Enhancing socio-ecological resilience and agricultural livelihoods in semi-arid India through integrated system research
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The Drylands of the South Asian region spans India, Pakistan and Afghanistan supporting more than 1.4 billion people, or one fifth of the World’s population. The South Asia region remains with the highest prevalence of malnutrition with some 336 million people chronically hungry, and stunting affecting >46 % of children in the 0-5 year age group. These regions receive low rainfall ranging from 280-670 mm per annum, are frequently affected by water scarcity which is exacerbated by deteriorating soil and water quality, weak policies and institutions, continuously decreasing landholding size, a burgeoning population to name a few. Land degradation affects 65 million people across 465,000 km2 in the region (CRP DS, 2013). In India for example, although food security is largely dependent on the smallholder farming sector, 84% of the landholdings are <2ha with livelihoods highly vulnerable to high climatic variability and market risk. Using limited water efficiently and effectively is the main challenge in this hot and dry region. Groundwater is a critical resource but in some areas, has been overexploited. Water tables are declining and water quality is poor. Irrigating crops with poor quality groundwater is exacerbating soil salinization across all vulnerable dryland areas. In areas where there are opportunities to raise productivity and intensify production, the challenges are the shortage of labor and ever-shrinking landholdings which are difficult to mechanize.