Rainfed agriculture accounts for over 50% of food grain production and roughly 60% of the value of agricultural GDP in the country (when rainfed crops, horticulture, livestock and fisheries are included) (CRIDA,2011). About 60% of total cropped area,48% of the area under food crops and 68% of that under non-food crops remains rainfed today. Besides crops, rainfed agro-ecological regions are also home to 78% of the cattle population and 75% of the goats in the country (Planning Commission, 2011b).
In spite of the larger production contribution, (especially in pulses, millets and oilseeds), rainfed areas do not receive much policy attention. The very design of agriculture policies and programs excludes much of the rainfed areas. Larger scale conversion of households in traditional rainfed areas from consumption of millets to rice/ wheat aided by public procurement and subsidized distribution of rice/ wheat through PDS – is a striking example of this anomaly.
Natural resource base in rainfed areas is fragile – with varying and often low soil depths and poor quality with undulations, highly variable rainfall patterns, aquifers that may not sustain intensive exploitation diverse crop systems that integrate livestock systems and variability, household consumption patterns that are based on diverse millets, pulses, etc. Promotion of inappropriate intensified agriculture aided by public investments and expenditure on the lines of green revolution in these regions has caused substantial damage in terms of collapse of aquifers, soil degradation, ecological disasters, crop failures causing agriculture distress etc. There is an urgent need to reconfigure the nature, amount and delivery of public investments in rainfed agriculture to address these critical problems issues.