A watershed management initiative, taken by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Bellary district in Karnataka was awarded best Livelihoods Initiative at the India CSR Summit in Mumbai. The initiative was supported by the Corporate Social Responsibility programme of JSW, a part of OP Jindal Group.
With 700 mm annual rainfall, Bellary is one of the most water deficit districts in India. Land degradation, poor socio-economic conditions and non-inclusive and imbalanced development, resulting in food insecurity and poor nutrition of the people and livestock in the region.
Brining a change in the agricultural activities, the watershed management initiative in the dry region of Karnataka has proven successful and represents a ‘paradigm shift’ in the implementation of watershed programmes in India.
“Within three years, water harvesting structures captured an additional 18,500 cubic meters with a gross conservation of 25,000 cubic meters rainwater during the rainy season. Groundwater level also increased by 1.5-2.0 meters. With soil test based fertiliser application, the overuse of fertilisers was reduced, which meant lower cost of cultivation by 10-15 percent,” said Dr Suhas P. Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center (IDC).
“The yield of groundnut and maize increased by 19 percent and 27 percent, respectively. And many new livelihood options led to an increase in the income of households by Rs 1,500 Rs 2,500 /month,” added Dr Wani.
Key to the success of the programme included a consortium of various institutions such as research, development, government and civil society, working closely in partnership with the community, which led and guided the process and decision making. Science-backed analysis and interventions were critical to find appropriate and best solutions along with a holistic approach where all issues from the natural resources through to livelihoods and social issues were tackled simultaneously.
Convergence was also important to leverage existing programmes. Various methods for capacity development such as exposure visits, hands-on training, demonstrations, leadership skill development and communication skills in addition to various watershed activities were undertaken. A total of 3,500 farmers benefited through the training programmes. ‘Sites of Learning’ were established as models to encourage scaling up by others.
The initiative covered 7,000 hectares with over 2,000 households in which 1,200 belong to the farming community. All the household are engaged including the landless households. Full community engagement was achieved, even including school children who were made aware about protecting the environment and were also provided with vegetable seeds to grow in their backyard, helping improve home nutrition.
Other implementing partners included the NGO Pragati Rural Development Society; University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka; Department of Agriculture, Karnataka; Watershed Development Department, Karnataka and the District Watershed Development office, Bellary.
- Building soil and water conservation structures
- Improved variety of seeds of sorghum, green gram (mung bean), pearl millet, pigeonpea, groundnut, castor
- Soil analysis and micronutrient applications
- Farmers’ participatory varietal evaluation trials for productivity enhancement
- Avenue plantation to improve green cover and to trap the dust.
- Under agroforestry, various tree species including horticulture plants (18,100) were planted in the project villages to improve green cover and to trap the dust.
- Additional income generating activities - vermicomposting and nursery plantations
- Women self-help groups (SHGs) are given prominence along with landless under livelihood enhancement initiatives like goat rearing, dairying, production of vermicomposting, food product preparation, kitchen gardening, among various other micro enterprises.
- Programs and activities to improve animal health
- Areas like climate change and adaptation strategies were addressed.
- Policy makers were also sensitised with the approaches adopted in the development of model watersheds.