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Maharashtra to get $420 mn WB loan for watershed project

New Delhi : The World Bank has agreed to provide a loan of $420 million (about Rs 2750 crore) to Maharashtra to improve water harvesting structures and adopt climate resilient agricultural practices in the drought-prone Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.

The loan will help finance a project that aims to take up a series of activities at the farm and watershed level to help small and marginal farmers in the two regions. It will also help increase climate resilient practices in agriculture and ensure that farming continues to remain a financially viable activity for them.

The project is expected to benefit over 7 million people spread over an area of 3.0 million ha and cover 5,142 villages across 15 most climate vulnerable districts of the region.

Agreements for the Maharashtra Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture were signed recently between the Union Government, World Bank and Maharashtra Government.

The project will be implemented in rural areas largely dependent upon rainfed agriculture. It will scale up climate-resilient technologies such as micro irrigation systems, expand surface water storage, and facilitate aquifer recharge, which is expected to directly contribute to a more efficient use of scarce water resources.

By adopting climate-resilient seed varieties which have short maturity, are drought and heat resistant, and salt tolerant, the project will help reduce risks of climate-related crop failure, and help enhance farmer’s income.

In recent years, climate variability has affected agriculture in Maharashtra, where farming is largely dominated by small and marginal farmers. Farmers have low crop productivity and a high dependence on rainfall. Severe drought in the past has affected the state’s agriculture performance.

“For India to sustain its growth across generations and become one of the world’s largest middle-class economies, the country needs to shift to a more resource-efficient growth path, which is inclusive. This project will help the rural poor, largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, use more climate-resilient farming technologies and conserve water, a scarce resource,” said World Bank Country Director in India Junaid Ahmad.

“The project will also support the state government to shift towards a new paradigm that puts climate resilience at the core of agricultural growth and rural development in Maharashtra,” he added.

At the watershed level, project activities include building drainage lines and preparing catchment area treatment plans that promote a more efficient use of surface water for agriculture, complemented with a more sustainable use of groundwater, which will ultimately improve the availability and quality of water at the farm level.

To strengthen emerging value chains for climate-resilient agricultural commodities, the project will improve the capacity of farmer producers organizations to operate as sustainable, market-oriented, agri-enterprises. It will help mainstream the climate resilient agriculture agenda in various local institutions that deliver agricultural services to the farming community.

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