Rainfed Orissa

Background

Currently India is one of the most exciting economies in the world, overall performance, however, hides one dark spot that large parts do not find a place on the development map of the country. Massive statistical data establish that there is concentration of poverty and distress in the dry lands of India as also in its hilly and tribal areas.

The Planning Commission’s recent Report of the Inter-Ministry Task Group on Redressing Growing Regional Imbalances that has developed a list of 170 most backward districts, including 55 extremist affected districts. Suicide by farmers in recent years and starvation deaths of children have been concentrated in the rainfed areas.

Nowher in India is this unholy alliance between water and farmer has more stark than in Orissa. With per capita income less than Rs. 13000 and vast gap between rich and poor which further gnawing, and poor access to dry land area farming the state has reeling under massive drought and poverty. Although the state has frequently by natural disasters, currently the state is major hub for scientists to study on climate change.

The poor performance of agriculture, which appears to be in the throes of a crisis. For the first time since the mid-1960s, foodgrains production grew slower than population in the 1990s. While irrigated agriculture appears to be hitting a plateau, dryland farming has suffered neglect. The output of crops grown and eaten by the poorest of the poor (coarse grains, pulses and oilseeds) and cultivated largely in the drylands actually declined during this decade and the rate of growth of their yields decelerated considerably.

This includes the much neglected issue of soil health enhancement, water harvesting, water conservation and sustainable and equitable use of water, access to affordable credit and to crop and life insurance that needs urgent focus, These crucial questions that remains unanswered, however, is that of the institutional mechanism through which such a watershed development programme is to be implemented in rainfed India.

Need for a second Green Revolution with a special focus on dryland agriculture and small and marginal farmers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said recently at the 93 rd session of the Indian Science Congress.

A technical committee set up by the Union Ministry for Rural Development to review watershed programmes has come up with a blueprint of a National Authority for Sustainable Development of Rainfed Areas (NASDORA). The committee argues that one of the major problems with the watershed programme is that at each level it is administered by people who have much else on their hands, this should be at least under the panchyat secretary who is the CEO of the programme at the micro-watershed level.

The Parthasarathy Committee (named after its chairperson), therefore, recommends the setting up of an all-India Authority that is functionally focused, operationally integrated and attuned to collaborate with a diverse set of stakeholders. It must be endowed with autonomy and flexibility to respond innovatively to local needs and must have clear accountability for performance. It must be willing and able to invest in building human and institutional capacity at different levels to carry forward its agenda.

NASDORA is visualized as an independent authority to manage the national watershed programme, this would be ensure to access to safe drinking water to the local population, provide it sustainable livelihoods and secure freedom from drought for a vast rainfed regions by 2020. The Authority would address the challenge of bringing prosperity to these regions through sustainable development of their natural resource base.

There also needs to be separate dedicated District Watershed Development Agency (DWDA) to oversee the implementation of the watershed programme The DWDA will be a branch of NASDORA at the district level. It will be answerable to the district panchyat, which will approve the action plans formulated by the DWDA. The Collector and the district panchyat will monitor CEO each year. The CEO will be competitively selected from the open market transparently.

Objectives

The present study will try to capture this unholy alliance between water and farmer by documenting the lack of access to fresh water and water for irrigation.

It will also document good practices in indigenous communities of traditional water management, such as chanalisation of water to cropland, mainly in high land areas.

And it will also document the change of climate in rainfed areas through oral testimony, by talking to the older community of farmers.