As per the National Rainfed Authority of India (NRAA), rainfed areas account for 55% of the total geographical area. In the state of Maharashtra, these regions occupy greater predominance with over 80% of the geographical area categorized as rainfed. The XII Five Year Plan of the Planning Commission emphasizes the growing role of rainfed areas in the agricultural sectors contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Partnering with National Bank for Agricultural Development (NABARD), we developed 1250 ha distributed across three villages in Surnarwadi watershed, a watershed adopted under the Indo German Watershed Development Programme (IGWDP) in Dharur block, Beed district, Maharashtra. Here, the application of fundamental principles defining watershed programmes are demonstrated with wastelands treated with soil and water conservation measures. In addition to pastureland management demonstrated in this watershed, productivity and livelihoods enhancement components demonstrated include promotion of agriculture and allied activities, especially demonstration of dryland horticulture and livestock. The central institutions strengthened are Village Watershed Committees (VWC) with active participation of local communities.
Our experience of developing watersheds has found that the approaches encouraged bring with it environmental, social and economic benefits. Not only are livelihoods of rural communities residing in these areas strengthened, but also sustainable natural resource management practices are encouraged. The impact of the programme is documented in an improvement in groundwater recharge, an increase in irrigation potential, increase in cropped area, increase in cropping intensity, decrease in soil erosion, gradual improvement in capability of land and improvement in income generation. Other watersheds currently under our implementation include two watersheds located in Kalamb and Washi blocks, Osmanabad district. These watersheds have a combined area of 9762 ha and the preparation of Livelihood Action Plan (LAP) is one of the unique and new components supported under this programme.