A Smallholder Socio-hydrological Modelling Framework

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Saket Pande1, Hubert Savenije1 and Pradeep Rathore2, (1)Delft University of Technology, Delft, 5612, Netherlands, (2)Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
Small holders are farmers who own less than 2 ha of farmland. They often have low productivity and thus remain at subsistence level. A fact that nearly 80% of Indian farmers are smallholders, who merely own a third of total farmlands and belong to the poorest quartile, but produce nearly 40% of countries foodgrains underlines the importance of understanding the socio-hydrology of a small holder.

We present a framework to understand the socio-hydrological system dynamics of a small holder. It couples the dynamics of 6 main variables that are most relevant at the scale of a small holder: local storage (soil moisture and other water storage), capital, knowledge, livestock production, soil fertility and grass biomass production. The model incorporates rule-based adaptation mechanisms (for example: adjusting expenditures on food and fertilizers, selling livestocks etc.) of small holders when they face adverse socio-hydrological conditions, such as low annual rainfall, higher intra-annual variability in rainfall or variability in agricultural prices. It allows us to study sustainability of small holder farming systems under various settings.

We apply the framework to understand the socio-hydrology of small holders in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. This district has witnessed suicides of many sugarcane farmers who could not extricate themselves out of the debt trap. These farmers lack irrigation and are susceptible to fluctuating sugar prices and intra-annual hydroclimatic variability. This presentation discusses two aspects in particular: whether government interventions to absolve the debt of farmers is enough and what is the value of investing in local storages that can buffer intra-annual variability in rainfall and strengthening the safety-nets either by creating opportunities for alternative sources of income or by crop diversification.