At the heart of all initiatives undertaken by RF BIJ for sustainable livelihoods is water. Rain-fed agriculture being practiced by more than half the farming community, their entire livelihoods depend on the monsoons. And ironically, most of their farmlands receive low and erratic rainfall. In addition to this, the absence of proper irrigation infrastructure often results in crop failure. The only plausible solution to this challenge is the creation of alternative sources of water, and irrigation.
The availability of water also forms the core of food and nutrition security, good health, nutrition and hygiene. With large parts of rural India routinely grappling with severe drought, water security is essential in villages, where families need constant access to the resource to meet their household and cattle requirements. Through the implementation of water management initiatives, RF BIJ encourages the adoption of practices that help conserve water and replenish existing water sources.
RF BIJ follows a watershed approach, conserving every drop of water in-situ, through the adoption of local conservation methods.
De-risking farmers and their farms from the extreme vagaries of the monsoons forms the basis of this engagement with communities. Depending on the geographical location, type of soil, agricultural practices and needs of the community, the Foundation has undertaken appropriate initiatives across 12 states. Many such RF BIJ initiatives have been appreciated by external agencies, including state governments.
Since its inception, Reliance Foundation has worked relentlessly to give shape to its vision for sustainable water conservation. Building more than 10,000 water harvesting structures and spreading awareness on judicious use of water among villagers, the Foundation’s work in 500 Indian villages – most of which fall in the drought-prone areas – has shown demonstrable models that can be used to tackle this grave issue.
To minimise dependency on the monsoons, the Foundation has built structures to potentially harvest and store more than 71.9 billion litres of rainwater, which serve as a critical source of irrigation for communities living in dry and rain-dependent areas. By implementing soil and water conservation practices recommended by RF BIJ teams, communities have managed to substantially mitigate the impact of excessive rainfall as well as drought. Local governing bodies have come to realise that these measures are well within their physical and financial means. Through Reliance Foundation’s water harvesting and conservation efforts, more than 27,000 hectares of land have been brought under assured irrigation. To promote sustainable agricultural practices, rural communities are also encouraged to undertake construction of check dams, farm ponds and recharge wells through voluntary participation.