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The Importance of Dryland Agriculture

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Dryland Agriculture

Dry land agriculture is defined differently by different researchers and experts. According to the Fourth five year plan of India, dry lands are defined as areas which receive rainfall ranging from 375 mm to 1125 mm and with very limited irrigation facilities. Reddy and Reddy have defined dryland agriculture as cultivating crops in entirely rainfed conditions. They have further grouped the dryland agriculture in three categories depending on the rainfall received, the three categories being dry agriculture, dryland agriculture, and rainfed agriculture.

Kerr et al have analysed criteria used by different researchers to arrive upon the definition of rainfed area They have considered district as unit of analysis on the rationale that it is the smallest administrative unit where the data necessary to arrive upon the definition of rainfed are available. The analysis shows that many researchers have used the amount of rainfall and level of irrigation as the main criteria to arrive upon the definition of rainfed district. For practical purposes, we can consider dryland agriculture as the agriculture practices practiced in limited rainfall areas and the areas with limited access to irrigation facilities.

Importance of Dryland Farming

Dryland farming is immensely important for India. In the early years of independence, Indian planners were focused on development of large irrigation projects. The green revolution, which insured food safety of the country, took place on foundations of large scale irrigation projects. System of intensive agriculture was developed on the pillars of irrigation, use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and improved variety of seeds. However, this model of crop intensification could only create islands of development where irrigation facilities could be made available.

There are certainly limits to growth of irrigated agriculture. India ranks first among the countries that practice rain-fed agriculture in terms of both extent and value of production. Out of an estimated 140.3 m ha net cultivated area, 79.44 m ha (57%) is rainfed, contributing 44% of the total food grain production. It is estimated that even after achieving the full irrigation potential, nearly 50% of the net cultivated area will remain dependent on rainfall. Government statistics for the years from 2008-09 to 2013-14 shows that even after all the efforts taken towards increasing irrigation facilities, in practice, only about 9% of total agricultural land was irrigated through canals, about 22% of agricultural land was irrigated by GW. Adding all the other sources such as tanks to canals and groundwater, merely 35% of total agricultural land was irrigated. It is thus evident that about 65% of agricultural land is still dependent entirely on rain. [GoI, Statistical year book 2017]

Importance of Groundwater in Dryland Agriculture

Characteristics and challenges of rainfed areas are well documented. – water stress, low productivity / crop yields, loss of organic matter and physical degradation of soil, nutrient depletion and chemical degradation of soil, soil erosion and sedimentation, water scarcity and pollution Number of strategies are recommended and practiced to address various challenges faced by the dryland and rainfed areas. Much of the research done in rainfed agriculture in India relates to conservation of soil and rain water and drought proofing which is an ideal strategy for adaptation to climate change (Venkateswarlu et al., 2009).

Thus the rainfall and groundwater holds immense importance in dryland areas. Effective utilization of water obtained from rainfall and its conservation for further use holds the key in improvements in dryland agriculture. In most of the areas due to high evaporation rates, it is not feasible to create more surface storages. Enriching soil moisture and recharging the groundwater hold key in such situations. This fact is underlined by several experts, researchers and practitioners. Integrated watershed development is most effective way to achieve this.

Challenges in Sustaining the Benefits

For years, government agencies and several non governmental organizations have taken efforts in dryland areas towards watershed management. Since early 70s several programs have been run under different names to achieve soil and water conservation. These programs were instrumental in reducing soil erosion, increasing the water availability, and increase in green cover in respective areas. However, it was also observed that in most of the places the benefits of these programs didn’t last long. The major reasons being,

  1. With increased water availability people started cultivating water intensive crops such as sugarcane, banana. This resulted in worsening the condition of groundwater in respective area
  2. Lack of operation and maintenance of the soil and water conservation structures considerably reduced to capacity of water conservation over the years. Reduced water availability coupled with increased water use resulted in disastrous effects in terms of overall situation of water in respective area.

It was thus evident that effective management of available water is as much important as conservation of the water. Government and NGOs have taken efforts to increase peoples” participation undertaking these programs. However, there are couple of factors still pose challenges in collective water managements. These factors are

  1. Traditionally ownership of groundwater is associated with the ownership of land. Through easement Act, the land owner gets rights to extract groundwater under the respective piece of land.
  2. Bore well drilling technology has made access to even deeper aquifers very easy.

These two factors form a strong combination. Traditionally many individuals have fetched huge benefits from exploitation of groundwater. If a soil – water conservation program is implemented, and if there is increased availability of groundwater, above two factors make people to individually exploit the groundwater resources. Often there is no adequate motivation to collectively manage the available water, to equitably share the benefits of soil – water conservation programs. This often results in negligence towards maintenance of the structures created during the soil – water conservation program.

  1. For villages – it is unequitable distribution of benefits resulting in low level of willingness or motivation for collective water governance. This often results in inefficiencies in the soil-water conservation treatments and same old groundwater exploited condition where few benefit at expense of many.
  2. For the agencies that run the projects – it is unsustainable projects with short lived benefits resulting in ineffective utilization of funds and non-accrual of benefits desired

In short, villages need some kind of incentive for collective water management and resource agencies need assurance of sustainable utilization of funds.

Water governance standard – bridging the gap between rural communities and resource agencies

Water governance standard and certification system can be a tool, which on one hand will present an opportunity to the communities to demonstrate their capacities to govern locally and on the other hand, it will provide the resource agencies with the decision handles about allocation decisions.

A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. [ISO: https: //www.iso.org/standards.html] A standard can be defined as a set of technical definitions and guidelines, “how to” instructions for designers, manufacturers, and users. Standards promote safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in almost every industry that relies on engineering components or equipment.

Standard is a framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchment context. [AWS] Applying above definitions to water governance, in simple words, water governance standard is a set of predefined criteria putting forward good governance practices, relevant for local water governance in agrarian communities. Certification system shall further provide assurance of adherence to the standard and hence can be useful in providing important decision support to resource agencies in important investment decisions in developmental projects in rural areas.

Objectives of the water governance standard and certification system

Ultimate aim of the water governance standard and certification system is to provide a system that incentivizes the local communities to adopt democratic and sustainable water governance practices at local level for assured drinking water and enhanced livelihood opportunities

Two distinct but related sub-objectives emerge from the abovementioned aim of the water governance standard. These specific objectives are

  • To provide the agrarian community with approaches and methods those promote a defined standard and incentivize best practices in local water governance
  • To provide a decision facilitating framework for government agencies and other resource agencies to decide upon and fund water infrastructure and incentivize water stewardship and sustainable governance programs for agrarian communities

Scope The water governance standard and certification system is applicable to the agrarian communities practicing dry land agriculture. Dryland agriculture is defined in different ways in previous paragraphs. Strictly speaking, dryland agriculture is the agriculture dependent on rainfall and where irrigation is not available.

Practically, in India, it is not very common to find villages are entirely irrigated or entirely rain fed. There is always some mix of rainfed as well as irrigated land in different proportions in majority of the villages. Water governance standard is a tool which will be applied on village level. It can be practically applicable to any village. However, it will be more relevant for the villages with following characteristics

  • The village is entirely or largely dependent on rainwater to fulfill all kind of water requirements
  • The local water sources including wells, bore wells, tanks, weirs, ponds, which are the main source of irrigation and drinking water are entirely dependent on the rainfall on respective catchment

In other words the water governance standard and certification system is more relevant to the villages which do not receive water from external sources such as rivers, large dams, canals, lift irrigation schemes, but are entirely dependent of the water received from rainfall in their own watershed.

Normative Consideration in the Standard

For any village, adopting the water governance standard and certification system means to plan the water resource according to the local conditions and to execute the plan. While planning and executing the same, there are several conditions put by the standard that the village needs to fulfill. The conditions put by the standard mainly consider sustainability, equity, and TAP considerations. Sustainability: this includes sustainability of the water sources, sustainability of the process of water governance, environmental sustainability.

Although the standard doesn’t directly talk about the environmental sustainability, as the objective states, the standard mainly looks for ensuring water for drinking and enhanced livelihoods. This assurance is not limited for the current generation but should also be given to the next generations. It is in these regards that the standard looks for the sustainability of the water sources, indirectly addressing the environmental sustainability.

Water is a natural resource necessary to sustain life and livelihoods. Model bill by central government recognizes the groundwater as common pool resource. The water governance standard also recognizes water as common pool resource. The standard recognizes need of equity measures in local groundwater governance. Various layers of the term equity including social equity, gender equity, equity in access to natural resources are addressed accordingly in the standard. Transparency – Accountability – Participation: observing transparency, motivating participation in the governance process and the related activities enhances accountability of the system. The standard cautiously draws transparency and participation considerations as per the relevance.

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The Importance of Dryland Agriculture. (2018, December 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-importance-of-dryland-agriculture/
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