Communicating Groundwater Management: Making the invisible resource visible and giving ownership for its sustainability to villagers in India
The MARVI project, Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention, is about village level communication and participatory research for improving groundwater productivity. It focused on two multi-village watersheds, the Meghraj watershed in Aravali district of Gujarat and the Dharta watershed in Udaipur district of Rajasthan. Both watersheds have hard rock aquifers. The MARVI project involved developing a village level participatory approach, models and tools to assist in improving communication of water science, thereby securing groundwater supplies. The project examined ways to reduce groundwater demand through the direct involvement of farmers and other affected stakeholders, including local schools. A unique feature of MARVI is the use of scientific measurements by citizens through the engagement of Bhujal Jankaars (BJs), a Hindi word meaning ‘groundwater informed’ volunteers. With appropriate training and capacity building, BJs monitor groundwater levels and quality, making sense from a village perspective of what is happening to village groundwater availability. BJs convey this information to farmers and others in their own language. Farmers were motivated enough to change their water management and cropping practices enabled through collaborative learning and collective action in their social contexts. They have come together continue to work as Village Groundwater Cooperatives. More and longer lasting action and behaviour change is yet to come through persisting with the processes in place, while the idea of their commons becomes further entrenched in the community.