In 2011, Sohanlal Khosle geared up to take part in a drip irrigation experiment initiated by The Coca-Cola Company on his half-hectare of farmland near Coke's Kaldhera bottling plant.

It was spurred mainly by the fact that it would be partially be funded by Coca-Cola and entitle him to government-instituted subsidies on the equipment he needed. Little did he know that he was not just signing up to conserving water, but sowing the seeds of change that would rewrite the future of his large family of 18.

The Coca-Cola Company began the drip irrigation project to educate farmers on how to conserve water and improve the quality of life of those who partnered with them in their initiative. The project has expanded from 26 farmers in 2007, to touching the lives of 523 farmers. The goal is to reach 1,000 farmers within the next three years.

“The idea was to bring into our fold at least 10 percent of the 10,000-strong farmer population in the area,” says Kalyan Ranjan, associate vice president of The Coca-Cola Company’s bottling partner, Hindustan Coca-Cola Bottler Private Limited (HCCBPL). The plant itself has reduced water consumption and today uses the same amount of water annually as a 20 hectare farm would, he adds.


“Our role is that of a catalyst," he adds. "We teach them and point them in the right direction, and after that it is totally up to them how they take it forward.

Sohanlal is a model student. Not only did he learn fast, but he also extended his experiment to three of the four hectares he owns when he saw the initial results. And it has reaped him big rewards.

“Today there are so many more who have gotten inspired by my success with drip irrigation, at least 60 more farmers,” he said. "And why not?. The results are there for all to see.” 

Before he began drip irrigation, he harvested two crops a year and stuck mainly to growing hardy crops like wheat and millet. Today he harvests four crops a year and is ready to sow almost anything – from tomatoes to cabbage and chilies, and watermelons to local melons. His water consumption has been cut in half, and his production grown by 50 percent. Weeds and wild undergrowth have fallen by 70 percent.

The family's 10 adults work on the farms, and there is a marked improvement in their lives because of the better returns on investment. “Forty percent... that's how much my income has grown” is all he admits. But there are signs of prosperity all around – a car, a tractor and a two-wheeler are parked on one side of the main house. They even have a computer at home (occupying the center of a large room) so his eight grandchildren have access to the latest educational tools.

“Before, us women spent hours and hours cleaning out the weeds, kneading the mud, watering the plants, but now all we need to do is turn on the drip irrigation motor and go about our other household chores or even take a nap without worrying about the farms,” says his wife, her face half-veiled by her saree.

Her four daughters-in-law were seven and eight years old when they were married . However, their daughters will definitely not be faced with the same fate. 14- Roshan and Anita (both 14), Sunita (13) and Nikita (7) now all go to school. Roshan and Anita are in Class 10 and want to pursue their studies and become an IAS officer and a teacher, respectively. The younger two “haven’t decided yet.”

“Just goes to show how powerful public-private-community collaborations can be,” Kalyan says.