Accompanying The adaptation of irrigated agriculture to climate CHAnge



Financeur du programme

programme international


Agriculture is increasingly relying on groundwater irrigation. The Indian context is an extreme case: the “groundwater revolution” which started three decades ago and induced a well identified “groundwater crisis” with tremendous impacts on water resources and ecosystems, is the result of millions of very small farmers owning individual borewells, with a large diversity of practices and strategies. Groundwater depletion is expected to worsen with climate change. Thus, it is critical to develop reliable and practical methods for assessing the sustainability of agricultural systems under climate change. The ATCHA project aims to combine an integrated biophysical model with a participatory approach to help adapt farming systems to climate change in a network of experimental watersheds in Southern India.

A wide variety of models have been developed for ex-ante evaluation of management policies or assessment of the impacts of land-use changes. They are commonly used to support decision making by stakeholders through participatory approaches. However, the models rarely represent both the complex biophysical processes at stake in agricultural watersheds and the farmer adaptation strategies to changes. Consequently, these models are not able to adequately account for the spatial and temporal interactions and feedback between these two components. Through a unique trans-disciplinary approach, involving hydrologists, geochemists, soil scientists, agronomists, geographers, economists and sociologists with a strong participation of Indian scientists and stakeholders, we aim at demonstrating the ability of researchers and stakeholders to share knowledge for building together and assess scenarios of sustainable development of agriculture.

The ATCHA project is based on (1) a 15 years partnership through the International Joint Laboratory “Indo-French Cell for Water Sciences” (IFCWS, involving the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) (2) a Critical Zone Observatory (ORE BVET) which has built an extensive hydro-geochemical database in the Berambadi experimental watershed and (3) a preliminary version of an integrated model combining hydrology (AMBHAS), agronomy (STICS), economy (MoGire) and farmer decision (Namaste) that was developed for the Berambadi in a former Indo-French project (IFCPAR AICHA, 2013-2016). The ATCHA project will complement the Sujala III project (2014-2019), led by the Karnataka Watershed Department and in which IFCWS takes part in the coordination of the hydrological monitoring carried out in 14 experimental watersheds across the Karnataka state.

The project is composed of 3 challenging work packages: i) development of novel methodologies to gather information on soils and land use at high spatial and temporal resolution by using both ground and multi-satellite data ii) provide a realistic biophysical model based on a thorough study of nutrient cycles in tropical irrigated agro-systems iii) development of a participatory approach to build and assess scenarios of adaptation to climate change. WP1 and 2 will provide information that will sustain the scenario construction in WP3. WP3 will provide integrated assessment of scenarios and feedback to WP1 and 2 for an iterative process.

The ATCHA project is expected to produce significant scientific advances on the functioning of agro-hydrosystems under high anthropogenic pressure. It will also have a strong socio-economic impact, particularly in improving the relevance of public policies and of advice given to farmers by extension services.


The objective of the ANR project ATCHA (“good!” in Hindi) is to implement an Integrated Modelling and Assessment approach with stakeholders to co-build and assess scenarios of sustainable development of agriculture in Karnataka in the context of climate change. The strength of the project is to build on the truly trans-disciplinary Indo-French consortium described above, involving hydrologists, geochemists, soil scientists, agronomists, geographers, economists and sociologists and seize the opportunity given by the links developed with the Sujala-III project to expand this consortium to additional Indian partners including scientists, extension service engineers and stakeholders.


This project is based on two main scientific hypotheses derived from the experience gained during the CEFIPRA project 1) in hard-rock aquifers, management of groundwater resources in a changing climate must take into account spatial interactions and feedback between biophysical and socio-economic drivers influencing farmer decisions 2) integrated models and scenarios are boundary objects that can help, through participatory processes, bridging the gaps between the knowledge produced, used and needed both by scientists and stakeholders and allow envisioning possible sustainable futures.


Using integrated assessment approaches (s.l.) for natural resource management is not novel, and a large body of literature already exists. Integrated Assessment (IA) is a trans-disciplinary and participatory process that involves many actors with divergent interests (hereby called stakeholders), at different levels of action (IAASTD, 2009) and enables better understanding of complex phenomena by combining, interpreting, and communicating knowledge from diverse scientific disciplines (Rotmans and Asselt, 1996). Different integrated assessment methods have been used to address water-management problems (Pahl-Wostl and Borowski, 2007). Model-based methods quantitatively describe causal relationships and interactions among system components (Jakeman and Letcher, 2003; Parker et al., 2002). They use Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) consisting of coupled “disciplinary” modules (Tol and Velinga, 1998) and scenario analysis (Van der Sluijs, 2002), to assess performances of different interventions in social–ecological systems according to possible futures (Enfors et al., 2008) and related uncertainty (Valkering et al., 2011). They has been extensively used for issues related to agriculture (e.g. Ewert et al., 2009), land use (Audsley et al., 2006), and especially climate change (e.g. Moss et al., 2010). Participatory methods favour decision-maker and stakeholder participation in the assessment and decision-making process (Reed, 2008). Complex socio-ecological issues may require methods that combine both approaches. Indeed, complex water issues require the collaboration of policy makers, experts, lay persons and researchers (Newig et al., 2008), and to understand such situations where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decision urgent”, Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993) explain that society and science must move forward together through dialogue.

ATCHA takes the challenge of implementing such “research-oriented partnerships” or “intervention research” (“Mode III” in Hatchuel, 2001), in which scientists are in charge of creating boundary objects (e.g. maps, numerical or conceptual models, role playing games) and collective action processes that enable stakeholders to deal with their specific natural-resources management problem. ATCHA aims at bringing science into the action process, typically with approaches from the “Sciences of Design” (e.g. Martin et al., 2012; Nassauer and Opdam, 2008).

The proposing team has an acknowledged expertise in developing methodological frameworks for the representation of drivers including the use of modeling within scenario approaches (eg. March et al. 2012 ; Leenhardt et al., 2012, Moreau et al., 2013; Murgue et al. 2015) and implementing and analyzing foresight experiences involving farmers and question participatory settings (Richard-Ferroudji et al., 2013, Faysse et al., 2014, van Klink et al., forthcoming).


Coordinateurs: Samuel Corgne