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About Learning Water Resources Management (LWRM)

Water management in rainfed areas for improving livelihood security of smallholder farmers: Out- scaling Australian- supported R4D in Odisha, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (or the Learning Water Resource Management or LWRM project in shorthand) is a collaborative project between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO); Western Sydney University (WSU); South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI); Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), National Rain-fed Areas Authority (NRAA), Government of India’s Ministry of Agriculture and Revitalization of Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN). The project is funded by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP), the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) and CSIRO.

The project introduces four previously tested tools or approaches (Box 1) into five established agricultural development programs across three states that collectively aim to empower 1.4 million Indian farmers in rainfed areas to optimise their water use.


The LWRM project builds capacity of staff in these outreach programs as a mechanism to influence uptake by individuals, programs and farmers. The overarching capacity that is being built is around effective water management in rainfed agriculture and the four components each deliver different aspects: The Virtual Irrigation Academy (VIA) is about strategic irrigation; Managed Aquifer Recharge through Village-level Intervention (MARVI) is about groundwater management; the climate risk component is about analysing and acting on climate risk (including rainfall); and the soil microbiology component is about optimising water use efficiency.

[Box 1] Four learning components of the LWRM project


This component was built from Climate Information Centres (CLICs) work in Andhra Pradesh as part of the Adapting to Climate Change in Asia project (ACCA). It focuses on measuring and understanding local conditions and acting according to the unfolding season and is delivered by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). It includes:

  • Tools to understand and analyse climate (historic, current and forecasted)
  • Analysing risk eg sowing decisions, irrigation decisions (cluster and village level)
  • Crop pattern analysis.


This component is about optimising water use and nutrient uptake in irrigated environments. It is delivered by CSIRO, based on the Virtual Irrigation Academy technology and learning approach developed in southern Africa. It includes:

  • Assessment of root-zone soil moisture using Chameleon sensors
  • Optimal/ strategic irrigation decisions
  • Decisions on extending cropping seasons based on soil moisture balances.


This component is about understanding the relationship between soil microbiology and water efficiency, representing a critical addition to predominant research on physical and chemical properties of soil. The component is delivered by CSIRO and is based on management-induced responses in soil biological function in rainfed (grains) and irrigated (cotton) cropping systems. It includes:

  • Participatory analysis of various bio-inputs, their effectiveness and standardisation
  • Participatory experimentation and learning on soil micro-biology and water use efficiency.


This component is about empowering village communities to monitor and manage groundwater resources more efficiently. It is delivered by Western Sydney University (WSU), building on their Managed Aquifer Recharge through Village-level Intervention (MARVI) activities in Rajasthan and Gujarat states in India. It includes:

  • Participatory mapping of aquifers and their characteristics
  • Delineating aquifer recharge areas
  • Participatory groundwater management

The project is formed around a series of learning workshops, followed by practical application for government and non-government organisations involved in outreach programs in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka, where these tools, technologies and training opportunities may not have previously been available.


Underpinning aims of these workshops are:

  • to facilitate transfer of relevant, applicable knowledge and tools in water management;
  • to promote practical experimentation and adaptive management; and
  • to support equitable access to knowledge and tools.


A key research outcome will be an improved understanding of how researchers can engage with (and design pathways towards) large outreach projects, to enhance uptake of promising research and development solutions. In this instance, capacity building is the primary pathway to anticipated impact. An additional outcome will be strengthened partnerships at multiple levels of the project; from local teams to organisations working in sustainable water management to Indian and Australian managers and funders.

Our Collaboration Team

Dr Uday Nidumolu

Project Leader

MS, Cambridge; PhD Wageningen, NL

Principal Research Scientist,

Climate Smart Agriculture, CSIRO


Climate risk management in commercial and small holder farming systems, over 25 years experience in India, UK, NL, France and Australia; over 100 publications

Dr Richard Stirzaker

Strategic Irrigation (VIA)

PhD, University of Sydney
Principal Research Scientist, Irrigation, CSIRO
Internationally renowned for his invention the ‘Chameleon’ sensors to monitor irrigation water in small holder farmers – 39 yrs exp with 25 years exp with small holder irrigators in Africa; International WatSave award in 2004

Dr Peter Hayman

Climate Risk Analysis

PhD, University of Sydney

Principal Scientist, Climate Applications, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)

Australasian representative on the UN-World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Expert Team; climate risk projects in southern India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the Philippines

Prof Basant Maheswari

Groundwater / Aquifer Management (MARVI)

Western Sydney University, Australia

Internationally acknowledged expert in ground water management with over 30 years experience- Managed Aquifer Recharge through Village-level Intervention (MARVI- World Bank funded); India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand; over 220 publications

Dr Gupta Vadakattu

Soil Micro-Biology

PhD University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Principal Research Scientist,

Soil Biological Fertility/Soil Microbiology, CSIRO

Genetic diversity, functional capability and resilience of soil biota in agricultural soils and functional microbial diversity of aquifer systems – in relation to Water Use Efficiency (WUE); over 30 years experience; over 200 publications . Globally acknowledged expert on soil biology

Our Project Team

Prachi D Patil

Project Coordinator

MSc, Water Science, and Technology
from Indian Agricultural Research Institute
Program Officer (Water Resource) at WASSAN, Hyderabad

A Ravindra

Executive Secretary, WASSAN

He has been working on the issues of rainfed agriculture. He has conceptualized and led several projects at WASSAN on drought adaptation/mitigation, watershed management, rainfed agriculture, livelihoods development, adaptation to climate change, and also some of the large scale government projects. He was a member of the Working Group of Natural Resource Management and Rainfed Farming for the 12th Five-year Plan and was a member of the drafting committees for the group for the 11th and 12th Five Year plans. He has a major contribution in evolving the national Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture (RRA) Network.

M.V. Ramachandrudu

Consultant, WASSAN

He has 30+ experience in development sector. His areas of experience and expertise include – natural resource management; water, watershed and WASH sectors. He is associated with WASSAN Group of Institutions in various capacities and roles, since 2000. He was member of Steering Committee for IWMP, DoLR, GoI. As part of his role in WASSAN, he is associated with various NGOs, large scale development projects and state governments and supported them in performing their roles effectively. He anchored several research studies and evaluations of natural resource management projects, watershed and water based projects, WASH projects. Currently, he is also pursuing his passion as scrap artist, ecopreneur and building tiny homes with recycled building materials.

Partner Programs and Expected Outreach

The Learning Water Resource Management project connects with five large-scale water-centric programs operating in three Indian states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha.

Andhra Pradesh Drought Mitigation Project (APDMP)

This aims to mitigate the adverse impacts of drought in dryland districts. It is supported by the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Andhra Pradesh Zero Budget Natural Farming (APZBNF)

This aims to enhance farmer welfare, consumer welfare and conservation of the environment through holistic alternatives to high-cost chemical inputs-based agriculture. It is supported by the Andhra Pradesh Department of Agriculture through the Rythu Sadhikara Samstha organisation.

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)

Its mission is to promote sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural development. In Karnataka, the NABARD’s watershed program aims to provide funds for rural infrastructure to enable long-term irrigation practices.

Special Programme for promotion of Integrated Farming (SPPIF)

The SPPIF in tribal areas of Odisha was launched in 2017 by Department of Agriculture & Farmers Empowerment, Government of Odisha. It aims for comprehensive development of Agriculture, Horticulture, Livestock and Fisheries in Rainfed areas. It was initiated in Malkangiri in 2017 targeting 20,000 HHs. It is now being expanded to another 4 districts covering another 100,000 households.

Special Programme for promotion of millets in tribal areas (Odisha Millets Mission (OMM)

The OMM was launched by Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment in 2017 to revive millets in farmers and plates. It is currently being implemented in 81 blocks covering 15 districts targeting 500,000 households.

Outreach Map

Anticipated farmer outreach for each partner program is summarised.

Andhra Pradesh Drought Mitigation Adaptation (APDMP)

~ 165k farmers

2 Learning Sites

Andhra Pradesh Community based Natural Farming (APCNF)

~ 500k farmers

3 Learning Sites

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) supported Watershed projects in Karnataka

~ 165k farmers

3 Learning Sites

Integrated Farming System (IFS)

~ 1000k farmers

2 Learning Sites

Odisha Millets Mission (OMM)

~ 500k farmers

2 Learning Sites

Staff from each of these programs to participate in the capacity building activities of the LWRM project (48 staff from across the five programs were nominated to participate in the project components; WASSAN staff also joined training).

These staff play an active role in testing and mainstreaming tools, approaches and practices into their respective ‘home programs’ (through the use of program ‘learning sites’) and will also be key to out-scaling these tools into larger water management programs and into respective farming communities.

Media Coverage

Increasing water availability and security for Indian smallholder farmers

Smallholders operating in rainfed agricultural systems in India are highly vulnerable to rainfall variability, with water a critical limiting factor in these regions. The activity aims to improve the livelihoods of 1.4 million farmers in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka by introducing improved water management and efficiency.

Water management tools, methods scaled out in India

A new project in India will upscale technical innovations from previous ACIAR research to assist water management and drought mitigation in India. Operating across the water-stressed regions of Odisha, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the new initiative will help farmers and rural communities who depend on rainfall better manage water resources to become more resilient to extreme weather events like drought.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send us a message

Dr Uday Nidumolu (Project Leader)


A. Ravindra, Director (WASSAN)


Ms. Prachi Patil, Program Officer (Water Resources)


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