Implications for Policy

First, there is a need to recognize the fundamental link between groundwater and drought, particularly in the semiarid and arid zones (Mudrakartha

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Fig. 12.7. Milk production in Umri village, Satlasana taluka.

and Madhusoodhanan, 2005). Two aspects are important: (i) the role of the community in planning, implementation and monitoring, which should include space for community management of groundwater; and (ii) the need for integrating drought interventions into the district perspective plan17 so that ad hoc spending of large funds during drought events is avoided.

Annual recharge is a crucial element in the context of community management of groundwater and forms the lifeline of the productive systems in drought-prone areas. Therefore, rainwater harvesting for enhancing recharge artificially on a scientific basis should form an integral part of the district perspective plan taking into consideration the site-specific hydrogeology to make the recharge activity effective and meaningful (Mudrakartha and Madhusoodhanan, 2005). Site-specific research is essential to evolve an array of artificial recharge standards to suit different hydrogeological settings (Mudrakartha et al., 2004a).

Second, appropriate policy change to promote community management of ground water is an immediate necessity. Indian experience with forestry management, canal irrigation, watersheds, etc. shows that without people's participation resource protection, development and management is not possible. It is logical that the same principle be extended to the management of groundwater. This is relevant even in the face of the rapidly changing externalities as a majority of the population still depends upon natural resource-based primary productive systems.

Third, there is a need for convergence of institutions. Many institutions are promoted as part of various rural development programmes, often in the same village or in a cluster of villages. While multiplicity of institutions is not an issue, convergence and mutuality constitute the need of the hour. Therefore, an institutional arrangement that coordinates the functions of the various institutions within the perspective plans of an area or an agroclimatic zone needs to be evolved.

Fourth, management of resource through community (e.g. forestry or groundwater) always throws up a variety of management issues. Lack of legal authority, in particular, related with resources, severely hampers their effective functioning. This would also bring about conflicts and litigations leading to an adverse impact on the resource management. Appropriate policy changes are therefore needed to empower the people's institutions. A related concern is the convergence with the gram sabha in some way.

Fifth, the changed resource paradigm demands co-management of conventional and people's adaptive strategies (Mudrakartha, 2004). Conventional strategies provide a broader canvas, including linkages with micro-level implementation while adaptive strategies help rooting the conventional strategies in the community domain.

Sixth, livelihood diversification both within and beyond the primary productive sectors needs a stronger push. Although this is happening, the efforts are mostly straitjacketed, i.e. highly sectoral. While the financial institutions push for formation of SHGs and micro-enterprises, the backward and forward linkages are often neglected and, as a result, weak. While a focused, target-oriented approach may help in achieving scale, a broader policy canvas should be spelt out to convey the larger picture.

Seventh, women have proved their skills in strengthening livelihood and also diversification in order to reduce vulnerability. Ensuring backward and forward linkages with women's enterprises for better results will help build stronger and more resilient adaptive mechanisms. Necessary capacity-building strategy should become an integral component of the programme implementation (Mudrakartha, 2006).

Eighth, access to credit is important to help communities come out of the indebtedness trap. A proper combination of community-based institutions, local formal institutions (e.g. dairy) and a committed NGO with active financial agency (e.g. SBI or NABARD) could result in strengthening people's capacities to evolve more effective adaptive strategies.

Communities are increasingly making use of communications technology such as telephones and mobiles through social networks for making informed choices of work during migration. However, since this trend has set in only of late and as it depends upon a variety of complex factors, it may be too premature to expect people to be in complete command and control of their adaptive strategies in the choice of work. The key message is that people are developing confidence both at the family level and the community or village level to face droughts. Their attempt is to develop the ability to maintain the primary livelihood systems, namely agriculture and animal husbandry, mostly in combination. They would like to complement these efforts with non-land-based options to build in the required capacity to adapt to increasing resource challenges. They are also increasingly becoming conscious of the need for an institutional approach to take full advantage of the social capital they have built up over a period of time. This strategy allows them to choose occupations they prefer, and not any occupation under compulsion, as it used to be.

In order that community's efforts are effective, suitable policies to check resource (groundwater, surface water, land, etc.) depletion, degradation and diversion should be formulated carefully. Policies should not be wishful statements but rather those that value processes and are community-centric. They should aim at bridging disconnects - a major lacuna - not only in many of the policy statements but also in implementation. The fact that in India livelihood and natural resources are intricately connected for a vast majority of the population should be borne in mind. Realignment of livelihood and trimming down the huge (and unwieldy) number of agriculture-dependent families up to a certain level may happen naturally because of the availability of an increased range of non-land income-generating options, thanks to IT, infrastructure and communication projects. However, for the adaptive strategies, this is a welcome trend as a wider basket of options reduces vulnerability and increases stability.

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