Development through Convergence – Enhancing rural livelihoods through Watershed Development

Drought although occurs as a natural phenomenon, human interventions also induce droughts, increasing the vulnerability of the poor in the semi arid regions. Watershed development is found to be an appropriate drought proofing solution to address the issue of drought and desertification.

Andhra Pradesh is one of the states in India which has historically been most severely affected by drought. Eleven districts in Andhra Pradesh are classified as drought-prone and Anantapur district as desert-prone, by the Government of India.The Government of Andhra Pradesh realized the fact that with proper planning, scientific approach and efficient management it is possible to increase the productivity of degraded lands while creating huge employment opportunities for landless poor.

The State Government launched a Ten-Year Action Plan (1997- 2007) for development of 100 lakh hectares of wastelands and degraded lands at the rate of 10 lakh ha every year with financial outlay of about Rs.4000 crores by the Rural Development, Forest and Agriculture Departments, out of which 78.20 lakh ha target was set for the Rural development Department.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has been implementing centrally sponsored watershed programme under various schemes with the basic objectives to minimize the adverse effect of drought and control desertification through rejuvenation of natural resource base of the identified desert/ drought prone areas. The programme strives to achieve ecological balance in the long run as well as promote overall economic development and improve the socio-economic conditions of the resource poor and disadvantaged sections inhabiting the programme areas.

In order to achieve the objectives of the Watershed Programme, various treatment measures and interventions have been undertaken for protecting, conserving and developing natural resources and improving livelihoods of the rural poor. Reputed NGOs in the state have been acting as Project implementing agencies and Resource Support Organizations for successful implementation of the Watershed Programme.

Community Participation

Convergence with other development programmes helps not only to supplement funds for holistic treatment but will also complement each other

Community participation is imperative for the effective implementation of the watershed programme at every level. A clear role has been given to the people at various phases of project implementation i.e at planning, execution and monitoring phases for maximizing the benefits. Local communities were formed as common interest user groups and watershed committees through various participatory approaches.

As part of community based monitoring systems, Social Audit process is adapted to watersheds in collaboration with Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency (SSAAT).

To motivate the community and make the people own the programme, initially, various entry point activities are undertaken viz., promoting non-conventional energy resources like solar street lights, solar lamps, setting up of mineral water plants, conducting animal health camps, sheep camps etc.

Initiatives to conserve natural resources

To conserve soil moisture, conservation measures like earthen bunds, stone bunds, pebble bunds, trench cum bund, continuous contour trenches, staggered trench, water absorption trench etc., were promoted. Water was harvested through structures like vegetative check dams, brush wood dams, earthen gully plug, sand bag structures, farm /dugout ponds etc.

Efforts were made to improve vegetation through raising nurseries, block plantation, afforestation of barren hills, bund plantation, live fencing, dry land horticulture, fodder development etc. Such activities taken up on forest fringe areas falling in the upper catchment areas of the watershed activities substantially increased the green cover and helped natural regeneration of the forest.

To protect the Common Property Resources (CPRs), the land was developed, overgrazing was controlled and fire breaks were erected to prevent forest fires. All these measures resulted in the improvement in the extent of forest cover and growth of CPRs.

Promoting sustainable livelihoods

To reap the benefits from conserved natural resources, it is imperative that the agricultural productivity be enhanced. It plays a key role in alleviating poverty and enhancing livelihood options in the drought-prone areas. Various initiatives were taken up for improving agriculture and livestock development. Also, micro enterprises were promoted to enhance the livelihoods of landless poor.

Scheme No. of Watersheds
implemented in AP
(Lakh Ha)
Employment Assurance Scheme 1906 9.53
AP Hazard Mitigation 100 0.50
Drought Prone Area Programme
4242 21.21
Desert Development Programme
1054 5.27
Integrated Waste Land
Development Programme (IWDP)
1499 7.49
AP Rural Livelihoods Project
500 2.50
Integrated Watershed Management
programme (IWMP) – Cluster Watersheds
552 23.57
Table 1: Watershed programmes implemented under various schemes

Field initiatives included measures to improve soil fertility, micro nutrient management, INM (Integrated Nutrient Management), IPM (Integrated Pest Management), innovative practices like SRI (System of Rice Intensification) cultivation in paddy, cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants etc. Small scale infrastructure development was promoted in the villages through setting up of vermi compost units, bio-pesticide units, micro-irrigation systems, seed drying platforms, custom hiring centers etc., to support farm based production.

As the poor often have low quality animals, with low productivity and access to services is also poor, a number of initiatives were taken up for livestock management. Livestock development centers, providing breeding bulls belonging to breeds such as Ongole and Murrah were established in collaboration with the Animal Husbandry Department.

Fodder crops which thrive well even if there is minimum rainfall during the kharif season, such as sorghum, maize, hybrid bajra, pillipesara etc., were promoted. The farmers were encouraged to grow Azolla, a highly nutritious blue green algae, annual and perennial grasses, fodder trees in dwellings, Stylo hamata on field bunds and in other possible common property areas. Backyard poultry was also promoted. Village level women federations were encouraged to take up pisciculture in water tanks.

Non-farm enterprises such as leaf plate making, weaving, mushroom cultivation, basket making, group trading, edible and non-edible oil units, tamarind processing and packing of pulses were promoted among the poor households.

Convergence of programmes

One of the major strategies of the programme was to converge with various departments and programmes to bring in a holistic impact. An effective convergence arrangement is established with other programmes (MGNREGS – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, a rural employment programme of the government) and departments (Department of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Forestry, Horticulture etc.,) for undertaking interventions. As the funds available under watershed development project may be inadequate to saturate a watershed, convergence with other development programmes helps not only to supplement funds for holistic treatment but will also complement other development programmes.

For instance, convergence with MGNREGS programme complements MGNREGS to focus on the asset creation which will have direct impact on the soil moisture conservation and socio economic status of rural poor. A state specific clear cut convergence policy with MGNREGS scheme for holistic treatment has been evolved and is being successfully implemented in the state.

Similarly, non pesticide management along with comprehensive soil fertility management activities viz., NPM shops consisting of all biological extracts, NADEP compost pits, household nutrition security models, custom hiring centres etc., are being taken up in convergence with Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) wing of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP). For enhancing livelihoods of rural poor, Poorest of the Poor (PoP) strategy of SERP is adopted to provide financial assistance to the identified poor through women Self Help groups and federations, for promoting income generation activities.

Treatment of forest fringe areas is being taken up in collaboration with the Forest Department. Similarly, livestock development initiatives such as livestock health camps, breed improvement, nutritional support, capacity building of the stakeholders etc., are being taken up in convergence with Department of Animal Husbandry.


Research studies reveal that the impact of the watershed management is clearly visible in many watershed areas. The impact is seen in terms of increased soil moisture, increased ground water recharge, increased water percolation, enhanced water storage in tanks and increased soil fertility. Also degraded lands are reclaimed, carbon sequestration improved and enhanced livelihood opportunities to the rural poor are enhanced. Watershed initiatives have also contributed for the improvement of the green cover and growth of CPRs, enhanced socio economic conditions of rural poor through creation of substantial wage opportunities and livelihood options contributing to increased income levels.


The experiences of Andhra Pradesh Watershed Management programmes demonstrate that the effect of drought and desertification can be effectively tackled through integrated Watershed management measures at local level through active participation of rural communities. More importantly, it proves that an integrated approach and convergence of programmes goes a long way in achieving holistic impact in watershed areas.

However, development through convergence is a time consuming process and not without challenges. It calls for mutual cooperation, active participation and sharing of insights by each of the programmes. It is important to have a vision and a holistic design which is flexible, before planning activities with various departments. This design should be continuously revisited to accommodate changes as and when required.

One of the important reasons for achieving convergence among different programmes is that all of them belonged to the same department, i.e., Department of Rural Development. On the other hand, inspite of some very good examples in the field, not much convergence could be achieved with the agriculture department at the policy level.


Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) Report No. 101, December, 2006

Department of Rural Development, Andhra Pradesh, Building Livelihoods- The APRLP experience, published by WRITE ARM, Bangalore

World Bank, Drought in Andhra Pradesh: Long term impacts and adaptation strategies, September 2005, South Asia Environment and Social Development Department World Bank

Suvarna Chandrappagari, D. Kalpana and N. Polappa

Dr. C. Suvarna, I.F.S.,
Spl.Commissioner (Watersheds)

D. Kalpana
State Technical Expert (I&CB)

N. Polappa
State Technical Expert (NRM),

Department of Rural Development,
D.No. 1-3-1028, DWCRA Building,
Lower Tank Bund Road,
Hyderabad – 500080, Andhra Pradesh.

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