AICHA: Adapting to groundwater depletion and changing land-use, climate and markets: Understanding the agrarian crisis in peninsular India

Increasing dependence on groundwater resources, especially in agriculture, is an emerging agrarian crisis in peninsular India. Groundwater, once the second-most important irrigation source (during 1980’s) now contributes to more than 65% of net irrigated area. It plays a critical role in household and regional food security, in improving livelihoods of rural agrarian populations and, at a larger scale, in national food production and rural development goals. Its over-extraction is posing huge challenges to sustainability of small and medium land holding agriculture. Changing climate and farming practices, failing borewells, fluctuating markets for cash crops and misplaced water and agricultural policies also add to the agrarian stress in these regions.

The AICHA project aims to study this picture of agrarian and environmental crisis in a groundwater dependent catchment in Kabini sub-basin of the Cauvery basin. The research aims to develop a comprehensive framework of analysis to understand the role of agronomic and water management, under the changing forces of climate, markets and agricultural policies. The research will anchor the framework on farmers’ behaviour and strategies by integrating the role of social-economic hierarchies and biophysical asymmetries of resource availability within the watershed, spatially and temporally; and test alternative policy scenarios to achieve sustainable outcomes at the household-level, at regional agricultural production level, and to achieve sustainable environmental outcomes.

This three-year project is supported by the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research (CEFIPRA) jointly funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (DST) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of France. It includes researchers from the Indo-French Cell on Water Science (IFCWS), Indian Institute of Science, ATREE and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).