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Improving livelihoods in dryland areas

People of Pampanur cluster are a happy lot with improved yields and incomes. They achieved this by giving attention to harvesting and conserving rain water, the most scarce resource in the region.
Farmers process groundnuts using a thresher
Farmers process groundnuts using a thresher

Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh lies in the rain shadow region of the state and suffers from frequent droughts. The district has only 10% of area under irrigation. Groundnut is the major crop accounting for over 75% of the cropped area. Other important crops are sunflower, pigeon pea, chickpea, rice and sorghum. The district suffers from very poor and erratic rainfall leading to frequent crop failures.To improve the rural livelihoods holistically by optimizing the use of natural and human capital, a project was conceived under the National Agricultural Innovation Project of the ICAR. The project was implemented in 8 backward districts of Andhra Pradesh, which includes Anantapur by a consortium of 10 institutions. As one of the project partners, BIRD-AP, an NGO implemented various activities in Pampanur cluster in Anantapur district.

The project followed the sustainable livelihoods framework adopted by DFID, which is based on the five capitals viz. human, natural, financial, social and physical capitals. The interventions were designed to address each of the capitals to bring about improvement in the livelihoods of the people in the selected disadvantaged clusters.

Pampanur cluster

Plastics used as mulch
Plastics used as mulch

Three villages in Pampanur cluster of Anantapur district were selected for project implementation. A participatory approach was followed in the project implementation. A detailed assessment of the existing situation with respect to farm and non-farm activities; constraints and opportunities for enhancing household income and livelihood security was carried out before designing the project interventions.More than 90% of the area is under rainfed conditions. Groundnut is the major crop in the cluster which occupies over 80% of the cropped area. The major source of irrigation is through wells. There are two tanks, which cater to the irrigation needs of paddy growers in the cluster. The extent of soil loss due to runoff is estimated at 6 tons /ha per year, while the extent of land degraded is 1.7% of the total geographical area.

A critical analysis of livelihood related problems was made, specific constraints identified and a problem-intervention matrix was prepared. Keeping in view the limitations of the agro ecology of the cluster, project interventions were designed to augment the natural resource base to encourage profitable farming. Besides, productivity enhancement of groundnut, the major crop of the cluster, was addressed through a systematic plan involving seed replacement, nutrient management and mechanization of post harvest operations.

Conserving water leads to crop diversification

Landless women take up ramlamb rearing
Landless women take up ramlamb rearing

About 30% of the total geographical area was treated with soil and moisture conservation measures. The major focus was on developing and implementing initiatives to harvest rainwater and enhance water productivity. The project facilitated digging of farm ponds, mini percolation tanks and continuous contour trenches along with block plantation on wastelands.There has been significant change in groundwater level. Farmers were guided to use the groundwater judiciously. The area under irrigation has increased.

Use of water efficient methods like sprinklers and drip irrigation systems are encouraged. This was possible by converging with development programmes such as Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project (APMIP) and National Horticulture Mission (NHM). The custom hiring centers set up at Pampanur have been facilitating easy access to sprinkler sets and pipelines, which are in great demand among farmers.

There is increase in crop diversification. Farm ponds have acted as a catalyst in changing and diversifying the cropping pattern. Farmers have included new, less water demanding crops like vegetables and musk melon.

Improving groundnut productivity

Groundnut is the major crop in the district and is predominantly cultivated in the cluster. However, farmers have been cultivating varieties without replacing the seeds for several years. As a result, the productivity is very low (<1000 kg/ha). Since the livelihood of the farm and non-farm families depended on groundnut crop, it was decided to address low productivity of groundnut by encouraging farmers to change their seeds in favour of the high yielding ones. A participatory varietal selection initiative was undertaken as the first step during rabi 2007 and kharif 2008. High yielding varieties such as CVS, Narayani, K-6, ICGV-91114 were tried out by farmers. Due to consistent high yield, K-6 was largely accepted by farmers.

To facilitate seed production locally, few farmers having irrigation access were identified and trained as seed producers in collaboration with the local Agriculture University. Over 30 farmers were trained as seed producers and 177 tonnes of seed was produced during the project period. A buy-back arrangement of seed was initiated. The agriculture research station in Anantapur and Kadiri bought the groundnut seeds from the farmers at a mutually agreed price.

Supportive arrangements such as storage space, seed treatment etc., were made so that the seeds produced during rabi season could be used during kharif on a large scale. Over the years, farmers have developed capacity to negotiate with the research stations and are able to produce and sell the seeds to the research stations. This has helped in augmenting supply of high yielding varieties of groundnut to the cluster.

Due to seed replacement and a host of other good cultivation practices, such as timely sowing, maintaining optimum plant population, in situ harvesting of rainwater, protective irrigation through harvested rainwater, pest and disease management and integrated nutrient management, the average yield of groundnut increased by around 100 to 150 q/ha.

Landless, not neglected

Dhaincha, a promising green manure crop in drylands

An experiment was conducted in one of the farmers land in Pampanur Thanda to understand the impact of green manuring on yield and biomass, under dry land conditions. Soil samples were collected randomly from the fields for analysing soil nutrient levels and organic carbon. The green manure crops (Dhaincha and Cowpea) were grown in the plot. It was incorporated in the soil by ploughing before attaining the flowering stage. Further the land was left undisturbed for 26 days for decomposition of green manure. The K-6 groundnut variety was grown in all the treatment plots on same day. The plant population in Dhaincha green manure plot has shown 57% more plant population over cowpea and 32% more over control plot. The dry weight of ground nut was 73% more (467 kg/ha) and dry weight of fodder was 12 % more (166 kg/ha) over the control plot. Plots with green manuring recorded 17.24% more Phosphorus (P2O5) and 3.55 % more Potash (K2O) in soil analysis. Dhaincha as a green manure crop holds a lot of promise under dry land conditions.

The landless were not left out in the development process. A group of landless women were trained in preparing vermicompost. They were helped in setting up a community vermicomposting unit with support of seed money. The group produced 5 tons of vermicompost and earned an income of Rs 15,000/-.

Another group of nine women took up diary as an activity. They purchased 17 calves ranging between 6 months to 12 months of age during the year 2008 with a total investment of Rs.1,50,000/-. They were trained in calf rearing and its management practices.

The drought during the year 2009 was particularly challenging, as there was acute fodder shortage during the following summer. The group members were encouraged to cultivate fodder by accessing private land on lease. The group cultivated fodder sorghum, guinea grass and horsegram to supplement feed resources.

Of the nine, 5 women continue to pursue dairy farming while the remaining four, sold the pregnant cows and realized lumpsum profits.

Sheep and goat play an important role as supplementary source of income for the landless and resource poor farmers. Considering this, ram lamb rearing was promoted as an enterprise. Landless, marginal farmers and the poor women headed families in Pampanur cluster were selected. The capital required for procuring the ram lambs was provided through a revolving fund vested with the Salaha Samithi which was promoted as a grassroots community institution. The loan amount availed by participants ranged from Rs.2,000/- to Rs.5,000/-. These households contributed 10% of the cost as margin money for buying the lambs.

A total of 91 households availed benefit through this intervention in three phases. Ram lambs were reared till the age of 6-7 months and were sold at an average of Rs.4,500/-. The average net returns was Rs.2,500/- per animal. Around 1/3 of the households continued with ram lamb rearing, while a fifth of them ploughed back the profits as working capital for their agriculture needs. During the second phase, the households were encouraged to avail insurance for their animals in convergence with the Department of Animal Husbandry, through its Pasu Kranti Scheme.


Final Report, Sustainable Rural Livelihoods through Enhanced Farming System Productivity and Efficient Support Systems in Rainfed Areas, published by CRIDA, Hyderabad, 2012.

P G Patil, B Shivarudrappa and B K Kakade

BAIF Institute for Rural Development- Andhra Pradesh
H.No: 9-6-173, Ground Floor, Durga Bhavani Nagar Colony,
Road No. 2, Santhosh Nagar
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh – 500 079
E-mail: panditg2003@gmail.com; baif_ap@rediffmail.com