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Enhancing capacities for a country-owned transition towards CSA

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The Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) Project

The Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) project demonstrated that for sustainable community-led water management it is critical for users within a hydrological unit to understand all the phenomena associated with groundwater dynamics: occurrence, cycle, draft, recharge and balance. From 2004 to 2009, FAO and its local partners implemented the APFAMGS project in seven drought-prone districts of Andhra Pradesh (Anantapur, Chittoor, Kadapa, Kurnool, and Prakasam) and Telangana (Mahabubnagar and Nalagonda). The APFAMGS project developed a participatory hydrological monitoring programme to build farmers' capacities by giving them the requisite knowledge, data and skills to understand the hydrology of groundwater resources. The project also built farmers capacities to adapt to climate change and variability within the Government of India's Sustainable Land and Ecosystem Programme, under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. 

The project facilitated the formation of village-level Groundwater Monitoring Committees (GMCs) – 638 farmer committees that monitored groundwater resources in particular villages. These committees were federated into 63 Hydrological Unit Networks (HUNs). The GMCs and HUNs in each hydrological unit estimated the total groundwater resource available and worked out appropriate climate-resilient cropping systems that were suited to local water availability. These farmer institutions then disseminated the information to the entire farming community within each hydrological unit and acted as pressure groups. These efforts encouraged water-saving and water-harvesting projects, promoted low-investment organic agriculture and helped formulate rules that would ensure interannual sustainability of limited groundwater resources. In most of the pilot project area (638 villages in seven districts), the results were positive. There has been a substantial reduction in groundwater abstraction owing to crop diversification and irrigation, water-saving techniques and improved profitability. 

A key outcome of the project was farmer-to-farmer outreach. In a populous country like India, farmer-to-farmer extension is critical for reaching millions of farmers. Engaging with farmers to demystify technical content increases farmer ownership of new practices and this can be channelled to facilitate farmer-to-farmer outreach to reach large numbers. Participants in 'Farmer Water Schools' adapted local art forms, symbols, and materials to explain groundwater science and disseminate key messages on groundwater management. The Government of India acknowledged the APFAMGS approach as an effective model for managing groundwater and adapting to climate change in rain-fed areas of the country. A chapter in the 2010 World Bank publication ‘Deep Wells and Prudence, is dedicated to the APFAMGS experience, highlighting it as evidence of viable community-led groundwater management in India.

Source: Authors