Overview Objectives

The Eastern Gangetic Plains, which include the Nepal Tarai, Bihar and West Bengal regions, is one of the most densely populated, poverty stricken belts in South Asia. Behind this persisting poverty are deeply entrenched social structures of class and caste, with a high incidence of inequitable landlord-tenant relations. This is combined with poor access to irrigation water in the dry season, limited irrigation capacity and low agricultural innovation. Earlier research in the Indo-Gangetic basin established the interactions between poverty and access to water.
The overall aim of the project is to improve the livelihood of woman, marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, through improved water use and increased dry season agricultural production. Specific objectives are to: (i) determine existing water resources and sustainable utilisation for irrigation from tanks and groundwater, (ii) determine the socio-economic, structural and institutional constraints to sustainable water use, (iii) determine and evaluate approaches for access to water for irrigation focusing on using renewable technologies and alternate approaches to land tenure and their impact on livelihoods and resilience
Facilitate long term up-scaling and out-scaling of approaches and alternative opportunities.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

The aim of this project is to improve the livelihoods for woman, marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains through improved dry season irrigated agriculture. Technical, social and economic constraints have limited the effective use of groundwater and ponds for irrigation, and large areas of land remain fallow during the dry months. Access to year round water for irrigation would significantly promote the productivity of agriculture, improving incomes and food security.

Through comparative research in India (West Bengal and Bihar), Nepal (Tarai) and North West Bangladesh, this project has the following objectives:

1. Determine existing water resources and sustainable utilisation for irrigation from tanks and groundwater.
2. Determine the socio-economic, structural and institutional constraints to sustainable water use.
3. Determine and evaluate approaches for access to water for irrigation focusing on using renewable technologies and alternate approaches to land tenure and their impact on livelihoods and resilience
4. Facilitate long term up-scaling and out-scaling of approaches and alternative opportunities.

The project commenced on 1st September 2014. The project is a partnership between
twelve organisations representing research and government agencies and NGO’s.

The main activities during the year have focussed on:
An assessment of available ground and surface water resources, potential demand for irrigation water, and water available for irrigation in selected districts.
Qualitative and quantitative research to identify livelihoods, land tenure, water management institutions, gender relations and different farmer groupings and their impact on water management.
Preliminary assessment of both social and technological interventions for improving agriculture through conjunctive use of pond and groundwater resources in selected study sites and villages.

The main outputs and milestones over the reporting period have been:
Finalisation of project agreements and appointment of project staff.
Development of the project impact pathway analysis and associated monitoring and evaluation plans.
Development of an engagement, communication and capacity development strategy and plan.
Project inception and planning meetings held 17th to 19th September 2014 in Kathmandu.
Selection of six target villages appropriate to trial interventions, two in each of Saptari (Nepal), Madhubani and Cooch Behar (India) and selection of six sites in NW Bangladesh for comparative studies.
Selection of target intervention sites to demonstrate improved social and technical interventions for improved dry season irrigated production.
Mapping of groundwater and surface water resources and associated irrigation infrastructure.
Development of questionnaires for biophysical data collection and methodologies for water resource monitoring.
Administration of a socio-economic survey across target communities.
Preliminary analysis of land tenure, gender and institutional issues.
Initiation of comparative research on water use in Bangladesh.
Preliminary assessment of feasible interventions at each village.
Community engagement with the primary aim of building awareness, gauging interest and identifying target sites and communities.
Engagement with Farmer groups and self- help groups to identify capacity development and training needs.

Notwithstanding delays in contracting all partners and the tragedies of the Nepal
earthquake, which has impacted recent work, significant progress has been made in
progressing these important phases of the project.

This project is improving the livelihoods for woman, marginal and tenant farmers in the
Eastern Gangetic Plains through improved dry season irrigated agriculture. Technical,
social and economic constraints have limited the effective use of groundwater and ponds
for irrigation, and large areas of land remain fallow during the dry months. Access to year
round water for irrigation would significantly promote the productivity of agriculture,
improving incomes and food security.
Through comparative research in India (West Bengal and Bihar), Nepal (Tarai) and North
West Bangladesh, this project has the following key objectives.
 Determine existing water resources and sustainable utilisation for irrigation from tanks
and groundwater.
 Determine the socio-economic, structural and institutional constraints to sustainable
water use.
 Determine and evaluate approaches for access to water for irrigation focusing on
using renewable technologies and alternate approaches to land tenure and their
impact on livelihoods and resilience
 Facilitate long term up-scaling and out-scaling of approaches and alternative
opportunities.
The project commenced on 1st September 2014. The project is a partnership between
twelve organisations representing research and government agencies and NGO’s.
The main activities during the year have focussed on:
 Establishment of pilot sites for trialing collective farming systems.
 Planning and piloting technologies and management approaches to improve dry season
irrigated agriculture.
 Establishing programs to monitor water resources, irrigation practice and field
production, which will allow evaluation of social, technical and economic responses to
project interventions.
 Research to identify livelihood trends, land tenure, water management institutions,
gender relations, the impact of migration, and different collective models and their
impact on dry season irrigated agriculture.
 Community engagement, training and capacity development and establishment of
linkages with broader stakeholder groups.
 Preliminary assessment of social and technological interventions for improving irrigated
dry season agriculture in selected study sites and villages.
The main outputs and milestones over the reporting period have been:
 Establishment of 35 pilot sites across 12 villages in Saptari (Nepal), Madhubani and
Cooch Behar (India) and NW Bangladesh.
 Establishment of farmer collectives in target areas utilizing a diverse range of
institutional models, tailored to different contexts.
 Hosting of 102 training events.
 Hosting of meetings in each of the target areas to raise awareness of the project with
broader stakeholder groups.
Annual report 2016: Improving water use for dry season agriculture by marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic
Plains LWR 2012 79

This project is improving the livelihoods for woman, marginal and tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains through improved dry season irrigated agriculture. Technical, social and economic constraints have limited the effective use of groundwater and ponds for irrigation, and large areas of land remain fallow during the dry months. Access to year round water for irrigation would significantly promote the productivity of agriculture, improving incomes and food security.

Through comparative research in India (West Bengal and Bihar), Nepal (Tarai) and North West Bangladesh, this project has the following key objectives.
 Determine existing water resources and sustainable utilisation for irrigation from tanks and groundwater.
 Determine the socio-economic, structural and institutional constraints to sustainable water use.
 Determine and evaluate approaches for access to water for irrigation, focusing on using renewable technologies and alternate approaches to land tenure and their impact on livelihoods and resilience
 Facilitate long term up-scaling and out-scaling of approaches and alternative opportunities.

The project commenced on 1st September 2014. The project is a partnership between twelve organisations representing research and government agencies and NGO’s.
The main activities during the year have focussed on:

 Assessment of the performance of irrigation management practices at intervention sites (Activity 1.2) including monitoring of groundwater and pond resources, water balance assessments, efficiency tests of pumping and irrigation infrastructure.
 Analysis of land tenure, gender and institutions and policies (Activity 2.1) including analysis and reporting from focus group and community discussions, surveys and questionnaires.
 Comparative research on institutional aspects of water use in Bangladesh, investigating innovations in groundwater management (Activity 2.2).
 Planning and assessment of social and biophysical interventions at 30 pilot sites across 10 villages in Saptari (Nepal), Madhubani and Cooch Behar (India) and NW Bangladesh (Activity 3.1) including establishment and operation of collective farming groups, evaluation of gender impacts and assessment of economic performance of cropping systems and practices for irrigation and water management.
 Planning and piloting irrigation and water resource management options in collaboration with farming communities and evaluation in terms of technical performance and social and institutional engagement (Activity 3.3).
 Development of interactive tools to support farmer and advisor engagement and, in particular, data collection and evaluation (Activity 3.4)
 Engagement, capacity development and training to drive participatory action research for community development (Activity 3.5).
 Evaluation of collective farming groups and sites in terms of social and institutional impacts and technical performance (water and irrigation management and crop production and economics) (Activity 3.5).

 Broadening of stakeholder networks and engagement to strengthen links between public, private and village institutions (Activity 3.5)

The main outputs and milestones over the reporting period have been:

 Continuous community, social and biophysical support to the 30 pilot sites across 10 villages in Saptari (Nepal), Madhubani and Cooch Behar (India) and NW Bangladesh. This included hosting of 60 training events, 130 farmer group meetings, 6 stakeholder meetings and 19 partner meetings.
 Implementation and monitoring of social, technological and bio-physical interventions at demonstration sites.
 Completion of in-depth qualitative data collection on gender, collectives and institutional analysis for all intervention sites in Nepal and India. The study captured information on management and functioning of groups, labour division, decision making, conflicts and mitigating strategies, role of women in collective farming systems, capturing experiences from initial intervention years - this included clear action points to adapt the model in line with farmer and team concerns. Follow up study will be conducted to assess whether changes were successful, as well as to observe shifts in farmer’s collective experience and practices in late 2017.
 Report on agricultural innovations for water security in NW Bangladesh from institutional, gender, food and livelihood security perspective completed following feedback from mid-term review and second round of focus group discussions.
 Assessment of value chain opportunities for smallholder vegetable growers in the intervention areas using approaches developed in conjunction with SIAGI project. Initial field work has been completed in Saptari, Madhubani and West Bengal including farmer groups, input suppliers, service providers and traders. A draft report is being prepared and follow up visits are planned. Key staff will attend a SIAGI initiated value chain workshop in Bangladesh in August 2017.
 Hosting of a farmers collective meeting in Madhubani in February 2017, attended by 30 farmers and advisors from project sites. A good opportunity for cross site sharing. Key outcomes are captured on project web site.
 Progression of the concepts approach and practice of ethical community engagement through our association with SIAGI project, including joint participation in workshop hosted by CDHI in Jalpaiguri in May 2017.
 Gender training manual has been prepared and a book chapter on “Key constraints and collective action challenges for groundwater governance in the Eastern Gangetic Plains” has been completed.
 Installation of irrigation infrastructure including tubewell’s, ponds, infield irrigation equipment, solar irrigation systems and water management technologies finalised. Biophysical interventions are undertaken in close consultation with farmers and include new dry season cropping systems and water management approaches.
 Collection of bio-physical data in intervention villages, including weekly monitoring of water level from ponds, tube wells and dug wells, and daily rainfall and weekly water evaporation data. Collection and documentation of seasonal irrigation data and economic and bio-physical crop information.
 Preparation of field maps, summary tables and GIS databases and maps of water resources and irrigation infrastructure at pilot sites.
 Development of ten mobile field data collection App’s to support biophysical data, mapping and monitoring.

 Hosting of regional coordination meetings in each region in February 2017 and a mid-term review meeting in Patna in September 2016. This was a valuable and successful forum to evaluate progress and adjust milestones and work plans.
 Promotion through social media and the project communication platform linking project webpage http://dsi4mtf.usq.edu.au/dsi4mtf/ with Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
 Development of case studies and 26 articles loaded to web site for project promotion during review period.
 Capacity development of project partners and staff, many of whom have not worked on similar research for development projects before.
 Completion of 18 draft project reports covering a range of topics, including:

- Village characterization of study areas based on a comprehensive baseline survey.
- Extensive socio-economic baseline report, reviewing livelihoods in the study villages, agrarian relations, the socio-economic and historical context, and structural constraints to sustainable water use in the region. This essentially outlined the socio-economic challenges which this project hopes to address.
- Gender aspects relating to farming and access to water, and development of a training manual for community groups.
- Agricultural innovations for water security in North West Bangladesh from institutional, gender, food and livelihood security perspectives, including assessment of role of BMDA in water access and agricultural transformation in Northern Bangladesh
- Role of collectives for sustainable intensification of agriculture by marginal farmers, review of the literature and past work.
- Critical assessment of community engagement perspectives, processes and practices and the power of marginal communities and local institutions.
- Review of occurrence and extent of arsenic and fluoride contamination in groundwater, soil and food chain in the selected districts in Eastern Ganges Basin
- Assessment of key constraints and collective action challenges for groundwater governance in the Eastern Gangetic Plains
- Review of concepts and case studies of irrigation technology interventions.

The project mid-term review was held in September 2016 at Patna, India. In response to the mid-term review, a project variation has been approved to adjust some activities, outputs and milestones and importantly extend the Bangladesh component of the project to align with the main project.
Given the innovative research being undertaken, and the prospects of ground-breaking new insights emanating from the combined social and biophysical interventions, a motivation has been submitted to extend the project completion date from August 2018 to June 2019. This will strengthen the emerging collectives to ensure they can become self-sustaining beyond the project lifecycle. It will also support out scaling and better demonstration of the benefits, as well as publishability of project results, to secure greater science impact.

Project ID
LWR/2012/079
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
University of Southern Queensland, Australia
Project Leader
Erik Schmidt
Email
Erik.Schmidt@usq.edu.au
Phone
07 4631 1347
Fax
07 4631 1870
Collaborating Institutions
International Water Management Institute, Nepal
CSIRO Land and Water, Australia
Uttar Banga Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, India
Centre for the Development of Human Initiatives, India
Indian Council of Agricultural Research, India
Sakhi, India
Department of Irrigation, Nepal
Nepal Groundwater Resources Development Board, Nepal
iDE, Nepal
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh
Project Budget
$2,250,001.00
Start Date
01/09/2014
Finish Date
31/08/2018
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Dr Evan Christen