Solutions for Responsible Water Use and Long-Term Viability of Agriculture in Punjab

The 2030 Water Resources Group estimates that if the current pattern of demand for water continues in India, about half of the country’s water needs will be unmet by 2030. As cities, townships and villages struggle with an impending water crisis, there is a growing realization that the issue needs focussed and concerted solutions that involve government, communities, experts, and mission based organizations.

HUF’s mandate is inspired by the belief that “Water as a source of livelihoods and life is under severe threat today. It will take collective and cohesive action by individuals, communities and government to conserve and govern water so it is equitably available to all today and in years to come”

The current project aims to work with Punjab’s robust farmer cooperatives to promote water measurement solutions for efficient paddy-wheat cultivation; financial tools to track input costs with optimum water use and economic tools to trigger large scale adoption of conscious water practices.

In the pursuit of returns from agriculture; farmers in the project region continue to follow the unsustainable paddy-wheat cycle in cultivation despite awareness of its impact on ground water. Absence of water savings practices, access to water saving technologies and incentives to diversify their crop mix has pushed farmers into making unviable choices.

The project is based in districts dependent on canal and ground water for irrigation. The region has functioning village cooperatives with significant participation of farmers that can be the driving force for catalysing behaviour change on water use and crop choices. The project is based on the three-pronged approach of:

  • Building capability of farmer members of select cooperatives to measure water use and savings through affordable technology and tools (lead)
  • Developing markets for diversified crops by expanding the role of cooperatives beyond input supplies (support)
  • Engaging with Punjab Agricultural University, Directorate of Extension and Education, government departments such as Department of Agriculture, Cooperatives, Extension, Irrigation and Horticulture.

CIPT has been working in Punjab to promote the practices of water savings and judicious use of water through capacity building of farmers, providing sustainable solutions and improve market linkages. The field experiments in 9 districts of Punjab during 2013-18 made farmers realise the benefits of optimum irrigations and lower standing water in the fields.

CIPT now proposes to take this forward at scale by promoting the extensive use of a digital soil sensor and targeted outreach of a combination of relevant practices (land preparation, promotion of alternative wet/dry irrigation, seed varieties, DSR, Laser land Levelling etc.) for members of select farmer cooperatives. This can lead to significant water savings in addition to reducing the numbers of irrigations, improve farm production and productivity, promotion of crop diversification and establish market linkages.

Based on its past experience in Punjab, CIPT would also bring in other measurement tools including a farmer profitability tool (P&L tool- a profit and loss tool to measure the entire cost of input, revenue generated and profit at the farmer level ) and a water score card that help farmers recognise the economics of water savings. Beyond measurement; these water savings on a farmer’s score card could be used for water appreciation vouchers that can be accumulated and drawn against input purchases from the cooperatives. CIPT will access its research networks to ensure a robust design to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives.