Talupula, AP, India

In May of 2009, I visited the semi-arid region of Andhra Pradesh, India at the invitation of the Green Tree Foundation. The environmental degradation of this region which had formerly been a dry-tropical region of forest and savannah was a real jolt. If nothing is done to halt the biotic pressures of deforestation and uncontrolled grazing and to repair the damage that has been done, this region will become a desert in the not too distant future.

Our project site was on a 7-acre patch of hillside belonging to an organic farmer outside of the town of Talupula. Due to the poor condition of the land and lack of water, the land was only used for seasonal crops of pigeon peas.


With the soil conditions, swales were the best option for this site. The swales capture water that would otherwise run off the land, creating erosion. Swales allow the captured water to sink into the ground, making it available for plants and recharging ground water.

After making calculations, we laid out contours on 3 elevations, mapping out the sites for 4 swales.


Map of the swales with spillways in yellow.


Work crew grooming swales.

The swales were excavated with the total excavation taking about 3-and-a-half days to move 600 cubic metres of earth, creating over 400 metres of swales. The swales will hold over one million litres of water before overflowing through the spillways built into them. The total cost of the work to make this happen was $650 CND.

After the earthworks were completed, mangoes were planted without the aid of irrigation.


Mangoes at 6 months.


Mangoes in 2013.

Area trees also benefitted from the earthworks.


Tamarind trees without swales.


Tamarind trees with swales.