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Livestock-environment interactions in watersheds – India

This project organized through the LEAD initiative and supported by SDC-IC, CALPI, IWMI, the Government of India, Danida, and 5 local NGOs was implemented over the period 2002-2005.

The aim was to synthesize policy relevant and actionable research findings to improve the design and  implementation of watershed development programmes paying due attention to the role of livestock in protecting environment while addressing livelihood of the resource poor and migrating communities who depend on livestock.

In-depth studies were carried out in selected watersheds semi-arid regions of five states (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) to improve the understanding of livestock, environment and development linkages in water –scarce watersheds and draw policy conclusions for design and implementation of watershed development programs.

The study highlighted a number of interventions including improved coordination among various government departments, interventions for controlled grazing and community management of common and revenue lands, developing Common Property resources, group organization of livestock producers, facilitation of market linkages and a series of more technical interventions.

The studies revealed that watershed development programmes while exhibiting significant impacts in terms of increased crop production and productivity, appear to have accentuated the inter-household inequities, by ignoring or sometimes negatively affecting landless and livestock, especially small ruminant households. Enhancing the production potential of a watershed for sustainable livestock production, would contribute to livelihood and equity enhancing impacts of the programmes. Appropriate policy and investment decisions are crucial to making this plausible.

The LEAD project has been a catalyst for a number of subsequent activities that were aimed enhancing awareness and dissemination of information, advocacy for reform and capacity building and policy and institutional change. 

  • The LEAD research created baseline information, which can be used for future analysis. 
  • The LEAD project, besides the research findings created a lot of awareness on livestock associated environmental issues among policy makers, planners, academicians and practitioners. The project supported policy round-table discussions in the study states to disseminate research findings to policy makers. 
  • It has been established that integration of livestock in watersheds created positive impact on the environment. The LEAD project helped to provide high focus for livestock integration in watershed development programmes.
  • Many non-livestock, non-environment organizations also started including livestock and environment in their agenda (e.g. TERI, IWMI, Centre for Environment Education-CEE).
  • The creation of the LEAD Advocacy Network (LAN) promoted rural based local coalitions /associations and strengthened their capacities for collective bargaining for policy changes. It decentralized the responsibilities and helped in sustaining the development efforts.
  • The Government of India for the first time formed a subgroup on “Environment, livestock systems and livestock based industries” (under the working group of Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries) to develop proposal for the 11th five year plan for submission to the planning commission.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development has issued revised watershed guidelines which make explicit provision for sustainable livestock development in watershed development programmes.
  • A number of state governments are now adopting explicit NRM policies for sustainable livestock development by smallholders and landless as a component of rural development and poverty reduction programmes.