With growing evidence of global warming and its associated impacts on climate change, the existing water scarcity scenario is getting exacerbated by increasing rainfall variability. Hence, developing water resources, expanding irrigated area with a minimum of environmental impacts, and enhancing food production with progressively diminishing water supplies are a major challenge (see Figure below).

Fully aware of the existing yield gaps and a lack of knowledge among small and marginal farmers, ICRISAT and its partners developed innovative, farmer-centric, knowledge-intensive soil, water, nutrient and crop management options at the watershed scale through community participation. A consortium model was adopted with partners including international, national, governmental and civil society organisations (CSOs). The programme used a holistic approach that involved (i) conservation, upgrading and utilisation of natural endowments such as land, water, plant, animal and human resources in a harmonious and integrated manner with low-cost, simple, effective and replicable technology and (ii) reduction in inequalities between irrigated and rainfed areas and poverty alleviation.

A combination of people-centred interventions, up-to-date science tools that enrich watershed programmes and capacity building that enables them to develop adequate adaptation strategies drawing on a combination of local knowledge were some of the key features of ICRISAT’s involvement in watershed development.