National Watershed Development Project For Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA)

List of Micro Watersheds Project to be Taken Up During The XIth Plan In Meghalaya


Food grain production in the country crossed 200 million tons in 1998 –99. This production accrues from 142 million hectares of cultivated land in the country. It is estimated that 37% of the cultivated area which is irrigated that is 53 million hectares, contributes 55% of the total food grain production, whereas 53% of the Rainfed area, i.e. 89 million hectares, accounts for only 45% of the output. Going by past trends the average spread of Irrigation is around 4 million hectares every Five years. Extrapolating this trend it is projected that another 20 million additional hectares are likely to be brought under Irrigation in the next 25 years. This will still leave 69 million hectares, nearly half the cultivated area, under rainfed condition.

Rainfed agriculture is complex, diverse and risk-prone and is characterised by low levels of productivity and low input usage variability in rainfall results in wide variation of instability in yields. The bulk of the rural poor live in the rainfed regions. The challenge before Indian Agriculture is so transform rainfed farming into more sustainable and productive systems and to better support the population dependent upon it.

At present very high priority has been accorded by the government of India to the holistic and sustainable development of rainfed areas based on the Watershed Approach. Indeed, the watershed approach represents the principal vehicle for transfer of rainfed agricultural technology. A watershed (or catchment) is a geographic area that drains to a common point, which makes it an ideal planning unit for conservation of soil and water. A watershed may comprise one or several villages, contain both arable and non-arable lands, various categories of land-holdings and farmers whose actions may impact on each other’s interests. The watershed approach enables a holistic development of agriculture and allied activities in the area taking into account various kinds of land-use based on crops, horticulture, agro-forestry, silvi-pasture and forests. This system based approach is the special feature that distinguishes watershed development from earlier plot/field based approach to soil and water management.

The NWDPRA has been restructured by retaining the technical strengths of the older programme and incorporating the lessons learnt from successful projects, especially on community participation. It is now mandatory for the “watershed development” to be planned, implemented, monitored and maintained by the watershed community themselves. Moreover, to bring about uniformity in approach between the watershed-based programmes being implemented by various agencies, the revised Guidelines of NWDPRA are in conformity with the Common Approach for Watershed Development, jointly formulated and adopted by the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development. It is expected that the revised NWDPRA will truly become a people’s movement for development of land and water resources and for enhancing productivity in rainfed areas on a sustainable basis.

Management of land resources under the watershed programme includes both cultivated rainfed land as well as uncultivated land under ownership of private land owners, panchayat, revenue department etc. This is being done with a view to increasing food production as well as diversifying the existing farming system particularly of small and marginal farmers through sustainable enhancement of productivity of various commodities. Hence special focus is proposed on aspects such as, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Integrated Nutrient Management (INM), Farming Systems Approach (FSA), Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA), agro-forestry, agri-horticulture, silvi-pasture, animal husbandry etc. The watershed approach would result in improving the productivity of not only agriculture and allied commodities but also the over all production of bio-mass for enhancement of self-employment opportunities and thus the overall income of the rural household.

Conservation and management of rainwater holds the key for sustainable agriculture in rainfed areas. In the case of water resource management the focus is not merely on development of new water resource but also on efficient utilization of already developed resource particularly based on indigenous systems. This is to be attempted through substitution of high water requiring crops with low requiring crops and also through adoption of efficient method of irrigation (eg. Micro-irrigation systems).

A “Common Approach for Watershed Development” was jointly formulated and adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India incorporating the strength of their earlier first generation-based watershed programmes. These Guidelines have been developed for implementing the National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA) Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture. The restructured NWDPRA provides for decentralization of procedures, flexibility in choice of technology and provisions for active involvement of the watershed community in planning, execution and evaluation of the programme so that the programme becomes sustainable.