The Lakhundar river basin in Shajapur district of Madhya Pradesh forms part of the Malwa plateau. Forest lands comprise only one percent of the total geographical area of the district. Common lands constitute about 40% of the geographical area, mostly open pastures which support the fodder needs of cattle and small ruminants of the agro-pastoral communities. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the two major sources of livelihood, with wage labour forming a significant component of the livelihoods of the marginal and landless. Scarcity of drinking water or people and cattle following years of successive droughts is a cause of major concern.
In drought-prone rain-fed areas such as these, the watershed development approach finds value in strengthening livelihoods and ecological health, and is a means of ensuring holistic development by addressing the micro drivers of change in a comprehensive manner. These micro drivers of change (soil and nutrient properties, biomass availability, water availability, land use, social and institutional capability, technological adoption, patterns of demand and supply, natural resource usage, economic status and energy availability) influence and are in turn influenced by the varied livelihood strategies (agriculture, livestock, production of other materials, labour and migration, biomass, energy, landscape and environmental management and agro-ecosystem function) prevalent in the rural landscapes.
This project involves watershed planning over a few thousand hectares of land in the rain-fed areas of Shajapur district in Madhya Pradesh, which include both off-farm and on-farm interventions to improve the productivity of farm lands as well as the commons. Enhanced biomass and water availability through appropriate soil and moisture conservation measures, and revegetation of common lands would go a long way in boosting agricultural productivity and animal husbandry. Further, this project aims to assist communities in effectively integrating agriculture and natural resource management, and regulating the demand for biomass and water through rules, regulations and mechanisms evolved by community institutions at village and inter-village levels. Efforts of FES are directed towards building and strengthening the institutional processes at the habitation, village, Panchayat and federation levels to set in place processes of local self governance. Special focus is on enhancing the participation of community members, especially the poor and marginalised, in the planning and implementation of watershed development work in the region.