ASSAR’s contribution to WOTR as a practitioner organisation
11 Apr 2019 - 20:45
By Arjuna Srinidhi, senior researcher at WOTR
The Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) was set up 25 years ago to address long-term development challenges tied to water management, sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment, health and nutrition in the semi-arid parts of central India. WOTR has always been a multi-sectoral organisation, committed to learning and improvising, so as to respond to local needs.
The key ‘learning’ for us, especially in the last decade, has been that climate change adaptation needs to be addressed at multiple levels, each requiring a different strategy depending on the stakeholder. Building capacities to do just this was the biggest contribution of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project.
Applied, multi-disciplinary research
ASSAR demonstrated that grounded research and evidence-based recommendations are a prerequisite for effective policy formulation and efficient programme design together with the use of different tools. A study looking at micro-irrigation at the margins, for instance, allowed us to move beyond technological issues to understanding barriers and enablers in the promotion and uptake of drip irrigation. The Agro-met services and farmer responsiveness study was another example of cutting edge meteorological sciences engaging with last mile connectivity challenges in the field. The multi-scale, cross-cutting ASSAR work programme gave us the opportunity to explore and link a wide range of subjects which conventional projects with a narrower scope might not have allowed. From exploring the links between groundwater depletion and gender issues; or wellbeing and socio-economic vulnerability, with biophysical drivers of landuse-landcover changes, we have broadened our knowledge base.
Pedagogies for development action
While WOTR has always adopted a ‘reflect-act-reflect’ pedagogy towards developmental action, the peer review and transdisciplinary approach adopted by ASSAR helped us add a layer of rigour and depth to this. Powerful concepts tied to Research-into-Use and tools like Transformative Scenario Planning helped address challenging issues related to the future of water for domestic and livelihood needs in Maharashtra and reaffirmed our beliefs about people-led participatory change.
ASSAR opened us up to the international research community across several countries and institutions and enabled us to establish both professional and personal relationships, all of which helped broaden and enrich our perspectives, engagement and outreach. The application of WOTR’s tool for vulnerability assessment (CoDriVE-PD) in a workshop in Botswana in August 2018 or playing games for water budgeting at CARIAA’s 2018 Annual Learning Review gave us the opportunity to discuss successful actions from South Asian semi-arid locations with our African partners and similarly learn from their experiences.
The ASSAR project gave us the opportunity to build capacities across different levels from research and policy advocacy to implementation and community engagement. The CARIAA Economics Winter School and the Adaptation Futures 2018 conference and other annual learning meetings provided such opportunities. Consulting with officials from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Indian Meteorological Department and Groundwater agency in Maharashtra, while also interacting with farmers about their expectations, taught us how to integrate science and social-science issues.
Our image and leverage potential
ASSAR also helped raise the profile of WOTR and the WOTR Centre for Resilience Studies as a knowledge institution not only for effective developmental action but also as a provider of ground-based evidence and learnings to inform policy and decision making in regard to its thematic areas of engagement. This image gives us the opportunity to leverage the identity for larger outreach, like participating in a panel discussion on farm ponds on prime-time television. This leverage will continue to be useful beyond the project period as we are finding for the organisation of an upcoming international consultation on Adapting Agriculture to a Global Temperature Rise of 1.5°C, in October, 2018.