Doing Policy Relevant Research on Water, Food and Agriculture: Examples from India
Dr. Aditi Mukherji, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal
October 28, 2013
In this presentation, I will talk about my experience of doing policy relevant research on water, food and agriculture in India and discuss how one such piece of research led to changes in Groundwater Law and electricity policies in the state of West Bengal. My presentation will first outline the challenges of managing water for food security in Asia and elsewhere and provide a short glimpse of research that I have done in the Nile Basin, Central Asia and in Bangladesh. Much of this research was motivated by a simple question: ‘why do farmers do what they do’? And answers, I often found, lie in the arena of policies, institutions and markets. I will then focus on one particular thread of research that I have been pursuing for the last one decade. It looks at water, food and energy nexus in India in general and juxtaposes two opposite phenomena: one of groundwater over-exploitation in northern and southern India and that of groundwater underdevelopment in eastern India. Difference in regional intensity of groundwater use, I posit, is related to differences in energy policy and public discourses around water, food and the role of farmers. Using example from my own state of West Bengal, I will show how policies governing groundwater use has had very little to do with groundwater resource conditions per se, but a lot more to do with politics and public perceptions about the resource. I will discuss how my research was able to identify some of the impediments faced by farmers in accessing groundwater, and how through direct interactions with highest level policy makers in the state, I was able to communicate my research results to them. This in turn led to changes in Groundwater Law and electricity policies in 2011. I will conclude my talk by giving a brief update on implementation of these changes on the ground and delineate areas for further research.
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