An interdisciplinary framework for using archaeology, history and collective action to enhance India’s agricultural resilience and sustainability

Green, A S and Dixit, S and Garg, K K and Sandya, N R and Singh, G and Vatta, K and Whitbread, A M and Jones, M K and Singh, R N and Petrie, C A (2020) An interdisciplinary framework for using archaeology, history and collective action to enhance India’s agricultural resilience and sustainability. Environmental Research Letters, 15 (10). pp. 1-14. ISSN 1748-9326

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South Asia has a deep history of agriculture that includes a range of past farming systems in different climatic zones. Many of these farming systems were resilient to changes in climate and sustainable over long periods of time. India’s present agricultural systems are facing serious challenges, as they have become increasingly reliant on the unsustainable extraction of groundwater for irrigation. This paper outlines an interdisciplinary framework for drawing on patterns from the past to guide interventions in the present. It compares past and present strategies for water management and use in semi-arid and temperate Punjab with equatorial Telangana. Structural differences in water use in these two regions suggest that a range of interventions should be adopted to expand the overall availability of surface water for agricultural systems in India, in combination with empowering local communities to create their own water management rules. Active interventions focus on the efficient use of water supplies, and increasing surface water availability through renovation of collective ponds and reservoirs. We argue that this conceptual framework has significant potential for guiding agronomic and economic interventions in the future.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Research Program : Innovation Systems for the Drylands (ISD)
CRP: CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)
Uncontrolled Keywords: South Asia, Water-management, Agriculture, Sustainability, Collective action, Heritage
Subjects: Others > Sustainable Agriculture
Others > South Asia
Others > Water Resources
Depositing User: Mr Arun S
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2020 07:08
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2020 07:08
Official URL:
Acknowledgement: The authors would like to thank Liang Emlyn Yang for inviting us to submit this paper, which originated in discussions at the Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 15,000 Years: The Creation of Landscapes VI workshop held at the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel, Germany in 2019. We would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers whose comments helped us improve the article. We would like to thank Banaras Hindu University for their ongoing collaboration on the archaeological components of the paper, and the Archaeological Survey of India for granting permission to carry out that work. This research was funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund’s TIGR2ESS (Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies) Project, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Grant Numbers BB/P027970/1, and builds upon the TwoRains project, which is funded by European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, grant agreement no. 648609. It builds upon the work of the Land, Water and Settlement project, which received support from DST/UKIERI, the British Academy and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, and makes use of data collected by colleagues who have worked with us, beside us and before and after us in many areas. The ICRISAT authors acknowledge salary support from the CGIAR Research Program Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) which is carried out with support from the CGIAR Trust Fund and through bilateral funding agreements.
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