Addressing water scarcity in Indian villages through local groundwater champions

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Since 2019, the Australian Water Partnership has been supporting the rollout of Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention (MARVI) in 20,000 villages across seven Indian states. The activity is being implemented as part the Government of India’s Atal Bhujal Yojana / Atal Groundwater Program national project.

Groundwater is an important source of fresh water for growing crops in India, much of which is subject to severe and widespread droughts. The project is succeeding in training local farmers who in turn are engaging with village communities to help them adopt better groundwater management practices.

A short video by German national news channel Deutsche Welle shows groundwater-informed farmers, known locally as Bhujal Jankars, in the important task of monitoring rainfall and groundwater levels in village wells and recording the data via a smartphone application (MyWell).


Watch the short video | India: Farming despite water poverty


Bhujal Jankars record the water level in wells and the amount of rainfall. These measurements have increased local awareness for groundwater issues and helped them share water, cooperate and make decisions on where to recharge water. Local scientists complement this information by monitoring the water quality in the region where the Bhujal Jankars operate, comparing the results collected from various regions. Australian project leader Prof Basant Maheshwari from Western Sydney University (WSU) also checks in weekly with the Bhujal Jankars.

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MyWell smartphone app showing recorded groundwater data (credit: Western Sydney University)

“The important things we want to do in this project, and still need to be done, is developing these village groundwater cooperatives a bit further so they become a reality, and also making sure farmers are genuinely involved in the process,” said Prof Maheshwari.

Village Groundwater Cooperatives are helping to develop village-level mechanisms and institutions to augment aquifer recharge and share and sustain groundwater use. They are the first of their kind in India and will assist with the scaling out of MARVI at the national level.

Working with WSU under the MARVI project, Yogita Dashora from the Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology in Udaipur city acts as a local representative, periodically checking in on the Bhujal Jankars as shown in the short video.

“Before MARVI, they were working separately. They were digging their own wells and they were not concerned about the quantity of groundwater [being used]. But now they are thinking that if they work together cooperatively and share water…they can help each other and recharge much more water.”

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Yogita Dashora from MPUAT University meeting with the Bhujal Jankars in Rajasthan (credit: Deutsche Welle)

The training involved in MARVI’s community engagement approach—such as regulating water use and alternating crops—has helped to fill knowledge gaps and empowered decision making at the village level. The new agricultural approach means farmers now use 70 percent less water.

“This is a classic example of community engagement in managing the groundwater resources and great learning for India’s Atal Bhujal Yojana Project”, says AWP South Asia Coordinator Vijay Kumar.

For related information about the MARVI, visit the India Water Portal article.


Feature image: Courtesy of Western Sydney University

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