Strengthening various ecosystem services through community participated watershed management

"Rainfed especially uplands areas in semi arid tropics are hot spot of water scarcity, land degradation and poor agricultural productivity. In order to meet the food demand and reduce poverty, there is an urgent need to unlock the potential of rainfed agriculture. There is large scope for harnessing the potential of rainfed areas through community participated catchment management. ICRISAT has put significant effort in developing improved methods and technologies for dry land area to intensify cropping system without negatively affecting various ecosystem services. ICRISAT also has made significant effort to scale-up these technologies/methods and targeted to establish sites of learning in different rainfall, soils and agro-ecological and social regions. Developing sites of learning provides opportunities to understand biophysical, socio-ecological interactions and feasibility of these interventions to scale-up at larger area. Various soil and water conservation and other agricultural water management interventions is considered to enhance water resources availability, reduces risk of crop failure and enhances crop productivity and income. We classify AWM interventions into two broad categories: i) field based and ii) community based interventions. There are number of field based interventions such as constructing broad bed and furrow (BBF), field bunding, mulching which enhances soil moisture availability (also called as in-situ interventions), reduces evaporation; and safely dispose-off the excess runoff from the field during heavy downpour. Community based interventions, such as constructing masonry check dam and low-cost gully control structures (which is also called as ex-situ interventions) enhances surface and groundwater availability, reduces soil erosion. Number of interventions/technology on productivity enhancement and crop intensification are also piloted such as soil test based fertilizer application, introducing high yielding crop cultivars, integrated pest management, weed management, fallow management to bridge the yield gap. AWM interventions on one hand enhance water resources availability, reduce soil degradation (enhance regulating ESS) and on the other hand provide opportunity for crop diversification and intensification (enhance provisioning services). Rainfall in semi-arid tropics ranges between 600 and 1400 mm and these areas are characterized by diverse range of soils and land use pattern. Number of ecosystem services and water resources availability vary from region to region as per rainfall, soil, land use and other land-management factors. Biophysical characterization and hydrological monitoring would help researchers and other stakeholders to understand impact of various field-interventions on crop productivity. As believed that number of the ESS strengthened due to implementing AWM interventions, some of these were monitored. For example, we have been monitoring surface runoff using automatic runoff recorders; groundwater level depth in selected wells to understand the impact of various AWM interventions on various hydrological components and its upstream-downstream trade-offs. We are also monitoring land use details (area cultivated by different crops, fallow land during monsoon and post-monsoon period), cost of cultivation, crop productivity and groundwater pumping information in pilot sites. The objectives of this activity are 1) to asses the impact of these interventions over time and space on hydrology and various ecosystem services (e.g., regulating, supporting services) and 2) to generate database at micro to meso scale (field to watershed scale) for system level modeling to understand its technical and economic feasibility to scale-up at regional scale.