Watersheds: Saviours in the harsh, water-scarce dryland tropics.


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Improved water management offers a range of benefits to people living in the dryland tropics, where water is scarce. Watershed programmes based on active participation of the rural population bear the potential to ensure food security, contribute to economic growth and help conserve natural resources. An ICRISAT programme in India provides an example of a science-led, knowledge-based approach in this field.

The word “drought” no longer triggers spells of anxiety or fears of falling into the poverty trap for 270 farming families of rainfed Kothapally village in Andhra Pradesh, India. Their confidence stems largely from an active involvement in the unique Adarsha (ideal) watershed programme that was initiated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) 13 years ago. And the payoffs of their involvement have been enormous. When the drought in 2002 led to a drastic decline in the share of agricultural income of non-watershed families in Kothapally village from 44 to 12 per cent, no ripple effects were felt by the farmers who had participated in the programme. In 2001, two years after the launch of the watershed project, the average household income in the village was 795 US dollars (USD) compared with 622 USD in the neighbouring village.
Rainfed agriculture is the source of most of the food from 80 per cent of global agriculture for poor communities in developing countries, and its importance varies regionally (95 % in Africa and 60–65 % in Asia).

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