We work in the dry rain-shadow region of the southern Deccan Plateau, in the upper catchments of the Papagni River in Karnataka and two of its feeder streams in Andhra Pradesh. The entire region is semi-arid and prone to drought. The dry-deciduous and thorny scrub forests that cover the hills are largely degraded, with but a few good patches remaining. The clearing of the wooded slopes to meet biomass requirements of the local communities, and for agriculture, has led to a loss of forests and soil erosion across the area.
An annual rainfall of between 600 to800 mm, the topography, and a geology that is suitable for surface storage of water, led to the construction of a very large number of tanks all over the region. With the clearing of the forests, the increased runoff has led to silting up of the tanks. The intensification of agriculture has encouraged the spread of tube wells, depleting the groundwater and further worsening water shortages in the region. Grazing lands, revenue wastelands, tank foreshores, and forestlands together comprise 60% of the lands and meet a significant portion of the energy needs of the local populace.
Given this setting, our efforts are centered on improvement of the health and productivity of the commons, thereby strengthening adjacent agricultural systems and expanding appropriate livelihood choices. We also work to strengthen local institutions, ensuring that these are inclusive and that all groups are a part of land-use decisions, particularly those related to the commons. Village institutions are assisted in bringing revenue wastelands, grazing lands, and forestlands under management and protection regimes, and in the regeneration of these commons. We work to create and share knowledge on the overall water availability in the region, and promote dialogue within the community on current extraction and use patterns, and improving the availability of surface and sub-surface water.