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Accepted Paper:

The High Costs of Low Inclusion: Lessons from Integrated Watershed Development Programs in Central India  


Ananya Chakraborty (ICRISAT)
Padmaja Ravula (ICRISAT)
Kavitha Kasala (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics)
Anthony Whitbread (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics)

Paper short abstract:

Integrated watershed management programs foster rural development in dryland areas. In drought affected Bundelkhand, India, post-implementation lessons show that social dimensions like gender and caste need to be considered in the designing phase to address pre-existing socio-economic inequalities.

Paper long abstract:

More than $14 billion have been invested over two decades in India for integrated watershed management programs. This has addressed issues like water scarcity and environmental degradation, improving groundwater availability, better crop and livestock productivity, and sustainable crop intensification across water-scare ecosystems in the country. Yet, heterogenous local societies divided on the lines of class, caste, and gender inhibit equitable access and distribution of program benefits such as water for drinking and agriculture, grazing lands and forest-based resources. We present evidence using mixed-methods data from rural Bundelkhand to interrogate the importance of gender and social inclusion in ensuring environmental justice in natural resource management activities such as integrated watershed management. Bundelkhand region in Central India has been plagued by acute water scarcity resulting in distress migration, loss of agriculture-based livelihoods and increased burden of water collection on women in the community. Micro-level experience from an integrated watershed project in the region shows that women and marginalized social groups get limited benefits in the presence of caste and patriarchal context. Inclusion of local community in the planning and implementation phase is essential to address gender and caste-based inequities that might result in loss of income and increased time poverty for some social groups. We reason that donor agencies and implementation partners need to be attuned to the social context while leveraging support from local community to ensure successful implementation of integrated watershed programs. Such programs can bring about social transformation only if they focus on both environmental and social sustainability concerns.

Panel P53d
Rethinking Power in Development Practice: understanding 'local agency' IV