population of 1.3 billion is around 18 per cent of the worlds. It is
further estimated to reach 1.6 billion by 2030. Clearly, Indian
agriculture systems have a huge responsibility to ensure secure access
to food by everyone of its citizens, now and for the future.
Agriculture systems being heavily resource-intensive,
interact with natural resources and environment at a large scale. Around
50 per cent of India’s total land area is under agriculture, using
around 90 per cent of the total water withdrawals in the country.
Agriculture sector is the third-largest consumer of power in India. It
accounted for 19 per cent of the total power consumption in 2011. Apart
from the high use of resources by agriculture systems, agriculture also
contributes to 19 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in
India. India’s greenhouse emissions are the third largest in the world
(Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2007). Agriculture
is one of the sectors that not just contributes to causing climate
change but also faces one of the worst impacts from the same due to
variability in weather conditions that can disrupt crop cycles.
As elsewhere in the developing world, in India, small
farmers’ livelihoods are being threatened due to accelerating climate
change impacts, liberalisation and privatisation of Indian agriculture.
India had over 138 million farm holdings as per the Agricultural Census,
2011. Of this, about 92.8 million were marginal farm holdings i.e.
having individual operational land holding of less than 1 hectare while
another 24.8 million were small farm holdings with individual
operational land holding size of less than 2 hectares. Therefore, the
marginal and small farm holdings together accounted for a whopping 85%
of the total farm holdings in India in 2010-11 (Government of India,
Agricultural Census, 2011). Entire dependency on monsoon and with
inadequate access to inputs like quality seeds, fertilizers, irrigation
water, improved technologies, information and credit; these small
farmers face problems of a non-viable ecosystem with limited access to
market and reduced profit margins.
Recognising the importance of building sustainable
agricultural systems in India, the watershed development programme was
initiated in the 1970s at a national scale. The programme is implemented
by the government of India and state government departments with
involvement of consortium partners including non-government
organisations in different phases. The main aim of the recently revised
integrated watershed management programme (IWMP) is to enhance rural
livelihoods and wellbeing, build ecosystem services, recognise the value
of well managed water and land resources. This concept ties together the
biophysical notion of a watershed as a hydrological unit with the social
aspects of community and its institutions for building resilience in
agriculture through sustainable management of land, water and other
It is imperative that agriculture systems in India
ensure that the basic nutritional requirements of the present and future
generations are met while maintaining productive capacity of the natural
resource base. ■