SPS believes that any effort at water conservation and harvesting is ineffective if it does not include attempts to regulate the end-uses to which water is put. Since agriculture accounts for over 80% of the water use, interventions for optimisation of water use in agriculture have to be an integral part of a watershed management programme. We have tried to work out a package of agricultural practices finely tuned to the resource endowments of the watershed, which is accessible to the poor (low-cost) and sustainable (low-risk). Through participatory crop trials, we have experimented with 81 improved varieties of 10 major crops of the area, which give good yields even with low external inputs. Of these we have short-listed over 40 varieties as appropriate for the farmers of the area. These varieties have been developed from the local germplasm by scientists working on-location across India’s drylands and are, therefore, well adapted to this challenging environment. Under our agricultural improvement programme we support a few carefully selected farmers to set up seed production plots for some of these varieties. SPS buys back seeds from these plots and then distributes them to farmers in the area.

From 2007 onwards SPS has been experimenting with the idea of No-Pesticide Management (NPM) agriculture as a way of further strengthening this low-cost, low-risk agricultural package. At present, over 3000 farmers are part of our NPM agriculture programme. Synthetic pesticide use in India has grown substantially since 1954. The liberal and continual use of synthetic pesticides (some of which are even banned in India) has disturbing consequences on human health and the farming system.

SPS has been working out low-cost, sustainable and climate-resilient agricultural packages for small and marginal farmers in rainfed dryland areas.