches of the Krishna basin, on the far eastern side of the Sahyadris, a region historically known as the rain-shadow region. It witnesses rainfall of barely 300 mm-350 mm per year and in 2012, Atpadi saw its worst drought, followed by droughts in 2016 and 2019. Thereon, it was known as the “land of dushkal” or “land of drought”.
Traditionally, the local population grazed livestock and grew small amounts of bajra, jowar and shrubs. Many then began to migrate to cities to work as textile workers or porters and to the water-rich regions of western Maharashtra to work as sugarcane cutters. “If you had come here even 10 years ago, you would have seen nothing apart from shrubs and livestock grazing. The area was completely drought-prone,” said Sachin Khandagale, principal at the Atpadi Agriculture Polytechnic.
Over the past three or more years the region has transformed. There are some villages rich with fields of pomegranate, while others are growing grapes, sugarcane, tomato, elephant grass and grains such as jowar and bajra. The farmers seem happier; their incomes are better….