One of the rainwater harvesting havelis at Parasai-Sindh. Photo: R Singh, ICRISAT

Renovated water harvesting structures have immense potential for agricultural productivity, suggest research findings

One of the rainwater harvesting havelis at Parasai-Sindh. Photo: R Singh, ICRISAT

One of the rainwater harvesting havelis at Parasai-Sindh. Photo: R Singh, ICRISAT

Reviving traditional rainwater harvesting structures in regions with degraded land leads to increased groundwater levels, more arable land, and higher crop productivity and incomes. A recently published scientific research paper offers a case study of Bundelkhand, Central India, where groundwater levels were boosted by 2-5 m by renovating water structures called havelis, leading to 10-70% increase in crop yields in the region.

The landmark paper, published in the Journal of Hydrology, describes the processes and impacts of reviving traditional rainwater harvesting structures called havelis, which have been falling into disrepair. During the years 2012-2016, due to the higher levels of groundwater, about 20% of fallow land was brought under cultivation and farmers’ average incomes grew from US$ 960/year to US$ 2,700/year.

To address the challenges of water scarcity and land degradation, from 2012-2016, ICRISAT along with the Central Agroforestry Research Institute (ICAR-CAFRI), developed a site of learning called the Parasai-Sindh watershed in Jhansi district. With support from CSR funds, several parts of old havelis were rebuilt in the 1,250-ha area of the watershed following the Ridge-to-Valley approach, leading to the transformation of the region.

This case study of haveli renovation is also cited in the ICAR’s achievements document entitled “Mahatma Gandhi’s Vision of Agriculture: Achievements of ICAR (Chapter 7 Pp: 80-82).

Following the success of this project, ICRISAT has also been working in this region since 2017 through the KISAN MITrA-Doubling Farmers Income Initiative, supported by the Government of Uttar Pradesh. The Doubling Farmers Income project is stepping up its efforts towards rainwater harvesting and drought mitigation largely through haveli renovation initiatives in 35,000 ha located in seven districts in Bundelkhand region.

Click here to access the paper, ‘Building climate resilience in degraded agricultural landscapes through water management: A case study of Bundelkhand region, Central India’:

For more on our work in the area of natural resource management, click here.

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