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World Bank lends Karnataka $60 mn for watershed project

New Delhi : The World Bank will provide a $60 million loan to the Karnataka Government for the second phase of a major watershed development project.

The Bank anounced that the credit will be given to Karnataka Watershed Development Project II (KWDP II) to further improve watershed planning and management in project areas. The project builds on the successful experience of earlier Bank-supported Karnataka Watershed Development Project I, also known as Sujala.

The first phase had reportedly helped improve lives of 230,000 farmers by increasing crop yields by about 25 per cent, and raising household incomes of small and marginal farmers by 40 per cent.

Even today, Karnataka's dry regions are among the states' poorest, have low agricultural productivity, and are susceptible to drought and deepening environmental stress and degradation. The project area has 39,400 landless families.

Annual normal rainfall varies from 600 to 800 mm with 43 rainy days in a year. Rain fed agriculture in 278,000 ha of project area, experiences at least two water deficit years in a five year cycle due to prolonged dry spells during crop season and/or delayed onset of monsoon rains.

A statement issued by the Bank said there is, thus, a need to better integrate watershed development and agricultural programs by strengthening the Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP), which forms the cornerstone of the Government of India's (GOI) support to watershed development.

There is also a need for more effective convergence between IWMP and the employment-based Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme (NREGS)-financed soil and water conservation programs.

KWDP II, approved on September 7, will focus on improving the performance and results of IWMP by introducing new tools and approaches for integrated watershed planning, incorporating more information about water resources into the planning process, facilitating better convergence of IWMP with other government programs such as NREGS, and helping farmers increase agricultural productivity.

The project will cover about 465,000 ha and 160,000 farmer households in seven districts of the state.

World Bank Country Director for India Onno Rhl was quoted as saying in the statement, "This Project will build on the earlier Bank-supported Karnataka Watershed Development Project I (KWDP I) and initiate innovative pilots which will help increase agricultural production in rain fed areas, lead to better use of scarce water resources and raise household incomes of farmers".

"This Project, we also hope, will lead to better convergence between government's Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme (NREGS) programs, and thereby, demonstrate efficient use of public funds," he added.

Consequently, a primary focus of the project is on supporting the implementation of IWMP in the seven-selected districts of Karnataka through better planning, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, and post-harvest value addition.

Focus will also be on understanding local needs, like location-specific soil-crop-water interactions; expanding the scope of rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, by partly converging the NREGS with the IWMP; and developing agro-climatic zone specific technology to enable rural communities to better adapt to the effects of climate change.

Added World Bank Senior Natural Resources Management Specialist and the Project's Task Team Leader Grant Milne, "Through this project we hope to strengthen the bottom-up engagement of small farmers and increase their opportunities for adapting to new technologies. The Project will also strengthen the financial and technical convergence between IWMP and NREGS through more integrated watershed planning and monitoring, and developing innovative tools and processes in sub and micro-watersheds".

"Better program convergence is expected to result in more science-based watershed management and higher quality of soil and water conservation interventions," he added.

Among the other components of the project, horticulture is expected to play a major role in raising income of farmers even in dry tracks.

The project will support activities for promoting dry land production for annual and perennial crops; crop diversification; help farmers in carrying out soil, water and leaf analysis to identify nutrient deficiencies; create facilities for testing, training and demonstrations; facilitate farmers in availing quality seed and planting material; and support farmers to improve post-harvest handling and marketing of the produce among others.

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