The Karnataka Watershed (Sujala) Project
The Karnataka Watershed Management project (FY01-09, $100.4 million) addressed poverty alleviation in mainly rainfed areas of India by improving the productive potential of degraded watersheds. In addition, it was designed to strengthen the capacity of communities in project districts for participatory involvement in planning and implementation, and in social and environmental management.
The project applied a systems approach, with focus on soil and water conservation and sustainable use, as well as improvement of livelihoods, equity, gender, and community participation. The project included participatory watershed protection and development covering 400,000 hectares.
An important feature of the project was an exemplary monitoring and evaluation system, conducted by the Indian Space Research Organization. The M&E system included a household survey with baseline and control group, and remote sensing monitoring of changes in land cover and cropping patterns. Hydrological measurements were less reliable, since planned equipment was not acquired. Unusually, the M&E system was integrated into project management. IEG’s review found that "data from this MIS and evaluation program had a significant impact on improving project implementation. In particular it was instrumental in the decision at the mid-term review to shift funding into providing revolving funds for self-help groups, a move that resulted in a sharper poverty focus for the project and improved opportunities for women and the landless. Similar the data generated enabled operations to achieve better equity among small, medium and large farmers; and greater cost-efficiency in the soil and water conservation works."
The project made a considerable impact on agricultural productivity, with an overall increase in yield up to 19.8 percent. Average income was increased by 24 percent. Cropping was diversified, boosting resilience. Employment increased as a result of project restrictions on using machinery, benefiting the poorest and landless. Consequently outmigration was reduced by 75 percent in the short term. Additional impact was from creating the local institutions, among which the most sustainable were Self-Help Groups, 85 percent of which continued to function even after the project closure. Favorable land use changes were observed, including increased diversification and irrigation. Runoff decreased, suggesting an increase in infiltration and reduction in erosion, and .water tables increased, but it was not possible to attribute this solely to the project, since measurements were taken during a period of favorable rains. Unfortunately monitoring has been discontinued so a direct measure of resilience during future droughts is not possible.
Sources: Indian Space Research Organization (2009); IEG 2011a; Sujala staff.