Community watershed-based approach for increased agricultural productivity

A comprehensive watershed approach for sustainable ground water resources and
farm incomes in Kerala


Poor crop production and productivity have led to poor incomes in Kasaragod district of Kerala. This can be partially attributed to poor soil health and partly due to scarcity of water and degradation of natural resources which has compounded the problem. To address these challenges, a community-based watershed-management based approach was developed and adopted. The project aimed to increase farmers’ incomes by improving production and productivity of crops through the implementation of
scientific soil and water conservation measures in a watershed approach. The project was planned and implemented under the Prime Minister’s Distressed District Programme in Kasaragod District. This was known as NABARD Holistic Watershed
Development Programme (NHWDP). The project was initiated in May 2007 and ended on 31 March 2014.


The project involved multi-stakeholder participation including the community, gram panchayats and also institutions like NABARD, NGOs, other banks and CRD. These groups have actively participated at various levels including community organization, project planning, appraisal, capacity building, resource support, and studies.
The specific roles of the partners included:
(i) NABARD: Provided grant for planning, implementation and managment
(ii) CRD as Resource Support Organisation (RSO): The RSO coordinated the project in the district and provided resource support for formation of Village Watershed Committees.
(iii) Project Facilitating Agencies (PFAs): PFA s coordinated the project atthe fields and provided project implementation support to watershed community through a variety of activities.
(iv) Village Watershed Committees (VWCs): VWCs were formed watershed Gram Sabha for field-level implementation.


The project aimed to cover about 30,000 ha of watershed areas in Kasaragod district. At the cluster level, 35 watersheds with a total area of 30,351 ha were selected. The project area included 40 revenue villages spread over in 25 panchayats.

The participatory watershed project adopted a ridge-to-valley approach in planning and implementation of the project. This holistic watershed project encircled the following five phases:
1. Pre-Capacity Building Phase (Pre-CBP): Initial activities such as delineation of watersheds, appraisal visits, convening of watershed gram sabha, opening of bank accounts, and preparation of maps.
2. Capacity Building Phase (CBP): Identifying a project area, participatory net planning, appraising and approving project proposals, and implementing the project components. On successful achievement of the 60 percent of the project target in CBP, the feasibility
study for preparing the detailed project for FIP started which included a detailed study of land, soil, water, biomass and socio-economic aspects.
3. Interim Phase (IP): An Interim Phase project was sanctioned when necessary to bridge gap between CBP and FIP.
4. Full Implementation Phase (FIP): Soil, water and biomass conservation activities; frontline demonstration activities and livelihood activities.
5. Post-Implementation Phase: A post asset generation plan was prepared and implemented for the maintenance of these assets. The livelihood activities in revolving fund approach were continued by forming more number of JLGs/ SHGs by the VWC.

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The interventions were across the major components as
detailed below:
1. Project measures: Including area treatment activities (soil, water and other natural resource management activities), drainage line treatment activities and project supervision by community representatives.
2. Training and Demonstration: Various frontline demonstrations of practices such as drip irrigation in vegetable crops, triangle planting of banana, system of rice intensification (SRI) etc., were conducted.
3. Other agronomic interventions for production and productivity: A major focus was the creation of a participatory seed bank. Farmers were trained on seed production and marketing; the VWC collected seeds from farmers, and further sold these to needy
farmers. An agri-service and marketing centre was also  established in watersheds.
4. Livelihood support activities: Activities such as dairying, goat rearing, back yard poultry, apiculture, etc., were promoted and implemented.
5. Maintenance Fund: To maintain the several assets created under the project, a separate maintenance fund was generated jointly by NABARD and the VWC.
6. Capacity building trainings: Workshops for building capacities of stakeholders such as PRI representatives,VWC, watershed community etc., were also conducted.

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Sasikumar C
Centre for Research and Development (CRD)

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