While the extreme agrarian distress could be a generalised rural crisis affecting the Indian sub-continent, the burden has fallen disproportionately on small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and rural labourers, particularly those in the drier tracts. The district of Anantapur and parts of adjoining Chittoor are among the poorest and most backward parts of Andhra Pradesh. The economy of the region is by and large (rain fed) agriculture based, with more than 70% of the population dependent directly on agriculture for their livelihoods. With rainfall becoming more erratic and sparse over recent years, this rain shadow region now lives within a context of continuous drought. The breakdown of traditional systems of diversified agriculture (agriculture - animal husbandry) and the inter-linkages of commons, agriculture and animal husbandry production systems have further compounded the crisis, leading to extreme levels of agricultural distress, indebtedness and alarmingly high incidences of farmer suicides.
The principal objective of this project is to improve rural livelihoods in distress by building the resilience of farming systems, strengthening local governance of natural resources and diversifying rural livelihood strategies. The project is based on the grounded knowledge that interventions to address the problem of resource degradation need to be based on the reinforcement of the various inter-linkages in an ecosystem - soil, nutrients, water, biomass and biodiversity; and agriculture, animal husbandry and forests. Under the project, efforts are directed towards regenerating degraded lands and water bodies (both common and private) which will have an expected impact on agricultural productivity and animal husbandry, and towards strengthening processes of improved management of natural resources to achieve an optimal balance between the resource potential, production factors and utilisation patterns at sub-regional and community levels. Vulnerability of landless and marginal farmers would be moderated by diversifying farming and other livelihood options so as to strengthen their subsistence, increase incomes and provide additional opportunities for local employment.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)
under the Distress Districts Programme