Agriculture in India, that accounts for 90% of water use, with rather low water use efficiency, faces unprecedented challenges in achieving water sustainability. It is also the sector with the highest climate vulnerability. Thus, it is a primary target for improved water management & climate change adaptation. Small & marginal farmers, constituting a majority of the rural population (almost half of India‘s population) are highly vulnerable being already at low economic margins.
How can one “correct” the trajectories that have contributed to water & energy unsustainability in well-performing states such as Gujarat and Punjab, & promote climate-informed sustainable development in Jharkhand, while maintaining national food security & equitable economic growth in the face of a highly variable and changing climate is perhaps the most significant challenge facing India today. This was what WEALS attempted to address.
The goal of the program is to ―”Promote climate change adaptation and water sustainability while improving farmer livelihood and food security in 3 key regions in India”
The Program had the following general objectives:
- Develop and implement a public-private partnership to provide modern extension services to farmers in Punjab, Gujarat and Bihar/ Jharkhand for climate-informed crop choice and irrigation improvements to improve water productivity, income, and climate risk management.
- Considering both chronic risks from groundwater depletion and weather extremes, develop and apply farmer targeted risk prediction and management tools, including pilots of policy initiatives.
The specific objectives were:
1.1 Develop a hydroclimate-agriculture-water and energy framework for integrated assessment that improves understanding of changing climate and resource conditions that farmers will be facing, and how it will affect crop yields and incomes.
1.2 Identify and implement climate-informed field implementable strategies that will help farmers to save water and energy. The strategies would include both technological intervention and reforms.
1.3 Institutionalise a mechanism for project scale-up and replication to reach out to more farmers.
Given the goal and objectives identified above, the Program undertook the following tasks:
Task 1: Integrated assessment of the hydro-climatology, crops, water and energy systems (linked to objective 1.1)
Task 6: Scale-up and future replication (1.3)
To achieve the said goals and objectives, CIPT developed different thematic areas such as
- Research Studies
- Field Interventions
- Campaigns Conducted
- Workshops and Conferences
- Communication and Media Coverage
The USAID sponsored Water Energy Agriculture and Livelihood Security Project has contributed significantly to the society. We at CIPT have developed various communication channels for dissemination of the WEALS ideas and flagship projects. There have been a number of research publications that have taken place in the past 7 years highlighting the work done under the WEALS Project. Other than this, CIPT has released several of its own papers and reports.
For the dissemination workshops, CIPT developed its training material and literature to be distributed which would help enhance the understanding of the interventions and project ideas among the farmers and the stakeholders.
Other than this, CIPT also started off with its quarterly newsletter-CIPT Sandesh which was released every three months. This newsletter was run through 2014-15 and invited articles from several eminent researchers and government officials. Mr Suresh Kumar, Former Financial Commissioner Development from Government of Punjab has been of constant support to CIPT and its work and has given his insights, inputs and articles for the CIPT Newsletter. Other than this, Mr. Birthal and Mr. Sidhu have also greatly contributed to making the CIPT Newsletter a great success in the community of researchers working towards the goals of sustainability.
In 2018, US Ambassador Ken Juster made a visit to Amritsar and met several stakeholders and beneficiaries of the CIPT project. He appreciated CIPT’s initiatives and shared his experience of the visit on Twitter.
Several of the CIPT initiatives have been appreciated and acknowledged by the media. Additionally, the SAFAL model of CIPT was documented by Doordarshan and telecasted on Television.
Impact Created in these 7 years
In Punjab, through constant interventions and research studies, CIPT witnessed progressive involvement of farmers over a span of 7 years beginning from 2012-13. During the initial years, 2012-14, about 4200 farmers adopted and installed tensiometers. However in the following years, with other interventions like DSS app, training provided to co-operative professionals, Kisan Mela in Punjab agricultural university and campaigns across Punjab saw an active participation of the different stakeholders which rose to more than 38000 farmers in 2016-17. The field experiments were implemented through two arms; one, through the network of cooperative societies and second through the extensive network of PAU.
The interventions in the state essentially aimed at increasing water efficiencies (more crop per drop), judicious consumption of power, increasing the capacity of farmers and generating awareness among the farmers. Farmers were kept abreast about the issues relating to reckless exploitation of resources which jeopardized agriculture as an unsustainable and unviable occupation for the majority of farmers. Therefore, the strategies undertaken improved the local participation of the farming community and efforts were channeled to increase the adopting of these technologies for sustainable agricultural development. Major outcomes of these training, demonstrations and other interventions were as follows:
- Large scale adoption of tensiometers across 9 districts.
- Use of “Decision support system” application for five major crops by farmers across the state
- Cropping practices to avert exploitation of groundwater resources.
- Youth participation to understand the ground reality, issues, and constraints, of the farming culture.
- Increase in water efficiency and prudent use of electricity.
- Active involvement of farmers through co-operative societies, extension services, and mobile applications.
- Generation of awareness to mitigate the potential crop loses owing to climate change.
The number of farmers engaged in various interventions in the state of Gujarat varied from 182 to 4054. A number of activities relating to agricultural practices were held/discussed among experts from CIPT, experts from partnered universities and the farmers. The discussions were held in the fields in the form of demonstrations, in-classroom through the dissemination of important information, within the co-operative societies regarding the use of technological equipment.
Farmers’ training was provided at the local level through Krishi Vigyan Kendras, exposure visits, vocational agricultural schools, and field demonstrations. These trainings were conducted where farmers interacted with various research and development experts to resolve their various problems relating to water and agriculture in the region. These helped farmer narrow down huge knowledge gaps and wide differences between the recommended practices and what is being actually practiced on the farms. The new information that farmers gained through these training sessions made their daily farming activities much easier. The interventions included distribution of drought-resistant varieties, GW11, SRI technology, helping farmers with the package of practices, distribution of fliers and pamphlets containing information on wheat crop.
CIPT collaborated with the local KVKs organized 15 training camps covering 424 farmers from 20 villages. Post-training, 384 to 400 farmers’ deployed tensiometers in their respective fields under the supervision of CIPT’s field workers, KVK officials and community leaders.
Farmers in Kheda region were given training, extension, and provision of fertilizer input for improved nutrient management in paddy crop. Information on insect and pest management practices in paddy crops was also disseminated among farmers. Major outcomes of these training, demonstrations and other interventions were as follows:
- Higher productivity of the farmers in drought-prone areas.
- Bridging knowledge gap amongst the farmers in the study region.
- Adoption of recommended best practices at the grass-root level.
- Availability of relevant information at farmers’ discretion through the web interface.
In Jharkhand, the state of farmers was extremely poor, in terms non-availability of basic inputs like water, better seed varieties, farming equipment, and technology. Farmers in the study area were deprived of all the inputs required to make the agriculture subsistence. Rural agricultural households were not able to ensure three square meals a day despite surrounded by an abundance of resources. Therefore, the CIPT chose a holistic and comprehensive approach to aid the farmers of this particular region. Farmers were provided with high yielding seeds, Dobhas were constructed in their fields for providing lifesaving irrigation, shared best cropping practices, developed regular weather advisories to mitigate adverse impact of climate change, developed business value chain model for farmers, trained farmers on modern techniques to grow vegetables and also up skilled female counterparts of these households to generate additional incomes through small ventures. CIPT has trained and impacted about 40000 farmers in the past 7 years.
Overall, these 7 years of USAID project have been a roller coaster ride. While roller coasters are fast and rapid, the development process takes time, patience and efforts. This project was both fast and slow for us. It provided CIPT with experience and expertise, there were challenges and there was learning. At the same time, there were results and changes. In these 7 years, CIPT grew as an organization as well as managed to achieve the program goal of promoting climate change adaptation and water sustainability while improving farmer livelihood and food security in 3 key regions in India. Currently, CIPT is working on preparing a comprehensive final document of 7 years of work which will be explaining the impact created through each of study conducted and field interventions which have taken place, technological developments and capacity building programs etc. That report will be released soon and shared with you all.
And as Peter Diamandis quoted once- “I am not saying we don’t have our set of problems- climate crisis, species extinction, water, and energy shortage- we surely do. But ultimately we knock them down.” So, with partnership and collective action, CIPT together with USAID’s support and extensive help, guidance, and support from its partners such as Punjab Agricultural University, Birsa Agricultural University, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Cooperative Societies, Farmers, Stakeholders, and many other organizations and people have managed to successfully complete this project and it’s not like that this project is over so the work is over; what was started by CIPT and USAID is now being carried forward by local institutes, partners and direct stakeholders involved thereby bringing about a long term sustainable change.