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Higher Incomes in India's Karnataka Watershed

Last Updated: January 2008
IDA at Work: Water - Better Crops, Higher Incomes for Farmers in India's Karnataka Watershed


Five districts in Karnataka, India, were characterized as drought-prone and dominated by rain-fed agriculture around a narrow range of two to five crops. Average annual household income for the one million people who lived in the area was approximately US$222. Groundwater availability was between three and four months. Common lands were deteriorating through poor management. Watershed development was largely delivered through a top-down, non-participatory model, resulting in little social mobilization. Self-help groups were weak and unable to build financial capital.


- The project’s primary development objectives are to improve the productive potential of selected watersheds and their associated natural resource base, and strengthen community and institutional arrangements for natural resource management in five districts in Karnataka, India.
- Project targets include addressing soil and water conservation needs across 432,000 ha of arable and non-arable lands by introducing new approaches for community-based participatory planning.
- The project is being implemented in three phases by the Department of Watershed Development, along with state, district and local non-government organizations working closely with participating communities.


To date, soil and water conservation works have been completed on over 200,000 ha, improving average crop yields by about 24 percent and broadening crop diversity.

- Groundwater availability has improved to four to six months. Groundwater yields have increased by nearly 1,000 liters per hour, giving farmers greater choice of crops and in many cases, double cropping on arable lands.
- For communities where implementation has been completed, crop yields have increased by 24 percent over the baseline, cropping patterns have shifted to higher valued crops, and milk yields have been enhanced by 15 to 20 percent.
- Average annual household income has increased by about 66% to approximately US$373. The increase in average income has contributed to a reduction in migration by about 70 percent. Young men no longer have to leave the community to find work.
- The project has already achieved its target of establishing 4,300 farmer groups and 6,600 new self-help groups to sustain participatory watershed management across 7,000 communities in 742 micro-watersheds. New participatory micro-watershed planning approaches have resulted in highly integrated micro-watershed plans being prepared by communities, who have greater ownership and commitment.
- Self-help groups, which have flourished with project support; have already mobilized more than US$4 million in savings to help establish small businesses. The majority of members are women. More than 60 percent of the self-help groups are now linked to commercial financial institutions, leveraging additional credit for larger enterprise start-ups. Money-lenders are no longer a major force in these communities.
- The project has resulted in a new government policy for co-management of common lands in watersheds that will have long-term impacts on improved natural resource conservation and rural livelihoods. It has also helped strengthen decentralization.


- Total project cost at time of approval was US$127.6 million, with IDA providing a US$100.5 million grant, the government providing US$14.3 million, and beneficiary cash and in-kind contributions amounting to US$12.8 million. After the tsunami of December 2004, US$20 million from the original IDA grant were reallocated to finance an emergency recovery program.
- IDA played a key role in helping the government design a project to test new participatory approaches for integrated watershed planning and implementation. More meaningful engagement with communities is based on extensive capacity building, social mobilization and group formation, and the use of thematic maps for participatory watershed planning. The new model also draws in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as active partners.

Next Steps

- The project is being extended another 18 months past the original closing date of March 31, 2007 to allow activities in the final phases to be completed and fully achieve all project development objectives. The sustainability of the project benefits depends largely on the enduring strength of local institutions established and continued application by villagers of new agriculture and natural resource management techniques. Pooled group savings and revolving funds will support maintenance of natural resource assets on private and common lands, as well as helping finance new small businesses.
- The Minister of Agriculture has indicated that Karnataka state would welcome further Bank support to scale up the project to another five districts to entrench innovative participatory watershed management approaches more widely. The central government Ministry of Agriculture is adopting features of the project’s innovative monitoring and evaluation system for all government watershed programs throughout India.

Learn More

Karnataka Watershed Development Project (2001-07)
Project documents, Farmers' Testimonies

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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