Rethinking policy and institutional imperatives for integrated watershed management: Lessons and experiences from semi-arid India uri icon


  • This study investigates the institutional and policy issues that limit effective participation of resource users in community watershed programs and identifies key lessons for harnessing collective action and its effectiveness in achieving economic and environmental outcomes. It shows that spatial and temporal attributes of watersheds and the associated market failures that accelerate degradation of agricultural and environmental resources require innovative policy and institutional arrangements for coordinating use and management of resources. Under enabling policies, IWM can effectively contribute towards diversification of production into high-value products, reversal of resource degradation, growth in the incomes of the poor and enhance the ability to mitigate the effect of drought. However, the degree of biophysical and social complexity within watershed communities could often undermine incentives for collective action, thwart distribution of benefits against the landless and resource-poor households and even lead to depletion of groundwater resources. Governments and other stakeholders have a unique role to play in kick-starting the process of transformation through strategic natural resource and productivity-enhancing investments that strengthen local capacity for collective action and generate local public goods. Such collective investments could serve as building blocks for private productivity-enhancing and risk-mitigating investments as they boost profitability of productive assets (land and labor) and encourage farmer adoption of beneficial conservation practices. The lessons and experiences also show that integrating interventions along watershed frontiers would require a flexible learning alliance of institutions and cross-disciplinary teams with complementary skills and competencies

publication date

  • 2008