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Rain Fed Agriculture

After completion of the APDAI project, several pilot activities were taken up for upscaling through different projects. There were several ongoing initiatives involving Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in Natural Resource Managament (NRM). From 2009 onwards, these initiatives were continued, along with upscaling process of APDAI initiatives and the larger initiative to pursue the policy advocacy on Rainfed Farming. This initiative includes pilot based action research in few locations and policy analysis and advocacy at national level. The earlier agenda involving CBOs in NRM, supported by Hivos, is integrated into this larger agenda for rainfed areas, supported by Ford Foundation. The national level workshop hosted by WASSAN in collaboration with ICAR in New Delhi in September 2007 (see, clearly brought out the inequity in the quantum of public investments in the rainfed and irrigated Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture areas. It has also underlined the need to mobilize larger public investments for broadbasing the successful experimental pilot initiatives related to rainfed agriculture, and eventually for a policy-based packaging for a new and more relevant paradigm. With the subsequent efforts, a ‘Working Group on Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture’ was constituted in August 2009, as a Network of civil society organisations, researchers, campaigns and interested individuals across the country. A consensus was emerged with regard to the need to articulate such a framework, with broad agreement on how to take the agenda forward; It is functioning as a non exclusive group, taking organizations, institutions, across the board, for strengthening the agenda related to rainfed areas. As Secretariat, WASSAN is coordinating the activities of the RRA Network.

Over 60 Organizations across the country, including ACWADAM, Aga Khan Rural Supporting Program (AKRSP), CHIRAG, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Chetna, Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS), Central India Initiatives (CInI), Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Gene Campaign, Pradan, Satvik, Sevamandir, Sahjeevan, Samaj Pragathi Sahayog (SPS), Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR) are part of this RRA Network. Research Institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Central Research Institute for Dryland Areas (CRIDA), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Directorate of Oil Research (DOR), Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), Xavier Institute for Management, Bhubaneshwar (XIMB) etc are also involved. A research unit is established under the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, in Jawaharlal Nehru Univeristy, New Delhi. The Centre for Budget Governance and Analysis (CBGA), New Delhi, is providing support for analysing the budget allocations and investments in rainfed areas.

In a phased manner, the network is focusing on working in following thematic areas related to broader canvas of rainfed agriculture issues. These include; macro economic analysis, soil health and conservation, land use and common lands, cropping patterns and food security issues, seed and other inputs, water resources and irrigation, agricultural research and extension, crop-livestock interactions, credit and financial services and markets etc.

At the ground level, the Network has made efforts to document lessons from field experiences related to soils, seeds, water, millets, fisheries, livestock and other themes. Write-shops for organized in this regard for experiences in Millets, Soil Fertility and Water related issues. Thematic analytical cases were developed based upon the proven field experiences. At the other end, large scale field experiences are being generated through fresh pilots. The upscaling and continuation of APDAI experiences belongs to such efforts. Comprehensive pilots are undertaken, in some selected locations across the country, with a focus to bring together the thematic areas embedded into the mainstream government programs. Such pilots are taken up in different locations, involving different functional nodes, established with RRA partners.

A comprehensive pilot program was grounded under the ambit of RRA Network, with six partner organizations undertaking various initiatives related to improvement in soil health, in 10 different locations across the country. These pilots aim to evolve specific measures and incentives for farmers to add atleast 2 tonnes of organic matter annually per acre of rainfed land. A package of 10 modules were developed, indicating various ways in which organic matter can be added to the soils. These are intended for training to the rainfed farmers in pilot locations. This functional node is being anchored by Chetana Organic and WASSAN, in partnership with WOTR, Pradhan, SPS and CHIRAG, with scientific advice from CRIDA.

Another node for seed systems is being anchored by CIKS and Satvik. It would build a case and vouch for suitable investments for incubating local organizations for development, production and distribution of locally adapted seeds for diversified crops. Another comprehensive pilot program, for extensive ‘protective irrigation’ for large number of rainfed farmers in an appropriate water management regime, is being anchored by ACWADAM, Pune. The other functional nodes are; Srijan for Millets, Rainfed Livestock Network, anchored by FES, for Livestock related issues. The fisheries related agenda is being anchored by WASSAN as Secretariat for RRA network.

For influencing the policy space, the network has organized several consultations on policy issues; Several constituents of the network have engaged with different working groups and steering committees set up for the 12th Five Year Plan.

Efforts in Andhra Pradesh
These efforts broadly related to the upscaling and broadbasing the earlier initiatives of WASSAN, as part of APDAI and strengthening the CBOs in NRM related activites, which were already discussed in earlier sections. The specific efforts under RRA are outlined here;

Promoting and Strengthening CBOs in NRM related activities

By 2011, Mushrifa watershed in Kosgi Mandal being anchored by Kosigi Mandal Mahila Samkahya, in Mahabubnagar district, has reached Full Implementation Phase (FIP). Promotion of Non Pesticidal Management was taken up in Redgram crop in nearly 500 acres, in selected villages in the district. Several of the livestock related initiatives are continued in Mahabubnagar and Anantapur districts. Discussions are going on with Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) to evolve a larger program titled ‘Livestock for Poor’. The program is in the conceptual stage and may be grounded in about 300 mandals of the state with SERP support. WASSAN is providing support to analyse the database and to design the strategies for SERP.

Partnerships are being established with AP Sheep and Goat Rearers Federation to organize the communities and also to design several activities related to sheep and goat development. The work related to Small Ruminants on the platforms of Mandal Mahila Samkhyas is continued and several activities were undertaken.

Series of meetings were held with Director, Animal Husbandry on streamlining the livestock vaccination services through CBOs. They are willing to take up work in tribal areas in this model, but it is not yet crystallized. Several Livestock related initiatives are going on in Mahabubnagar and Anantapur District. These include; strengthening goat rearers, easing bullock constraints for poor, promoting back yard poultry and community managed livestock insurance etc.

Rainfed Land Development Program (RLDP)

In 2010, WASSAN facilitated the completion of RLDP plans for 100 villages in Mahabubnagar and Anantapur districts. The works under these plans were sanctioned under MGNREGA. A total of 147 farmers groups were formed in 43 villages, with 116 groups started savings. These groups are federated at Mandal level and a process for forming a Cooperative with these farmers is on. As the priorities and strategies changed in state administration, the RLDP approach was not implemented in toto. Though the physical works were integrated into the MGNREGA, the strengthening of institutional and production systems were not given enough emphasis. Efforts were made to resolve this with proposing convergence cell at state and district level. Meetings were held with Commissioner, Rural Development, but not yielded desired results. Another effort is being made to push this approach under the Rashtriya Kisan Vikas Yojana (RKVY), along with Agriculture Department of Andhra Pradesh and NABARD funded watersheds.

Upscaling different initiatives under various program

Several activities are being upscaled in other programs of WASSAN like – WDF and IGWDP Watersheds, National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) etc. These initiatives include; System of Rice intensification, Participatory Deccani Sheep Breed Improvement, Community Managed Livestock Health Services, Network based Backyard Poultry and Community Managed Inland fisheries etc. The details of such upscaling processes were discussed earlier in sections related to respective programs. A partnership was established with Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), Commissioner- Fisheries department, Commissioner- Rural Development Department, National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) to facilitate the convergence project for enhancing fish production in small water bodies of rainfed areas. The project is being implemented in 300 tanks in Mahabubnagar, Karimnagar, Khammam districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The deteriorating health of soils owing to overuse of fertilisers and the low investment in rainfed regions has led to a stagnation in Indian agriculture- both irrigated and rainfed. Rainfed regions need appropriate and substantial investment, but not just in the form of chemical fertilisers. It is crucial to invest in the addition of organic matter to rejuvenate soils and improve their capacity to hold water, improve soil structure, support soil life and as well supply nutrients to plants.

Erratic monsoons in rainfed regions require repeat sowing and contingency crops. The terrain in rainfed areas also requires hardy seeds that can weather these constraints. Diversification is key to survival and there is a range of seeds, including indigenous varieties that perform well in such conditions. Yet the seed industry has little space for such seeds.

Livelihoods in rainfed areas depend on the window of rainfall during the monsoon. But due to the impact of climate change, rainfall is erratic and many areas need buffers to take them through dry spells. The major challenge in tackling the water crisis in rainfed areas is protection, conservation and intelligent use of water resources. Water for many and water to secure livelihoods must be the premise for public investment on water in rainfed areas.

The conscious pursuit of an agricultural policy since the 1960s to meet national food security with paddy and wheat has led to a decline in millet production and consumption. Besides reducing crop diversity, this shift has caused nutritional imbalances, persistent food insecurity and hunger in rainfed areas. Millets need to be brought back into local production and consumption, at least in areas where they have been traditionally grown.

India has traditionally had a rich base of inland fishery resources in the form of rivers and canals, reservoirs, tanks and ponds, producing a range of indigenous species. In rainfed areas, developing fisheries alongside agriculture can supplement farmers' incomes, distribute risk and improve nutrition. This approach encourages farmers to restore or create local water bodies that also provide irrigation and scope for horticulture.

Livestock has been an integral part of rainfed farming, playing a key role in recycling nutrients, providing draught power and generating a capital base for farmers. However, the lack of support systems for the diverse livestock in rainfed regions has led to high mortality among animals and low productivity. Yet, there is potential for growth and livelihoods in rainfed areas through small ruminants and other livestock.

Rainfed farmers survive on a diversity of crops, animals, natural resources and livelihoods, mainly as a measure of managing risk. Narrowly focused credit and other services that are oriented towards single crops or single animal types increase the perception of risk and make banks reluctant to invest in rainfed areas. Appropriate institutional systems designed for rainfed regions need to be evolved.