WOTR’s systemic interventions in rural India have impacted nearly 48 lakh beneficiaries in 5739 villages since inception
As it marks the beginning of its 30th year of operation, WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) is proud to commemorate nearly three decades of service to rural communities in India. Since its founding in 1993, the organization has focused on reducing rural poverty and implementing community-led watershed development at scale. Over the past three decades, WOTR along with its partners has worked in 10 states and impacted over 5.17 million people in 5,739 villages.
WOTR grew out of the very successful Indo-German Watershed Development Project (IGWDP) launched in 1989. Adopting a systemic approach to tackle rural poverty, the organisation uses the Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) approach to regenerate degraded ecosystems and enable rural communities to adapt to climate change while expanding livelihood opportunities, improving health, nutrition and the overall quality of life and well-being. Working with multiple partners, this has over the years, led to over 2.22 million hectares of degraded landscapes/watersheds being regenerated, over 158 billion litres of potential water harvesting capacity created, and agriculture productivity significantly increased with a 121% increase in area under triple cropping. Farm incomes in most project villages are 2 to 4 times more than those in control villages.
The creation of synergistic partnerships between public, private and civil society, enabling sustainable, people-driven regeneration of landscapes and ecosystems and contributing to formulation of enabling policies in this space have been some of WOTR’s biggest contributions to the watershed development movement in India. Till date, the WOTR group of institutions has trained over 675,000 people, which included people from 613 NGOs and 63 countries, collaborated with over 230 NGOs/ PIAs and facilitated/ provided support to 19,140 SHGs involving about 200,000 women.
WOTR has also played an important role in contributing to policies that facilitated up-scaling of impactful social and developmental innovations. In 1999 and 2015, in partnership with NABARD, its proposals resulted in the Govt. of India setting up the Watershed Development Fund at NABARD and the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change at the MoEFCC.
Further, the organisation helped develop the Central Facilitation Team model which was adopted by MGNREGA. Besides this, it has served on various state and central consultative committees and has provided programme and training support to government and civil society programmes and personnel.
Its significant contributions to reducing rural poverty in the country have been recognised through prestigious awards such as UNCCD’s Land for Life Award in 2017 and the Kyoto World Water Grand Prize in 2009.
Seeking to bridge the gap between research and implementation in the country, the WOTR Centre for Resilience Studies (W-CReS) was set up as an autonomous unit in 2016. W-CReS does this by conducting rigorous, application-focussed studies on ground-level problems using a transdisciplinary approach. Its purpose is to contribute high quality, evidence-based knowledge, and insights ‘from the ground’ to policy formulation, program design, implementation, and capacity building.
Talking about WOTR’s work over the past 3 decades, Prakash Keskar, Executive Director, WOTR said, “WOTR’s holistic approach to rural poverty combines practice, knowledge, and policy across scales and sectors. Our systemic interventions support the sustainable growth and well-being of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in rural India, helping them build resilient futures. Our work contributes to 12 of the 17 SDGs and aligns with other international agendas including Land Degradation Neutrality, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.”
With Climate Change increasingly becoming a cause for concern, and especially to vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, WOTR’s work, and focus has become increasingly ecosystems-centric within the framework and metrics of Ecosystems-based Adaptation (EbA). This is because a rural household’s basket of commodities is largely met from ecosystem services. Ecosystems contribute 57% to the income of the rural poor and they are particularly vulnerable to the losses and damages inflicted by climate change. The agricultural sector in India is estimated to have suffered $3.75 billion climate-induced losses between 2016-21. Healthy ecosystems help people cope with and build overall resilience to climate change. Restoring degraded ecosystems to healthy ones would require strengthening local participatory governance and equitable benefits sharing, which is a desired outcome of WOTR’s interventions.
In its 30th year, WOTR will also be releasing a book on Water Governance. This publication will introduce a ground-breaking rating and certification methodology designed to encourage competition within rural communities and reveal valuable investment opportunities in the field of water management. Drawing on WOTR’s experience and expertise with water management, this methodology is poised to bring long-lasting benefits to both community members and investors alike.
WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) is a nationally and internationally recognised non-profit and think tank dedicated to transforming the lives of millions of poor across India through participatory watershed development and eco-systems restoration, climate resilient sustainable agriculture, integrated and efficient water management and climate change adaptation, with a special emphasis on building resilience of vulnerable communities, farmers, and women.
Employing an integrated ecosystems-centric and Ecosystems-based Adaptation approach (EbA), WOTR mobilises rural communities across 5 broad thematic focus areas: Water and Land Management, Climate Resilient Agriculture, Livelihoods, Women Empowerment, and Health, Sanitation and Nutrition. Cross-cutting themes across these areas include adaptation and resilience to climate change, institutional development, governance, and policy dialogue. WOTR’s interventions and works are across 3 broad verticals: Implementation, Research-In-Use & Policy Engagement and Training & Capacity Building. WOTR works in close collaboration with civil society entities, companies, and the central and state governments to achieve its objectives. It is headquartered in Pune, Maharashtra, India.
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