The World Bank, the government of India, and the government of Himachal Pradesh state in the north of India have agreed an $80 Million USD fifteen year loan for improvement of water management practices in selected villages in the state. Over 400,000 smallholder farmers in 10 districts will benefit from the program that is targeting sustainability and development of resiliency for rain-fed agriculture.
Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India said:
“As we encourage climate-smart agricultural practices in India, farmers will need both technical and financial support to adapt agricultural practices relevant to their geography and climate. As a mountainous state, Himachal Pradesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change and associated risks.
Water management practices under this project can play a big role in doubling farmers’ incomes, a goal set by the Government of India. It is, therefore, critical that the best use is made of all available technologies and resources to increase water-use efficiency,” he added.
“Climate change is a global issue. But, addressing its impact requires building resilience at the local level,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India. The Bank is particularly interested in supporting farmers and pastoral communities to secure livelihoods in the face of climate variability and “challenging agro-ecological conditions”.
In Himachal Pradesh, lowland areas lack access to irrigation water and farmers depend on rainfall during the critical monsoon season. Rainfall has declined and snowlines have shifted to higher altitudes, impacting the agricultural production and especially the regional fruits. Further change in the climate is expected to increase average temperatures and decrease rainfall in the lowlands. In the highlands, temperatures and rainfall are expected to increase, which could lead to more extreme flooding events.
The project is designed to improve upstream water sources in forests, pastures, and grasslands and ensure sufficient water is available for sustainable agriculture both in Himachal Pradesh and in downstream states. Enhancement of climate resilience and water efficiency are key components of the project.
Part of the funding will be dedicated to establishment of hydrological monitoring stations to observe water quantity and quality. The evidence gathered will inform water budgeting requirements, enabling better land use and agricultural investments.
Downstream, the project is expected to increase small farmers’ access to high efficiency irrigation and help farmers shift from low-value cereal production to climate-resilient crop varieties, including higher-value fruits and vegetables.
Finally, the project will build the capacity of the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (HPFD) to better manage water resources and will work in collaboration with other government programs, particularly those of the agriculture, horticulture, and animal husbandry departments.