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.
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.
Since its inception in 1993, WOTR has carried out developmental work in over 3,594 villages in seven states - Maharashtra, Telangana, Seemaandhra , Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha (Orissa). It has organized over 1,992 watershed development (which are also climate adaptation projects), covering nearly 1,329,688 hectares and impacting over 1,815,593 people. Its involvement in over 10,258 women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs), micro-finance, trainings and other initiatives have benefitted over 130,119 women. Similarly, over 350,000+ people from 27 states in India and 62 countries have participated in WOTR’s Training and Capacity Building programs.
Maharashtra suffers recurrent spells of drought. A drought during the rabi season in 2011-2012 extended to rabi 2012-13 making it one of the worst droughts in Maharashtra affecting domestic needs, agriculture, livestock, and livelihoods of millions.