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Watershed Development as a means for increasing agricultural production in rainfed, semi-arid areas. There are nearly 85 million hectares of land as rainfed area in the country. These areas were bypassed by the Green Revolution and so experienced little or no growth in agricultural production for several decades. By capturing the Water Resources Management and improving the management of soil and vegetation, Watershed Development aims to create conditions conducive to higher agricultural productivity while conserving natural resources.

Watershed Development has evolved from a purely technical, externally imposed intervention in the 1980s to a more participatory exercise in which local people help design and implement management plans. It is not only a Livelihood Development Programme for Sustainable Development but also a tool for Gender Development by encouraging increasing participation of women since it has been recognised that women play a central role in the management of natural resources.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has formulated several programmes for Watershed Development. They are:

  • National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA).
  • Soil Conservation in the catchments of River Valley Project and Flood Prone Rivers (RVP & FPR).
  • Watershed Development Project in shifting cultivation Areas (WDPSCA).
  • Watershed Development Fund (WDF).

The activities undertaken in these programmes include soil and moisture conservation measures like construction of check dams, water harvesting structures, desilting of village ponds, treatment of drainage lines/ gullies, land levelling, bunding of farms, treatment of problem soils, agro-forestry, agri-horticulture, silvi-pasture, organic farming, use of bio-fertilizers, value addition and marketing of produce through farmers groups, training & Capacity Building of stakeholders.

Various States of the country too have their own Watershed Development programmes often with assistance from multilateral funding institutions to supplement the efforts of the Government of India.

  • The Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India have in December 2008 issued common guidelines for Watershed Development projects.
  • AFC has been associated with Watershed Development in a comprehensive manner covering grassroots project implementation, training and monitoring and evaluation. A snap-shot view of some recent assignments is given here.