Dryland agricultureDry land agriculture is defined differently by differentresearchers and experts. According to the Fourth five year plan of India, dry landsare defined as areas which receive rainfall ranging from 375 mm to 1125 mm andwith very limited irrigation facilities.

14Reddy and Reddy have defined dryland agriculture ascultivating crops in entirely rainfed conditions. They have further grouped thedryland agriculture in three categories depending on the rainfall received, thethree categories being dry agriculture, dryland agriculture, and rainfedagriculture. 6Kerr et al have analysed criteria used by differentresearchers to arrive upon the definition of rainfed area 10.  They have considered district as unit ofanalysis on the rationale that it is the smallest administrative unit where thedata necessary to arrive upon the definition of rainfed are available. Theanalysis shows that many researchers have used the amount of rainfall and levelof irrigation as the main criteria to arrive upon the definition of rainfeddistrict.For practical purposes, we can consider dryland agricultureas the agriculture practices practiced in limited rainfall areas and the areaswith limited access to irrigation facilities. Importance of drylandfarmingDryland farming is immensely important for India. In theearly years of independence, Indian planners were focused on development oflarge irrigation projects.

The green revolution, which insured food safety ofthe country, took place on foundations of large scale irrigation projects.System of intensive agriculture was developed on the pillars of irrigation, useof chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and improved variety of seeds. However,this model of crop intensification could only create islands of developmentwhere irrigation facilities could be made available. There are certainly limitsto growth of irrigated agriculture. India ranks first among the countries that practice rain-fedagriculture in terms of both extent and value of production. Out of anestimated 140.

3 m ha net cultivated area, 79.44 m ha (57%) is rainfed,contributing 44% of the total food grain production. 5It is estimated that even after achieving the full irrigationpotential, nearly 50% of the net cultivated area will remain dependent onrainfall.

5Government statistics for the years from 2008-09 to 2013-14shows that even after all the efforts taken towards increasing irrigationfacilities, in practice, only about 9% of total agricultural land was irrigatedthrough canals, about 22% of agricultural land was irrigated by GW. Adding allthe other sources such as tanks to canals and groundwater, merely 35% of totalagricultural land was irrigated. It is thus evident that about 65% ofagricultural land is still dependent entirely on rain.

GoI, Statistical year book 2017  Importance ofgroundwater in dryland agricultureCharacteristics and challenges of rainfed areas are welldocumented. – water stress, low productivity / crop yields, loss of organicmatter and physical degradation of soil, nutrient depletion and chemicaldegradation of soil, soil erosion and sedimentation, water scarcity and pollution  2,3Number of strategies are recommended and practiced toaddress various challenges faced by the dryland and rainfed areas. Much of the research done in rainfed agriculture in Indiarelates to conservation of soil and rain water and drought proofing which is anideal strategy for adaptation to climate change (Venkateswarlu et al.,2009). 11Thus the rainfall and groundwater holds immense importancein dryland areas. Effective utilization of water obtained from rainfall and itsconservation for further use holds the key in improvements in drylandagriculture. In most of the areas due to high evaporation rates, it is notfeasible to create more surface storages. Enriching soil moisture andrecharging the groundwater hold key in such situations.

This fact is underlinedby several experts, researchers and practitioners. Integrated watersheddevelopment is most effective way to achieve this. Challenges insustaining the benefits For years, government agencies and several non governmentalorganizations have taken efforts in dryland areas towards watershed management.Since early 70s several programs have been run under different names to achievesoil and water conservation. These programs were instrumental in reducing soilerosion, increasing the water availability, and increase in green cover inrespective areas.

However, it was also observed that in most of the places thebenefits of these programs didn’t last long. The major reasons being,1.      With increased water availability people startedcultivating water intensive crops such as sugarcane, banana. This resulted inworsening the condition of groundwater in respective area2.      Lack of operation and maintenance of the soiland water conservation structures considerably reduced to capacity of waterconservation over the years. Reduced water availability coupled with increasedwater use resulted in disastrous effects in terms of overall situation of waterin respective area.   It was thus evident that effective management of availablewater is as much important as conservation of the water.

Government and NGOshave taken efforts to increase peoples’ participation undertaking theseprograms. However, there are couple of factors still pose challenges incollective water managements. These factors are1.

      Traditionally ownership of groundwater isassociated with the ownership of land. Through easement Act, the land ownergets rights to extract groundwater under the respective piece of land.2.

      Bore well drilling technology has made access toeven deeper aquifers very easy.These two factors form a strong combination. Traditionallymany individuals have fetched huge benefits from exploitation of groundwater. Ifa soil – water conservation program is implemented, and if there is increasedavailability of groundwater, above two factors make people to individuallyexploit the groundwater resources. Often there is no adequate motivation tocollectively manage the available water, to equitably share the benefits of soil– water conservation programs. This often results in negligence towardsmaintenance of the structures created during the soil – water conservationprogram. Above discussion highlights two distinct but relatedproblems1.

      For villages – it is unequitable distribution ofbenefits resulting in low level of willingness or motivation for collectivewater governance. This often results in inefficiencies in the soil-waterconservation treatments and same old groundwater exploited condition where fewbenefit at expense of many.2.      For the agencies that run the projects – it isunsustainable projects with short lived benefits resulting in ineffectiveutilization of funds and non-accrual of benefits desiredIn short, villages need some kind of incentive forcollective water management and resource agencies need assurance of sustainableutilization of funds. Water governancestandard – bridging the gap between rural communities and resource agenciesWater governance standard and certification system can be atool, which on one hand will present an opportunity to the communities todemonstrate their capacities to govern locally and on the other hand, it willprovide the resource agencies with the decision handles about allocationdecisions.A standard isa document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines orcharacteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials,products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.

ISO: https://www.iso.org/standards.htmlA standard can be defined as a set of technical definitionsand guidelines, “how to” instructions for designers, manufacturers, and users.Standards promote safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in almostevery industry that relies on engineering components or equipment. ASME:https://www.asme.

org/about-asme/standards/about-codes-standardsStandard is a framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and towork collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchmentcontext. AWSApplying above definitions to water governance, in simplewords, water governance standard is a set of predefined criteria puttingforward good governance practices, relevant for local water governance inagrarian communities. Certification system shall further provide assurance ofadherence to the standard and hence can be useful in providing importantdecision support to resource agencies in important investment decisions indevelopmental projects in rural areas.Objectives of the water governance standard and certification systemUltimate aim of the water governance standard andcertification system is to provide a system that incentivizes the local communitiesto adopt democratic and sustainable water governance practices at local levelfor assured drinking water and enhanced livelihood opportunitiesTwo distinct but related sub-objectives emerge from theabovementioned aim of the water governance standard. These specific objectivesare-         To provide the agrarian community with approachesand methods those promote a defined standard and incentivize best practices inlocal water governance –         To provide a decision facilitating framework forgovernment agencies and other resource agencies to decide upon and fund waterinfrastructure and incentivize water stewardship and sustainable governanceprograms for agrarian communitiesScopeThe water governance standard and certification system isapplicable to the agrarian communities practicing dry land agriculture. Drylandagriculture is defined in different ways in previous paragraphs. Strictly speaking,dryland agriculture is the agriculture dependent on rainfall and whereirrigation is not available. Practically, in India, it is not very common tofind villages are entirely irrigated or entirely rain fed.

There is always somemix of rainfed as well as irrigated land in different proportions in majorityof the villages. Water governance standard is a tool which will be applied onvillage level. It can be practically applicable to any village. However, itwill be more relevant for the villages with following characteristics·        The village is entirely or largely dependent onrainwater to fulfill all kind of water requirements·        The local water sources including wells, borewells, tanks, weirs, ponds, which are the main source of irrigation anddrinking water are entirely dependent on the rainfall on respective catchmentIn other words the water governance standard andcertification system is more relevant to the villages which do not receivewater from external sources such as rivers, large dams, canals, lift irrigationschemes, but are entirely dependent of the water received from rainfall intheir own watershed.

Normative consideration in the standard For any village, adopting the water governance standard andcertification system means to plan the water resource according to the localconditions and to execute the plan. While planning and executing the same,there are several conditions put by the standard that the village needs tofulfill. The conditions put by the standard mainly consider sustainability, equity,and TAP considerations.Sustainability: this includes sustainability of the watersources, sustainability of the process of water governance, environmentalsustainability. Although the standard doesn’t directly talk about theenvironmental sustainability, as the objective states, the standard mainlylooks for ensuring water for drinking and enhanced livelihoods. This assuranceis not limited for the current generation but should also be given to the nextgenerations. It is in these regards that the standard looks for the sustainabilityof the water sources, indirectly addressing the environmental sustainability.

Equity: water is a natural resource necessary to sustain lifeand livelihoods. Model bill by central government recognizes the groundwater ascommon pool resource. The water governance standard also recognizes water ascommon pool resource. The standard recognizes need of equity measures in localgroundwater governance.

Various layers of the term equity including socialequity, gender equity, equity in access to natural resources are addressedaccordingly in the standard. Transparency – Accountability – Participation: observingtransparency, motivating participation in the governance process and therelated activities enhances accountability of the system. The standard cautiouslydraws transparency and participation considerations as per the relevance.   

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