Samaj Pragati Sahayog

Watershed Development

SPS has taken up 160,765 acres for direct implementation of watershed programmes spread over 119 villages, leading to effective spending of 35.94 crores generating nearly 11.75 lakh person-days of employment. The total storage capacity of the water harvesting structures created by SPS is about 29.42 million cubic metres. This has had the primary impact of ensuring drinking water security to all households in these villages.

Watershed management is one of the major programmes of SPS. A significant impact of the work has been drought-proofing of the Kharif crop. As in any typical dryland region, rainfall in our area is low, highly erratic, and characterized by long dry spells between rainy days. Water harvesting structures help farmers tide over this crisis by providing crucial life-saving, protective irrigation. We see the watershed programme as a vital public investment to incentivize private investments by even the poorest farmers on their own lands.

The yield of Kharif (mostly rainfed) crops has shown a rise in the range of 10-20% and that of rabi (mostly irrigated) crops has shown a rise of 60-70%. Overall, the value of production of Kharif and rabi crops together has doubled. The Benefit-Cost Ratio ranges from 1.49 to 2.06 and Internal Rate of Return on investments from 30% to 49%. An 80% reduction in distress migration has been observed during the years of ongoing watershed implementation. With a significant expansion in irrigated areas and crop productivity, high labor absorption in agriculture is visible even after the watershed programme closes. It is this “sedimented employment” that reduces external migration from the area in the long run. Hundreds of tribal farmers who have grown a single rainfed crop all their lives are new cultivating 2-3 crops. Many have returned home after years to reclaim the land they had virtually given up for good.

Our work has broken with conventional wisdom by recognising that watershed development is not just about harvesting rainwater; it is also about sharing it equitably and managing it collectively and sustainably. Whenever our dams are built, written agreements are forged about water sharing, hours of pumping, sequence of irrigation, cropping patterns and watering intensities. Landless households also receive a share of the water. Our emphasis on equity and transparency has often met with severe resistance from vested interests. Our response has been non-violent, collective satyagraha, always aimed at building common ground with those opposed to us.


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