How is Bundelkhand drought-proofed?

ICRISAT has developed an innovative landscape management approach of rainwater harvesting through a large-scale field bunding (~2,800 ha) along with masonry structures with about 3.0 million cubic meter (MCM) storage capacity which has been crucial in helping farmers double their incomes and long-term sustainability. The innovation reviving traditional practices have helped in enhancing water availability across the area. Rainwater harvesting through check dams, farm/community ponds, check walls and well recharge systems have increased water availability for irrigation, ensuring good crop growth, thereby helping improve food security and nutrition and poverty reduction in the area.

What challenges does this innovation address?

The innovation addresses water scarcity and land degradation in the fragile dryland ecosystem of Central India. Harsh climatic conditions have made the land infertile for growing crops due to frequent drought, dry spells, and flooding. Often traditional practices of water harvesting called havelis use the practice of harvesting surface runoff in the fields during the monsoon by constructing earthen embankments across the field. These old practices became obsolete and therefore, did not survive with the collapse of local institutions and the lack of collective action after the independence of India in 1947.

Results achieved through this innovation

This innovation has helped address these challenges effectively by increasing groundwater recharge potential to 5.0 MCM per year, improved crop productivity by 30%, and adding 1,000 hectares of fallow lands for productive cultivation. This has also led to enhanced water availability, for both drinking and livestock use, increasing the demand for manpower for agricultural activities, and return of villagers to their homes and farms after decades of migration.

Partners and funders of this Innovation

The Department of Agriculture, Government of Uttar Pradesh, India supported this initiative. International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) through its ICRISAT Development Center (IDC) has collaborated with major CGIAR Research Programs like the Water Land and Ecosystem, and Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals. Research institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-Central Agroforestry Research Institute (CAFRI), ICAR-Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI), Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), Non-Governmental Organisations were also the consortium partners who greatly contributed towards the success of this project.

Next steps to scale this Innovation

The designing and pilot phase of this innovation was carried out from 2010-2018, which increased to 35,000 ha across 7 districts of Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh in India during 2018 to 2021. This innovative scaling up has benefited more than 25,000 households in the project areas by addressing water scarcity, land degradation, improving crop productivity, and income levels.

This water and land management technique has been taken up by users and is at Maturity Level 3 with policy and/or practice changes influenced by these new methods that have led to adoption or impacts at scale or beyond the direct CGIAR sphere of influence. Among others, this is evidenced by over 25,000 households in the project areas having effectively addressed water scarcity, land degradation, improving crop productivity and income levels, besides returning of residents to farming after migrating for work to other regions years ago.

During the implementation of these watershed projects, since only a few masons could learn and develop the skills necessary for constructing strong rainwater harvesting structures, additional training activities are planned to develop the innovation and skills transfer needed for its greater adoption.

This blog is written by Victoria Clarke and Ramya Kulkarni (CRP-GLDC MEL Team).

Acknowledgement: This work was undertaken as part of, and funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC) and supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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