Micro Enterprise led Watershed Development
A Watershed Plus Plus Approach
Watershed Development has evolved as a powerful tool for eradication of poverty. During initial
years, watershed development focused on soil and water conservation in rain fed areas. In due course
the focus shifted on strengthening different natural resources like land, water, forest and animals.
Meanwhile, there was also thrust on people’s participation that led to gradual focus on participatory
watershed development. Building on the experience of implementation of Sustainable Rural
Livelihoods (SRL) Framework, watershed development program also started focusing on
strengthening all capitals i.e. natural, physical, human, financial and social. Over the years, there is a
move towards livelihood focused watershed development.
Common Guidelines on Watershed Development
Common Guidelines on Watershed Development, 2008 emphasizes on “Livelihood Orientation” to
watershed development. The guideline gives priority on productivity enhancement and livelihoods
along with conservation measures. Resource development and usage to be planned to promote
farming and allied activities so as to promote local livelihoods while ensuring resource conservation
and regeneration. With the expanded scope and expectation under the new approach, the project
duration has been enhanced to 7 years with three distinct phases’ i.e. preparatory, works and
Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods
Access to sustainable livelihood options is critical to enhance quality of life in rural areas.
Traditionally, most of the livelihood activities in rural areas were dependant on natural resources like
water, land, forest and animals. Hence, strengthening of such natural resources at household/village
level directly led to enhancement of livelihoods. For example soil and water conservation leads to
vegetation cover in pasture lands, further enabling to rear dairy animals. Increase in dairy animals
lead to more production/marketing of milk and milk products. Even now, this framework applies to
most parts of rural India. This relates to current thinking in the Government of India - Common
Guidelines on Watershed Development. However, the scenario is changing very fast.
With increasing trend of globalization, there is a shift in focus from “village economy” to “global
village economy”. Despite some focus on decentralized local economy, there is emerging consensus
that globalization has become a reality. In global village economy, demand and supply relates to
larger population over a larger geography. In simple terms external markets (generating demand) are
more critical than local supply. There is need to move backward along different value chains to micro
Enterprises and finally trace where and to which natural resources the market is getting linked. Based
on the current and future trend of market/micro Enterprises, natural resource development can be
Past experience in watershed development also suggests that watershed development is successful,
only when it is linked to micro Enterprises and markets. For example presence of a milk processing
unit in the vicinity is a great motivator to focus on promotion of fodder in watershed development.
Demand for specific medicinal herbs available in the forest, gives thrust on protection/conservation
of forest in watershed development. Overall, this implies that watershed development needs to be
oriented beyond livelihood i.e. to focus on promotion of micro Enterprises. This may necessitate
planning and intervention beyond watershed boundary i.e. working in other villages/markets and
also working along side other schemes like RKVY and SGSY. There is need shift from livelihood
focused watershed development to micro Enterprise focused watershed development - a watershed
plus plus approach.
Vrutti Livelihoods Resource Centre
19, 1 Main, 1 Cross, Ashwath Nagar, RMV 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560 094, India