Making it count with the Hindustan Unilever Foundation

Image of a women farmer

The Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) was set up in 2010 to support and amplify scalable solutions that can help address India’s water challenges – specifically for rural communities that intersect with agriculture. HUF established its ‘Water for Public Good’ programme that is anchored in the belief that water is a common good and must be governed by citizen communities. The aim was to catalyse effective solutions to India’s water challenges involving the government, communities, experts, and mission-based organisations. Across diverse river basins and hydrogeological zones, three core pillars define HUF’s work with rural communities:

  • Know more : Build water numeracy to help quantify availability, budget, and allocate water use
  • Save more : Promote scientific citizen-led water conservation and governance efforts
  • Use less : Drive behaviour change for responsible water use in agriculture

Some key projects in 2020-21, under these three core pillars, included:

  • Know More : Frontline workers in MGNREGS (in Odisha) and agriculture extension workers (in Uttar Pradesh) were trained and equipped with planning tools, digital content, and data systems to help deliver water security to villages at a large scale in collaboration with our partners.
  • Save More : Local NGOs working on a large - scale programme for river rejuvenation in West Bengal were supported to effectively leverage MGNREGS resources, train panchayats and field functionaries on scientific watershed plans and monitor progress for timely departmental interventions.
  • Use Less : Behaviour change in water and input usage among farmers in major cropping systems like paddy in Punjab and sugarcane in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

HUF’s NGO partners effectively leverage the government’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, enabling communities to earn wages as they build water conservation infrastructures. This helps achieve water security and economic wellbeing for the rural communities. HUL’s water conservation efforts across the country also generated livelihoods for the community.

HUF also supports on-farm deployment of innovations to help farmers reduce their water usage in a cropping season, to make another cropping season viable for them. A combination of local cadres of frontline agronomists, large scale demonstrations of innovations and superior farm practices, the use of mobile-enabled advisory solutions and appropriate inputs are transforming the ecology as well as economy of programme villages, for the better.

By 2025, HUF aims to create an additional water potential of 1.5 trillion litres of water in India. This will be done through large scale water conservation programmes in partnership with reputed non-profit organisations and local governments. The Foundation will work with small landholding farmers to help them adopt judicious water use and regenerative practices to reap remunerative returns from agriculture. The foundation will focus on crop systems like rice, wheat, and sugarcane as they account for a significant proportion of India’s growing water demand.


The Foundation’s programmes currently reach 11,500 villages in 59 districts in 10 states and 2 union territories across India, in partnership with 19 NGO partners and multiple co-founders. HUF also supports several knowledge initiatives in water conservation and governance.

Through HUF’s initiatives, the cumulative and collective achievements delivered through partnered programmes in 2019-2020 include a water potential of over 1.3 trillion litres through improved supply and demand water management, an additional 1 million tonnes of agricultural and biomass production, and over 30 million person-days of employment. To underscore the importance of the water potential created by HUF; one billion litres of water can meet the drinking water needs of over 8 lakhs adults for an entire year.

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