Reviving millet-based cropping systems, releasing new climate-resilient varieties, improving water use efficiency, and encouraging allied agri-activities are among several measures being proposed to accelerate the growth of rainfed agriculture in the country as per a draft policy.

The National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), under the Ministry of Agriculture, has proposed a new policy for accelerating the growth of rainfed agriculture through a comprehensive approach to combating climate change, securing livelihoods, and improving nutrition. The proposed policy is expected to design programmes specifically for rainfed agriculture, which accounts for 55 per cent of the net sown area of 139.42 million hectares, and supports about 61 per cent of the farmers in the country.

Rainfed agriculture contributes to around 40 per cent of the total foodgrain production. About 85 per cent of nutri-cereals, 83 per cent of pulses, 70 per cent of oilseeds, and 65 per cent of cotton are grown in rainfed conditions. Rain-dependent agriculture supports two-thirds of livestock and 40 per cent of the human population.

Enhancing investment

Among other measures proposed in the policy include improving cropping systems and practices in rainfed agriculture, promoting integrated farming systems and integrated livelihood systems, improving farm power and mechanisations, besides promoting efficient natural resource management in rain-fed agriculture and measures to minimise soil degradation and restoring/rehabilitating degraded soils.

The proposed policy has also called for measures to enhance investment ability and financial security of the farmers by improving the institutional credit availability and introducing comprehensive insurance and weather based instruments for rainfed farmers. It also suggests encouraging allied agri-activities besides establishing bio-economy in rainfed regions through promotion of secondary agriculture activity. It also lays emphasis on improving infrastructure and organisations enhance farmers’ capacity to capture value, encourage private sector investment in rainfed regions and promote sustainable practices.

The policy also calls for improving the knowledge transfer in rainfed regions, strengthen extension services, leverage information and communication technology, create data monitoring, management and analytics infrastructure for effective decision making besides creating an institutional framerwork for accelerating the accelerated growth in rain-fed agriculture.

As the comprehensive development of rainfed areas is not limited to agriculture and allied sectors alone, the policy also stresses upon the need for closely associated interventions and programmes of other sectors such as Water Resources, Rural Development, Panchayat Raj, Tribal Welfare, Environment and Forests, Science and Technology, Medium and Small Scale Enterprises, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Energy and Power, Skill Development, NITI Aayog among others. Further, for proper co-ordination and cohesive development approach, the policy has suggested creation of a national level committee consisting of officials from various ministries and agencies such as NRAA NABARD, NCDC, SFAC among others.