This paper discusses an integrated approach for water resource management to improve rural livelihoods in the East India Plateau. This has involved linking hydrological, agronomic and social aspects to increase access to water, improve water use efficiency and develop capacity within the villages for better decision making regarding use of the available resources. To this end, the research adopted a participatory, action-learning approach, with villagers joining in developing research questions, executing experiments, collecting data and sharing in their interpretation, as well as planning intervention work designed to improve access to water, particularly in the early dry season. The focus of this paper is on the integration of the different aspects of water resource management, with particular emphasis on the social issues. This included working with women's self-help groups and village watershed committees, and specific efforts to engage women in research and related development activities. The result has been an improved capacity within the village for managing water resources, including improved self-perceptions as farmers (especially women), better understanding of the potential resources and any constraints (e.g. soil fertility) and knowledge of how to manage the constraints (e.g. fertilisers), as well as a better understanding of the social capacities within the village.

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