Participatory groundwater management is increasingly being recognised for its ability to address the challenges of equity, efficiency and sustainability. It can particularly help with effective engagement at the grassroots level for monitoring, recharging and managing the groundwater as a common pool resource. The main aim of this article is to discuss the training and management process used and the lessons learnt from a participatory groundwater management project, titled Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustainable Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention (MARVI). In this project, researchers, rural development facilitators and local villagers worked together to initiate participatory groundwater monitoring in 11 villages from the Dharta and Meghraj watersheds in Rajasthan and Gujarat, India. The study involved educating villagers through an intensive program of capacity building, wherein the villagers who participated in the program were called Bhujal Jaankars (BJs), a Hindi word meaning ‘groundwater informed’. The BJs were trained in their local settings through relevant theory and practical exercises, so that they could perform a geo-hydrological evaluation of their area, monitor groundwater and share their findings and experiences with their village community. The study has highlighted that with a well-designed program of capacity building and on-going support through training and nurturing, BJs can play an important role in monitoring watertable depth and other data for estimating groundwater recharge, leading to a sharing of the groundwater information with the local village community to influence the sustainable use of groundwater. Overall they can act as local champions for groundwater futures. Further, this study has demonstrated that BJ capacity building can help to provide a scientific basis for village level groundwater dialogue and assist village communities and other stakeholders to improve their decision making regarding groundwater use, crop selection, agronomy, recharge strategies and other aspects of sustainable groundwater management. Although the BJ program has been successful and BJs can act as a valuable interface between local communities and other stakeholders managed aquifer recharge activities, there still exists some challenges to the BJ programme, such as the need for mechanisms and funding sources that will sustain the BJs over the longer term; wider acceptance of BJs among scientific communities and policy makers; and the acceptance of the role and involvements of BJs in natural resources management programs of the State and Central governments in India.
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