Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent

Evaluating Policy Coherence in Food, Land, and Water Systems

Evidence from India

January 2024 | Sustainable Water

Suggested citation: Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW); International Water Management Institute (IWMI). 2023. Evaluating policy coherence in food, land, and water systems: evidence from India. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI). CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies. 124p.


This report presents insights into the broader food, land, and water (FLW) policies landscape in India to guide policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders towards coherent and effective governance of natural resources. A policy coherence framework was developed and used to analyse the selected seven national policies covering FLW systems that had a combined average annual expenditure of INR 39,550 crore during the last three years.

It is recognised that there are key transitions in the policy landscape in India toward sustainable management of water resources and shifts in the agriculture production system towards climate-resilient practices. To address any tradeoffs of such transitions, the report highlights priorities for informing the key stages of the policy cycle and offers evidence-based recommendations to enhance policy coherence in FLW systems in India.

Key Highlights

  • Enabling mechanisms at all levels of governance, i.e. national, state, district, and sub-district, are required to better align the policy initiatives in the FLW systems. Also, strengthening the bottom-up vertical institutional coherence is important. Some analysed policies, such as on groundwater sustainability, water use efficiency, and rural employment, have prioritised bottom-up vertical institutional coherence.
  • Enhancing capacity-building in monitoring and evaluation and impact assessment of the policy interventions at the state level is required, considering states have differential capacities. Policies such as watershed development and river rejuvenation programmes consider building knowledge partnerships with national and international institutions as key enablers in capacity building.
  • Expanding multi-stakeholder participation to cover all the stages of the policy cycle (planning and formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and impact assessment) is crucial for sustaining the long-term impact created by the policy, going beyond the policy duration. Participatory governance and management of water, and land resources with a focus on community-led activities is important for the long-term sustainability of resource management initiatives.
  • Adequate attention to creating a holistic knowledge base is needed to integrate evidence-based policy insights and convergence of efforts to advance sustainable development. This requires bringing together datasets on all the relevant parameters of environmental, economic, and social change in integrated knowledge systems such as the case of Ganga Knowledge Centre. Further, the community's role is important to identify the outcome-based indicators for impact evaluation of the FLW policies.
  • Policy mechanisms need to be strengthened to enhance cross-learning among members of institutionalised committees concerned with the sustainability of FLW systems. Further, integration of policy responses to environmental, social, and economic uncertainties through regular revisions in policy guidelines, possibly every two years based on the evidence, is identified as crucial for policy coherence.


  • Why does India need to design coherent food, land and water policies?

    India needs to design coherent policies as it is crucial for taking adequate measures for advancing sustainability of water, food, and land systems. By identifying most suitable institutional arrangements, coordination mechanism, scope of convergence of efforts and resources, policy coherence acts as a major pathway to strengthen implementation and revitalise global partnerships for sustainable development.

  • What are some of the gaps in national policies when it comes to the interlinkages between food, land, and water (FLW) systems?

    The critical interlinkages among the food, land, and water (FLW) systems are complex and context-specific. There is a gap in the understanding of policy coherence in India, primarily due to the unavailability of adequate data at the sub-national level and there has been limited research on how policies governing one resource have deep implications for the other linked resources. Regular revisions of the policy guideline can lead to inclusion of the emerging policy-relevant evidences.

  • What is an evidence-based approach in policy-making?

    The evidence-based approach in policy-making is a method that is used for supporting policy decisions with policy-relevant evidences. Such evidences are collected through in-depth research, and consultations with key stakeholders. The evidence should be context-specific. The study on policy coherence has undertaken consultative approach to collect key evidence from the context of India on key lessons, and best practices to enhance coherence among national policies.

  • How can India develop better strategies to ensure coherence in food, land and water policies?

    To ensure the effectiveness of national policies and strategies, it is important to recognise mechanisms that enable the coherence in food, land and water policies. These range from developing outcome-based indicators, regularly monitoring progress on these indicators, recognise inclusion of the vulnerable social groups through their participation in the policy processes. These strategies strengthen synergies between policies and overcomes any points of incoherence.

  • How can community participation ensure the long-term sustainability of resource management initiatives?

    Community participation encourages on-ground actions, and continuation of the policy interventions beyond the duration of the policy. As the communities have diverse profile, the nature of the participation also varies. Community participation has led to sustainable outcomes of the policy initiatives, such as sustainable groundwater management, and are important for long-term sustainability of resource management, and judicious use of resources.

"One of our major findings from this study on policy coherence is that outcome-based impact assessment needs to be undertaken for policies, in addition to output-based evaluations. This will lead to long-term sustainability of policy interventions in the food, land, and water systems and make them climate resilient."

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