Revitalizing Tribal Agriculture through the Central India Initiative

Despite significant investments in irrigation infrastructure, large tracts of India remain unserved by irrigation water, including much of central India, with over 70% of India’s tribal population, representing perhaps the largest concentration of rural poverty in South Asia. The absence of appropriate policy action to support agriculture development in this region means these communities depend on rainfed farming and distress migration.

The opportunity for enhancing tribal livelihoods through small-scale land and water management interventions was recognized by the IWMI-TATA Water Policy Programme (ITP), launched in 2000 as a partnership between IWMI and Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) to help policy makers address India’s water challenges by translating research findings into practical policy recommendations. During 2002-04, ITP created the Central India Initiative (CInI) to document proven approaches, through a broad alliance of researchers and practitioners, to land and water interventions for improving tribal livelihoods. From this synthesis evolved a pragmatic strategy for investing in land and water management in the CInI belt.

Mid-way through the research process, in 2003, SRTT decided to adopt ‘CInI’ as a key component of their grant-making program on livelihoods initiatives in this region. CInI research is now being used to assist SRTT-supported field projects in pockets of Jharkhand and Maharashtra and more donors including Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT) have shown keen interest in joining hands. Further, as part of their Strategic Plan 2006, SRTT identified the region as their area of priority for supporting livelihoods initiatives.


Personal Communication, Sanjiv J. Phansalkar and Verma, Shilp, IWMI-TATA Water Policy Program

Shah, Tushaar. 2005. “Forward” in Phansalkar, Sanjiv J. and Verma, Shilp Mainstreaming the Margins: Water-centric Livelihood Strategies for Revitalizing Tribal Agriculture in Central India. Angus & Grapher, New Delhi. This book was launched by Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Director, Planning Commission and Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, India.