Article written by Eshwer Kale published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) (Vol. 52, Issue No. 3 dated 21 Jan, 2017)
WOTR is a not-for-profit NGO founded in 1993 operating currently in 7 Indian states – Maharashtra, Telangana, Seemaandhra , Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha
WOTR is recognised widely as a premier institution in the field of participatory Watershed Development and Climate Change Adaptation. Its unique strength lies in its on-field experience and in a systemic, participatory approach.
WOTR was initiated to support a large-scale multi-actor, multi-level, multi-sectoral, community led watershed development program for poverty reduction called the Indo-German Watershed Development Program (IGWDP). It was launched in Maharashtra, India by Fr. Hermann Bacher, co-founder and Chairman of WOTR, and Crispino Lobo, co-founder and Managing Trustee.
WOTR’s mandate is to reduce poverty through mobilising the self help capacities of individuals and communities to regenerate the eco-spaces or watersheds they live in, harvest rain water wherever it falls, use it productively, undertake sustainable livelihoods and do whatever else it takes to get them out of poverty.
Aware of the fragility of ecosystems and our symbiotic link with it, WOTR has historically applied a systems-based approach to watershed development, focusing on people-centric participatory interventions. With more- than- normal weather variations now being experienced, WOTR has moved into Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EBA) – an emerging approach that helps vulnerable communities build resilience of their degraded ecosystems and livelihoods threatened by climate change impacts. This approach also generates significant multiple benefits – social, economic and cultural.
Since 2008, WOTR has been reorienting, re-organising and equipping itself with respect to focus, strategy and interventions in order to specifically address the challenges (and opportunities) posed by climate change to vulnerable rural communities. In the process, WOTR has introduced a bottom-up, holistic and integrated approach with appropriate interventions, towards Adaptation and Resilience Building.
Constantly learning from experience, we have been rethinking conventional development. We have introduced Systems Thinking and Complexity Analysis in program design and are developing strategies to incorporate these into action plans, leading to new tools and frameworks while adapting the existing ones. This helps us move to Framework-Based Management, in contrast to activity based project design and management.
Applied Research is a constant companion. The WOTR team, guided by experts, helps local communities become researchers – observing, measuring, and assessing for themselves not only problems but also the improvements that a project brings about. And having tested methodologies, WOTR disseminates the learning through Capacity Building Events to reach implementers and donors, far and wide, so as to benefit rural communities across India and countries in the South.
Today, the WOTR Group consists of 4 not-for-profit institutions – the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR); the Sampada Trust (ST) for women’s empowerment and micro-finance; Sanjeevani Institute for Empowerment and Development (SIED) which is the implementation wing of WOTR; and Sampada Entrepreneurship and Livelihoods Foundation (SELF) that has recently been set up to promote social enterprises and livelihoods.