DCM Shriram Foundation, supported by DCM Shriram, and Sattva Knowledge Institute, a knowledge platform for the impact ecosystem, have launched a report titled ‘Transforming Crop Cultivation: Advancing Water Efficiency in Indian Agriculture’ to identify actionable solutions to address the ongoing water crisis in the Indian agriculture sector.

According to the report, agriculture today accounts for 90 per cent of the water withdrawals in India. Within the agriculture sector alone, irrigation uses 84 per cent of the country’s water reserves, followed by domestic and industrial sectors.

Water index

The report recommends the implementation of a ‘Water Index’ to enable science-based business and policy decisions.

To effectively guide decision-making at all levels towards the adoption of a particular water efficient solution in a specific local agriculture ecosystem, it is imperative to integrate scientific insights and data analysis into the decision making process. Although many significant water-based indices exist today, there is a need for the development of a non-partisan, science and data led, publicly accessible water index, it said.

This recommendation suggests establishing such an index delving into multiple layers of data, encompassing spatial, water, and crop-related metrics, among others. This comprehensive index would consolidate diverse data parameters, serving as a reliable resource for various stakeholders in the ecosystem. Initiatives such as Agristack would further enhance data availability at a granular level throughout India for feeding into the index, it said.

In another recommendation, the report suggested the development of a public tool that can offer tailored techniques and practices contextualised to local agricultural ecosystems. By providing personalised recommendations aligned with the unique characteristics of each ecosystem, the aim is to empower industry players, policy, and smallholder farmers to make informed decisions, driving sustainable practices at the grass-roots level.

Collaborative action

The report also recommended the development of a model for collaborative action among essential stakeholders in the ecosystem, including government entities, to encourage joint commitments to harness the industry’s capabilities to promote greater adoption of water-efficient practices in agriculture. This framework aims to facilitate collective learning and advocacy efforts.

Debaranjan Pujahari, Principal and Head, Agriculture Practice Area, Sattva Knowledge Institute, said: “India is the most populous and the most water-stressed agrarian economy in the world. Our food security demands the production of water-intensive crops, exerting pressure on our water resources. Driving on-farm water efficiency in agriculture is the need of the hour if we want to avert the impending water crisis in India.”

Aman Pannu, Vice President, Corporate Communications and CSR and President, DCM Shriram Foundation, said: “Our findings highlight the urgent need for collective action and innovation to safeguard our water resources while ensuring food security for all. We believe that by leveraging science, data, and strategic collaboration, we can drive transformative change and build a sustainable future for generations to come.”

The report sheds light on the intrinsic link between water and agriculture, emphasising the challenges posed by cultivating water-intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane.

The report brings together insights from more than 50 public reports and over 40 sectoral experts to present three focused, actionable recommendations to scale water efficiency in agriculture.