Watershed management ensures livelihood security for farmers in drought-hit Central India

Chopra Village (Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh), Aug.9 (ANI): For Ram Singh from Chopra village in Bundelkhand, water means money.

However, Singh is not selling mineral water. He is simply a farmer trying to survive in this drought prone area, where over 70 percent of the population relies on rain fed agriculture.

For these communities, a deficient monsoon can have disastrous effects - destroying crops, leaving families without food and forcing people to migrate to cities in search of work.

Development Alternatives (DA), an organisation working to regenerate natural resources in Bundelkhand began promoting watershed management in the 80s as a way to secure water resources in the region.

Over the last 30 years, DA has rejuvenated about 25,000 hectares of land through integrated soil and water conservation programmes and facilitated the construction of more than 120 water harvesting structures like checkdams, gabions etc.

Check-dams are small barriers built for water harvesting across the direction of water flow on shallow rivers and streams.

These small dams retain excess water flow during monsoon rains in a small catchment area behind the structures.

The initial investment made can easily be recovered in the first few farming seasons through an increase in agricultural production.

"The seawater harvesting structures have helped in preventing soil run-off, regenerating natural vegetation, harvesting rainwater and recharging groundwater. Agricultural productivity has doubled and migration has reduced in all the villages in which Development Alternatives has implemented its watershed management programmes", says Dr.Murari, an agricultural scientist working with the organisation.

For Ram Singh from Chopra village, increase in water availability as a result of a check dam built near his village has translated into a 20 percent increase in his wheat crop yield and an additional 6,000 rupees in income terms.

With the potential impacts of climate change bearing down on this already fragile region, watershed management will become even more crucial for ensuring food and livelihood security. By Nicholas Monzy Martin, Development Alternatives (ANI)

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