2030 WRG in the News
Source: Business Green
30 July 2020
Consumer goods giant unveils latest commitments from its recently announced €1bn ‘nature and climate fund’
Unilever has set out plans for a raft of water management and conservation projects over the next decade, as the consumer goods giant unveiled the latest investments from its recently-announced €1bn ‘nature and climate fund’.
The British-Dutch multinational yesterday said it would partner with the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) and the Alliance for Water Stewardship on several projects supporting water management resilience in key water-stressed countries including Vietnam, India, Brazil and South Africa.
WRG, a multistakeholder platform coordinated by the World Bank, will help implement projects at water-stressed sites surrounding manufactoring facilities in five of Unilever’s key markets – India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia – it said.
The work aims to build on Unilever’s collaboration with the WRG and the Red Crescent Society in Bangladesh, which helped supply clean drinking water for hospitals with Covid-19 patients, according to the consumer goods giant.
“With growing water scarcity challenges, exacerbated by climate change, it is more critical than ever for stakeholders to join forces to advance water security outcomes,” said World Bank vice president for sustainable development and co-chair of WRG, Juergen Voegele. “We are delighted to welcome Unilever as a global 2030 WRG partner, with its core commitment to the principles of water sustainability, equitable access and livelihood security.”
In addition, Unilever is to join the Alliance for Water Stewardship and trial the organisation’s AWS Standard, a global framework for water stewardship in select water-stressed sites, it said. The partnership is also aimed at helping Unilever expand its Prabhat water programme, which has been implemented in eight manufacturing sites to address gaps in water supply and demand in India, according to the firm.
It follows the launch of three 2030 water sustainability targets from Unilever last month: to make its product formulatons biodegradeable; to implement water stewardship programmes around 100 Unilever manufacturing sites; and to join the 2030 Water Resources Group.
Water scarcity and poor water quality affects 40 per cent of the world’s population, according to the World Bank, with more than 2.1bn people consuming unsafe drinking water. Last month, UN-Water, which coordinates the United Nation’s activity on water and sanitation, announced that the world was “alarmingly off-track” in meeting Sustainable Development Goal six to deliver clean water and sanitation for all.
“We all know water is critical for lives and livelihoods; yet we are wasting it, polluting it, and taking it for granted,” said Unilever CEO Alan Jope. “We need collective action to solve a water crisis that is wreaking havoc in villages, towns and cities across our planet.”
The water-focused commitments are part of a range of climate and environmental initiatives announced by Unilever last month in the form of a €1bn ‘nature and climate fund’, which is aimed at supporting the firm’s target to reach net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039, backed a range of initiatives including landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection, and water preservation projects.
India’s highly industrialised Maharashtra region hopes to increase wastewater treatment and recycling through a novel trading mechanism for reuse certificates.
The Indian state of Maharashtra and the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG), a partnership hosted by the World Bank, are planning to launch a platform enabling trade in wastewater reuse certificates (WRCs), in an attempt to incentivise greater levels of reuse.
Maharashtra’s water sector regulator, the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) and the WRG are overseeing the initiative, in which companies and municipalities will be awarded certificates by hitting wastewater reuse targets. These can then be traded, with organisations that do not meet their targets required to buy certificates.
While certificate trading is established in the energy space in India through renewable energy credits, the idea is new in the water sector, where the uptake of wastewater treatment and reuse technology has been plagued by low water tariffs and inconsistent regulatory oversight.
Inspired by the energy and emissions trading sector, the proposal will focus on building an economic instrument by setting up a transfer and trading platform, similar to the Indian Energy Exchange, and developing a market-based mechanism for carrying out these transfers.
Comparing the initiative to other models of trading environmental commodities, a senior official from 2030 WRG in India told GWI that regional markets for carbon trading are quite active, but that using the concept in water reuse will come with its own challenges. “The WRC, although it draws its concept from such examples, is complex to handle due to challenges pertaining to water quality assessment,” the official said.
The WRG is looking to take on consultants to help define the guidelines for the WRC trading platform, advise on a detailed roll-out of the plan, and formulate a handbook to act as a training resource. The proposed trading platform is planned to use IoT-based metering and blockchain-linked distributor ledger techniques. The WRC initiative is initially intended to be rolled out in Maharashtra and potentially Bangladesh, but may eventually be considered for other countries such as Vietnam, Ethiopia and Brazil.
“Assuming WRCs are rolled out for industrial and commercial segments, an initial market example for Maharashtra could be ten municipalities and 30-odd industries,” the senior official told GWI. “The top 20% of water users may be a part of this trading platform, and market players will increase as reuse opportunities are harnessed for smaller housing societies. If this scheme is rolled out, initial calculations show a market liquidity of $800 million or so, as an annual trade in the state of Maharashtra alone.”
Certificates may be valid for a period of two years, depending on market liquidity, and the official added that “although daily trading may not be possible initially, monthly trading can be implemented once market participation gains momentum. We expect further development of the WRC structure to take place during the calendar year 2020, and a roll-out during 2021-22.”
The MWRRA has formulated a draft regulation, the MWRRA Water Entitlement Transfer and Wastewater Reuse Certificates Platform Regulations, 2019, and it is currently awaiting final notification from the state government. Speaking to GWI, the chairman of the MWRRA, KP Bakshi, said while the government is reviewing the regulation, the MWRRA is undertaking preparations on other fronts, including target preparation guidelines, monitoring, exchange tariffs, and other aspects emanating from the regulation. The MWRRA is also the tariff-setting body in Maharashtra, allowing it to price the WRCs in a way that ensures viability.
The issuance of WRCs will be carried out by MWRRA on the trading platform, with certain floor and ceiling prices for the certificates as a tradeable permit. “Regulators can consider a cascaded level of WRCs, such as platinum, gold and silver, based on the quality of treated water available for reuse,” the 2030 WRG official said. “MWRRA will set targets for the reuse and recycling of water for all stakeholders, the transfer of entitlements from one entity to another, and freshwater entitlement data.”
According to Bakshi, “urban and industrial water consumption account for around 15% and 10% of water use in Maharashtra, respectively, and these sectors have been selected for the initial roll-out. The concept of the WRC is target-based as per the mutual agreement with an urban local body or an industry with the MWRRA. Certificates would be awarded for exceeding targets, and they can then be redeemed or exchanged in the market.” He further explained that the MWRRA led the development of the Integrated State Water Resources Plan for Maharashtra, approved in February 2019, which outlined ambitious plans for the reuse of wastewater, including the goal that 30% of treated effluent be reused by 2025, and 100% by 2030.
The MWRRA and WRG are now looking to create a sound framework for utilities, industries, and other stakeholders based on a ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Consultants are being sought to work with six utilities all trying to tackle the perennial issue of non-revenue water.
Kenya’s regulator, the Water Services Board (Wasreb), has issued a request for expressions of interest from consultants to assess the suitability and design of performance-based contracts (PBCs) to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) at six utilities.
NRW is an ongoing issue in Kenya where it has averaged 42-45% in the last decade, despite significant efforts to address it. A 2018 audit of select WSPs commissioned by Wasreb indicated that 64% of NRW in Kenya was physical losses and 36% commercial losses. The report also found that despite the development of NRW management guidelines, their implementation among utilities was very low.
The studies are being financed by the World Bank and supported by the bank’s 2030 Water Resources Group (2030WRG). Joy Busolo, Kenya country coordinator for 2030WRG, told GWI that the idea of looking at PBCs was to incentivise a sector shift towards output-oriented programming rather than activities/input-based EPC contracts. “The PBC model’s value proposition to [utilities] in Kenya is that performance risk is transferred to the external contractor and remuneration is based on the achievement of performance targets,” she said. “In addition, it enables for the leveraging of private capital to complement scarce public resources.”
The utilities taking part in the pilot – Nyewasco (Nyeri), Nawasco (Nanyuki), Naivawass (Naivasha), Kacwaso (Kaka- mega), Eldowas (Eldoret) and Nawassco (Nakuru) – which are mostly average NRW performers, save for Nyewasco, were selected through a screening process by Wasreb. Busolo said that they are broadly representative of the challenges utilities face nationally.
The consultant is expected to assess the suitability of PBC to address NRW at each utility and to come up with a PBC project scope. Broadly speaking, the contracts will include two components: a fixed fee covering capital expenditure such as the creation of district meter areas, improvement of pressure control, repairs of leaks/connections, replacement of pipes etc., and a performance-based O&M fee to implement NRW reduction targets. Contracts are likely to be 4-5 years.
In a bid to ensure there is enough interest from the private sector, 2030WRG will organise a market sounding roundtable in 2021. “[This is] to gauge investor interest in the proposed projects and inform risk allocation approaches to NRW-reduction PBCs to ensure the transaction is consistent with private sector appetite and lender requirements,” says Busolo.
PBCs are new to the water sector so 2030WRG will provide support to the utilities involved in the pilot; it will also help Wasreb develop a national strategy for PBCs.
Interested consultants have until 23 March to submit their expressions of interest. Following this, Wasreb then expects to issue the final RFP to shortlisted companies in April, with a submission deadline of late June and a contract award in late 2020.
- Malik told the delegation about the five point agenda of the Ministry of Climate Change that included 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, Electric Vehicle Policy, Ban on Plastic Bags, Recharge Pakistan and Clean Green Pakistan Index.
- The delegation head briefed the adviser about the 2030 WRG a public private, civil society partnership hosted by the World Bank Group.
- She said 2030 WRG worked in 14 countries that face water security challenges including Bangladesh, India and South Africa.
ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam on Monday invited 2030 water resource group (2030-WRG) to collaborate on jointly addressing the Clean Green Pakistan Index.
He made these remarks during a meeting with the delegation of 2030 WRG, a press release said.
The adviser said the Index had 35 quantifiable indicators on cleanliness and greenery.
However, thousand gallons of fresh water was being wasted and 60 percent solid waste remained uncollected throughout the country.
The matters of mutual cooperation were discussed during the meeting.
Malik told the delegation about the five point agenda of the Ministry of Climate Change that included 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, Electric Vehicle Policy, Ban on Plastic Bags, Recharge Pakistan and Clean Green Pakistan Index.
He also elaborated the pillars of Clean Green Pakistan Index as 20 cites of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Province were included in the first phase.
The delegation of 2030-WRG consisting of Global Head Karin Krchnak, Senior Water Finance Specialist Michel Leushuis and 2030 WRG Pakistan senior strategic adviser Dr Abdul Majeed met the adviser to prime minister on climate change here.
The delegation head briefed the adviser about the 2030 WRG a public private, civil society partnership hosted by the World Bank Group.
She said 2030 Water Resource Group supports governments to accelerate reforms that would ensure sustainable water resource management for the long-term development and economic growth of the country.
She further said 2030 WRG advances collaborative action by providing a neutral platform for various stakeholders from various sectors of society and interest groups.
She said 2030 WRG worked in 14 countries that face water security challenges including Bangladesh, India and South Africa.
And we help governments and other actors in society access global knowledge on water security issues including good practice solutions.
The 2030 WRG delegation appreciated the positive response from the Ministry of Climate Change regarding the discussed matters and thanked the Adviser to the prime minister on climate change for his cooperation.
- Today almost 25% of the world’s population face looming water crises.
- The interlinked nature of water management means solutions must involve multiple stakeholders.
- Here is a guide to partnership actions corporate leaders can take to help mitigate this crisis.
With less than 1% of the world’s freshwater readily available for human consumption and demand expected to increase by 40% by 2030, effective governance and management of freshwater supplies is one of the most fundamental public goods challenges of our time.
Yet recent headlines about devastating wildfires and water shortages facing Australia, deadly flooding in Jakarta, and Chennai joining Cape Town and other cities in the struggle to avoid ‘Day Zero’ serve as just the latest reminders of how difficult a task this is becoming.
Already, nearly 25% of the world’s population face looming water crises, and by 2025 the figure is predicted to surpass 60%. In addition to the impacts on human health and ecosystems, water risks are also increasingly material for economic growth and business. The World Bank projects that water scarcity could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP by 2050. In 2018 alone, companies reported more than $38 billion in financial losses due to water challenges.
The need for aligned action
As the frequency, severity and complexity of water risks increase, exacerbated by climate change, more ambitious and innovative approaches will be needed.
Governments at the national, state and municipal levels must be ultimately accountable for ensuring access to a clean, affordable and reliable supply of water. Yet the interlinked nature of water management and governance problems – such as protecting natural ecosystems, ensuring security of supply for industries and cities or mitigating the impacts of natural disasters – makes it hard to ascribe responsibility to any one governmental ministry or department. Such wicked challenges demand agile, inclusive public-private partnerships, through which different sectors and actors can leverage their respective capabilities and resources in response to rapidly evolving and complex scenarios.
Civil society organizations are vital in supporting independent research, local implementation and stakeholder engagement activities. Local civic platforms are especially needed in situations where vulnerable populations or excluded groups lack sufficient voice or resources to assert their rights.
The corporate sector also has an increasingly vital leadership role to play, particularly companies that are major users, distributors or managers of water supplies. Equally, companies in enabling sectors such as information technology can leverage their skills and investments to scale digital solutions, while financial institutions can increase investments, insurance and banking solutions for improving water use in cities, companies and households.
A framework for business leadership
There are three sets of actions any large company should consider as part of its commitment to help tackle the water crisis:
Water management: Corporate water strategies should ensure compliance, manage risks and improve water efficiency, waste management and replenishment in the company’s own business operations and value chain, with the dual goals of identifying and mitigating negative impacts and improving operational performance and excellence. In a growing number of industries and locations, there is untapped potential for harnessing new technologies and business model or financing innovations to move from ‘doing no harm’ to proactively delivering profitable and scalable water solutions.
Water stewardship: Leading companies are going a step further by committing to more integrated approaches that go beyond their own operations to work with others on watershed management and valuing water. This calls for the ability to effectively map and engage with diverse stakeholders, usually including competitors. It requires complex data collection and analysis on the economic value of water, including water use trade-offs, understanding the water-food-energy nexus, political economy and demographic dynamics. And to be effective, it calls for joint investments and collective water governance and accountability mechanisms.
Water advocacy: Some corporate leaders are also becoming outspoken champions for water sustainability at local, national and global levels. They invest in research, innovation and technology beyond their own immediate operational needs. And they support efforts to increase public awareness and education on the urgency of the water crisis, alongside joint advocacy for good water governance and appropriate public policy reforms.
CEO and board leadership are essential for setting strategies and incentives to achieve impact. Such leadership requires individual corporate action and responsibility, focused on activities that the business has the most direct control over and where the water risks are most material to the company and its stakeholders. It also requires collective action and collaboration with others in business, government and civil society to address the more complex, systems-level challenges that no one company or actor can tackle alone.
Various World Economic Forum partners are already demonstrating such leadership through collaborations such as:
· The 2030 Water Resources Group, a public-private platform led by the World Bank that consists of more than 700 actors working across sectors in 14 water-scarce countries to shrink the supply-demand gap.
· The 50L Home coalition,: an emerging effort to drive responsible domestic urban water consumption in water-stressed cities through innovations in technology, infrastructure, policy and regulation – so using 50 litres a day feels like 500.
· The Dutch-led Valuing Water Initiative, which includes governments, businesses, investors and NGOs working to inspire systems leadership and behaviour change through case studies in different value chains and sectors.
These are just three of a growing number of initiatives where individual business leaders are working together, as well as with policy-makers and civic leaders, to tackle the water crisis. The UN’s CEO Water Mandate and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development are two other leadership examples. In addition, a growing number of industry-wide platforms are taking action, such as the Consumer Goods Forum and the International Council on Mining and Metals.
Many of the corporate leadership qualities discussed above are reflected in the Davos 2020 Manifesto. This highlights a new era of opportunity for companies to work alongside all stakeholders to advance policies and practices that strengthen the long-term prosperity of the company while also managing shared risks and creating shared value for others. Scaling such approaches—not just at some point in the future but immediately and urgently–will be a defining factor in our ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Absent an IPCC or COP equivalent for water, it will also be necessary to find ways to galvanize this leadership transformation. For example, a G20-led CEO water security summit would offer a prime opportunity for businesses, governments and leading technology experts to accelerate solutions to avoid future ‘day zeros’.
By Jennifer Möller-Guland
Bangladesh is starting something no country has done before: developing and implementing the assessment of the value of water so that all future investment decisions – from government and private sector – will consider their impact on water and make better decisions.
On November 17, 2019 in Dhaka, the 2030 WRG in partnership with Bangladesh’s Water Resources Ministry and the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industries organized a Dissemination Workshop on Valuing Water. The workshop targeted the private sector to share the benefits of valuing water for their business operations.
As discussed in the workshop, the following outlines the next steps in the project:
- Developing a methodology and calculating the shadow price for water, differentiated by region, season, and source
- In cooperation with the Planning Commission, incorporating shadow prices into public decision-making processes by integrating these into investment decision-making processes
- Piloting and demonstrating the application of these shadow prices for water for private-sector decision making: This would involve cooperation with three companies to trial their application, refine it, and then showcase the derived benefits.
Throughout the above process, the High-Level Valuing Water committee and the Technical Valuing Water Committee – of which the 2030 WRG serves as a secretariat – will guide project implementation.
Chile and Mexico are among the countries in the world most susceptible to “water stress,” according to the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, which the World Resources Institute updated last month. The index measures the amounts of water that irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw annually from their available supply, as well as the risk of drought and riverine floods in individual countries. What are the main challenges that Latin American countries face with regard to water—and why? How well are national, provincial and local governments handling water resources, and what should they be doing to better manage them? What role does the private sector play in managing water, and what more should it do?
Cesar Fonseca, regional coordinator for Latin America at 2030 Water Resources Group: “One of the most important bottlenecks in Latin America with regard to solving water security issues is the political system itself. It does not regard water issues as important, a situation that translates into declining budgets, continuous state retrenchment and a lack of enforcement capabilities. Another huge problem is the weak rule of law and corruption. On the side of civil society, lack of education and knowledge about water challenges is a problem. If society does not pressure governments to address water challenges in a more steadfast and timely manner, governments simply will not allocate political and financial resources to address them. Also problematic is the lack of a more enabling environment for innovation, not only technological innovation but also societal-institutional innovation. Businesses and governments need to move beyond the current “take, make/use and dispose” model of water use toward circular water economies, in which wastewater is transformed into a valuable resource that can be reused, recycled or repurposed. In Latin America, the 2030 Water Resources Group is currently working in Mexico, Peru and São Paulo, to address critical water challenges. Through our Multi-Stakeholder Platforms, we are able to drive collective action by key players that help drive policy reform and upstream engagement. These result in demonstrative pilot projects including greater private sector participation.
As erratic weather patterns and depleting resources complicate the many factors of food security in India, change is coming, from ground up
The 3.75-acre sugarcane farm of CV Kumar is green. The 55-year-old farmer in the village of Holalu in Karnataka’s Mandya district is all smiles as he talks about how the yield of his land has doubled—from 40 to 45 tonnes per acre to more than 80 tonnes per acre. His input costs have reduced significantly as well, with fertiliser requirements falling by 50 percent, and water by 40 percent. His new-found confidence now enables him to grow paddy on another 2 acres, and a variety of vegetables for subsistence.
The secret to Kumar’s farming success—which has now caught the eye of the government, which is expected to announce policy measures soon—lies buried under a foot of soil on his land: Thousands of metres of plastic pipelines that drip water and water-soluble fertilisers in a controlled and concentrated manner near the roots of his crops. Not only do they help the crops grow better—with the right amount of water and nutrient at the right time—they drastically reduce the amount of water required to grow sugarcane (traditionally grown by flooding the fields) and the amount of fertilisers leaching through the soil and increasing its toxicity.
The health of the planet and that of humans have always been inextricably entwined. But never have they faced the strains they now do. For, while, on one hand, food production is sucking up natural resources like never before and is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation, on the other, it is the pressing need to feed nutritious food to a burgeoning global population, significant portions of which remain underfed and undernourished.
Adding to this equation is the looming presence of climate change, which brings in its wake erratic heat and rain patterns, and extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding. Given India’s growing population—currently at 1.3 billion, it is expected to be the most populous country, ahead of China, by 2027—and the increasing effects of climate change the country has been experiencing, ensuring food security and environmental sustainability are two forces that could be perceived to be pulling in opposing directions.And yet, ensuring one is the means of ensuring the other.
Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their preferences and dietary needs. It stands on the four pillars of availability, access, utilisation, and stability, which means that production of vast quantities of food alone is not enough.
“After the Green Revolution, India has had sufficient production of food,” says RV Bhavani, director, Agriculture Nutrition Health Programme at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai (MSSRF). “The access that people have to food, through distribution systems, has always been a problem.” Leakages in the public distribution system (PDS), for instance, is one of the reasons why food does not reach the people who are most in need of it.Loss of produce between the farm and consumers—in India the figure stands at an estimated 40 percent—is another major reason why food does not reach end-users. “In our country, we don’t encourage the use of frozen and processed food, and instead prefer fresh food. But it is not possible to transport and distribute all the produced fresh food before it goes bad,” says Vandana Singh, CEO, Food Security Foundation India. “What we need are good storage facilities, means of transportation, and processing plants to reduce wastage at the farm level.”
One of the lasting legacies of the Green Revolution has been the shift away from a diverse variety of crops, and the dominance of food crops such as wheat and rice, and cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane. Consequently, cultivation of indigenous varieties of cereals and grains, such as millets and sorghum, barley and buckwheat has been relegated to the sidelines. Along with issues related to market linkages—these enable farmers to sell their produce, and that produce to be stored, transported and distributed to consumers—shrinking consumer demand has further reduced the farming of these crops.
“Food security includes nutritional security. In this regard we are far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals that have been set by the UN General Assembly for 2030,” says Bhavani. “Diets in our country are primarily cereal based, which account for basic calories and protein. But there are high levels of micronutrient deficiency. Agricultural policy has focussed on cash crops, not on nutrition. At laboratory research levels also, rice, wheat and cotton remain in focus, not millets and pulses.”
Adding to these existing conditions are the problems being caused by climate change, with rising temperatures, erratic rain patterns, and extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods. An August 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says rising temperatures will reduce yields and nutrient content of crops, while changing the distribution of pests and diseases.
Another legacy of the Green Revolution has been the indiscriminate use of water and pesticides to grow high-yield varieties (HYV) of crops; HYV of wheat produce 40 percent more than traditional varieties, but require 300 percent more water to grow. With many state governments subsidising water and electricity to farmers, the latter has not seen much reason to rationalise their use.
“Of the total water usage in our country, 85 to 90 percent is for agricultural purposes. But more competitive uses are now coming up, with sectors such as services, industries and urban areas vying for water,” says Ajith Radhakrishnan, India country coordinator and senior water resources management specialist with 2030 WRG, a World Bank initiative, adding that subsidised urea prices have resulted in its excessive use. This despite the fact that almost 90 percent of it is lost as it leaches through soil, adding to the nitrate toxicity of ground water and rivers.Radhakrishnan adds that the indiscriminate sinking of borewells by people on their private lands over the last decade has severely depleted ground water levels. According to the 5th Minor Irrigation Census conducted by the Central Ground Water Board, and released this June, the groundwater level in India has declined by 61 percent between 2007 and 2017; of the extracted water, 89 percent is used for irrigation. This depletion has been the most significant in Northwest India.
Along with depletion of ground water, “the prevalent farming practices have led to increased soil salinity in Punjab, which is not sustainable”, says Bhavani of MSSRF. “Dr Swaminathan [known as the ‘Father of the Green Revolution’] had, in fact, warned that excessive use of pesticides and water would affect soil and plant health.”
Focus on crash crops has also reduced household food and nutritional security, with farmers growing only those crops that are expected to bring in money. This has led to a predominance of mono-cropping. “More than 50 percent of the land in the Vidarbha, Jalgaon, Marathwada and Pune regions in Maharashtra is under cotton cultivation. But farmers can’t eat cotton,” says Sangram Salunkhe, regional coordinator (west and south), Action for Food Production (Afpro). “If there is a crop failure, neither do they have cash to buy food, nor do they have food crops that they can eat.”Multi-cropping and crop diversification is not beneficial just for humans, but also for the crops themselves. Large-scale cultivation of a single crop also makes it highly vulnerable to pests, says Tomio Shichiri, the India representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation, “with diseases turning into epidemics”.
Working towards ensuring the various aspects of food security are organisations at various levels that are cultivating ways to harness the benefits of traditional forms of farming and cropping patterns, as well as technological advancements that reduce the demands on natural resources. Through long-term projects that partner with private and public players, these organisations are raising awareness and knowledge among farmers, enabling the funding of technology adoption, and creating market linkages.
For instance, Afpro has been working in about 500 villages in Maharashtra to raise awareness about proper conservation and utilisation of ground and surface water through the creation of farm bunds (barriers for harvesting surface water), and farm ponds. “We are focusing on crop cultivation and farming systems, to encourage practices such as crop rotation, mixed cropping that includes food crops, and reduction of input costs,” says Salunkhe. The last, he adds, is being achieved by rationalisation of inputs such as water, fertilisers and pesticides.
Earlier, farmers would apply these inputs with little awareness of whether the crops actually need them. “Through frontline demonstrations and training sessions, we have taught them methods to test their soil, so that they know what the level of potash or urea is,” he says. “They apply fertilisers when the levels are low. Similarly, they have learnt how to analyse the levels of pest infestations, and apply pesticides only when necessary. This has brought down input costs by about 40 percent.”
The work that is taking place in four districts of Karnataka—Bagalkot, Mandya, Chikmagalur and Gadag—is an example of a multi-stakeholder approach to promoting the adoption of new technology, such as drip irrigation, in the cultivation of crops that includes water-intensive varieties such as sugarcane. After the Karnataka government approached 2030 WRG—an initiative under the World Bank Group that brings together public, private, and civil society stakeholders to improve the management of water resources—memorandums of understanding were signed by 14 private companies, the state’s departments of agriculture, horticulture and water resources, and the state government in 2017.
Laying the drip irrigation pipelines costs between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh per acre (depending on the kind of crop, and soil conditions), on which the Karnataka government gives a 90 percent subsidy. “Operation and management [O&M] charges for the first five years of the project are borne by Jain Irrigation and Netafim, two private companies that were brought in to lay the drip irrigation infrastructure,” says Mandar Nayak, member of 2030 WRG’s Karnataka team. “The farmers have been organised into Water User Associations, which will collect water charges to be used for O&M of the project water pipelines after the five-year period is over.”
The projects cover close to 90,000 hectares and 1.44 lakh farmers, who grow a variety of crops, including Bengal gram, green gram, maize, cotton and pigeon pea. “It is important to demonstrate to farmers the benefits of drip irrigation,” says PV Joshi, a senior agronomist with Jain Irrigation, who works in the Malavalli taluka of Mandya district. “They have had bad experiences before, with government projects being started but not being implemented. So winning their trust is crucial.”
Farmers implementing the drip irrigation systems draw water from existing borewells on their lands, since the water needs to be pumped into the pipelines at a consistent pressure, and this is not possible with water from canals distributing river water. So although the demand for borewell water is halved, it still exists, and continues to deplete an already-stressed water table. To address this issue, Jain Irrigation is now building a system—consisting of an extensive network of pumps and pipelines—that will be able to distribute water from the Cauvery river in a manner that can be used for drip irrigation. The system is expected to be fully operational by early next year.
Following the success of the Karnataka project, the Maharashtra arm of 2030 WRG approached public and private players to begin a similar initiative in the state. “The project was started this May, and has 15 private and public players, including representatives of industry bodies,” says JVR Murty, consultant with 2030 WRG. “The project is sponsored by the CSR arm of ITC.”
The project covers areas in the districts of Pune (67,000 hectares), Sangli-Solapur (20,000 hectares), and Yavatmal (7,000 hectares), and approximately 40,000 to 50,000 farmers. “Unlike Karnataka, which was a greenfield project where they had to build irrigation systems, the areas in Maharashtra have existing irrigation options such as canals and wells,” says Murty. “Our aim is to bring 60 to 70 percent of the covered areas under drip irrigation systems, including sugarcane farmers.”
Local NGOs have been included to carry out a survey and analysis of the area, following which there will be capacity-building initiatives. “Along the lines of the Ramthal project in Karnataka, this too is for a time-frame of three years.”
Working over longer timelines are organisations such as Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan), which works particularly among tribal and vulnerable groups to promote sustainable livelihoods. It aims to evolve the entire development ecosystem by collaborating with the government and donors. Pradan works with more than 7 lakh families in 7,920 villages in seven states; about 70 percent of these people belong to vulnerable groups such as Dalits and indigenous communities.
By channelling interventions through women self-help groups (SHGs), Pradan promotes sustainable and organic farming methods, multi-cropping and crop diversification. “Empowering women farmers is key to ensuring food security,” says Sailabala Panda of Pradan, who works in the Rayagada district of Odisha. “Earlier, they did not know what rights they had on the land, and on the produce. But through social mobilisation, we have been able to improve their knowledge and skills, and also their income and standards of livelihood.”
While tobacco was the primary crop cultivated in the region till 2008, now small farmers grow a variety of fruits and vegetables that they are able to sell on their own, or consume themselves. Training and workshops through SHGs have also made women understand how to manage their finances, apply for loans, and gain a decision-making position in their families, and in society.
Back in Mandya’s Holalu, Kumar and his son Chandru stand on the terrace of their pumping station, surveying the expanse. Despite being the first convert to drip irrigation in the region for sugarcane, six years ago, he still farms paddy by flooding the field with canal water. Installing a drip irrigation system for paddy is a more expensive proposition, and the pipelines need to be rolled up for each harvest since they can be damaged in the process, and re-laid for sowing; for sugarcane, the pipelines remain in place for up to five years since it is a ratoon crop.
Till the middle of August, the farmers had expected this to be a drought year. But then the rains arrived, and filled the rivers and dams. Peacocks now call in the distance as clouds gather over the vast expanses of lush farmlands. It will be a good season. But Kumar has enough experience to know it may not always be so. And change, perhaps, is on the horizon.