Enabling farmer community for collective local planning and resource management
Bundelkhand, a semi-arid region in Central India, is characterized by poor human development indicators and degraded natural resources. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, with 90 percent of the population being dependent on agriculture and 75 percent of agriculture are rain-fed.
Poor productivity and adherence to obsolete and resource inefficient farming practices have proved to be a bane for the farming community in the region. Farmers have inadequate knowledge and capacity of sustainable and scientific farming systems.
Increasing populations have led to further decrease in landholding size contributing to decreasing productivity levels and farm profitability. This has led to high distress in the farming sector, leading to a vicious cycle of livelihood insecurity, poverty, and debt.
The project focused on mainstreaming a culture of participatory planning and management of natural resources and farm assets for sustainable agricultural growth and equitable development at the village level. The project was implemented in Dhikoli, Nayakheda and Domagor villages in the Pahuj watershed of Jhansi district in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.
The intervention was built on an existing project funded by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT ). The farmers were the key stakeholders. They participated in village level agricultural planning and took collective and rationalized decisions based on the availability of resources. Farmers were trained on improved and resource-efficient practices and also encouraged to spread awareness amongst their peers.
The role of the Panchayat was to facilitate processes of participatory local governance and planning for bringing about desired changes in practice through convergence with government programmes.
APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
This intervention was built on an existing project for developing model watersheds that were funded by ICRISAT.
It aimed to instill a culture of participatory planning and efficient management of natural resources for sustainable agricultural growth through the following activity
• Improving water and energy use efficiencies at village level by the adoption of appropriate agricultural technologies and practices;
• Training village level community institutions to undertake sustainable management and equitable use of water resources in agriculture through collective decision making;
• Promoting crop diversification specifically focusing on less water intensive crops like barley; and,
• Establishment of seed banks and nurseries to ensure sustained availability of good quality planting material.
Implemented between 2013 and 2015, the project was based on a holistic approach consisting of planning, technological, institutional and capacity building measures
a) Water budgeting exercises to sensitise stakeholders towards management of limited water resources and thereby influencing appropriate cropping decisions and
creation of water harvesting potential;
b) Demonstration of resource efficient technologies such as drip and sprinkler irrigation and the use of solar pumps. An enterprise model was developed around solar pumps, wherein irrigation water was provided as a paid service on an hourly basis;
c) Creation of farm ponds and micro-ponds;
d) Capacity enhancement of the existing village watershed committees through training and demonstrations;
e) Participatory planning processes involving all villagers and the local government for sustainable management of natural resources and its integration with mainstream local development process;
f) The mobilisation of Farmers’ Clubs for sharing of farm machinery and equipment; and,
g) Provision of loans by SHGs for the purchase of micro-irrigation equipment.