Scaling Rainfed Agriculture Adaptation Projects in India
Source: Flickr (ADB)

In India, rainfed agriculture accounts for over 40 percent of food production. With its high vulnerability to changing climate patterns and weather fluctuations, the increasing rate of climate change threatens India’s rainfed agricultural sector and the millions of people it supports.

There are numerous initiatives across India that seek to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change in this sector, but the scaling of these projects remains a crucial challenge.  A recent report published by the World Resources Institute and co-funded together with the Swiss Agency for Development, Scaling Success: Lessons from Adaptation Pilots in the Rainfed Regions of India, argues that in order to effectively tackle climatic change in rainfed areas there is a need to shift from these small-scale adaptation activities and projects to those that help more people and will lead to policy reform. The aim of the report is to accelerate the upscaling of these projects by providing a framework for project implementers, funding agencies, and policy makers to understand the process and identify activities that can be scaled up in rainfed areas in India.

A successful case study from the report is the Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative (APDAI). This project targeted 42 villages, each with an average of 95 households, in two of Andhra Pradesh’s driest districts. Overall, the project initiated and supported 19 agricultural activities that support adaptation to climate change. These included crop, soil, livestock, and pest management, as well as water conservation activities. Crop management activities, for example, included the promotion of crop diversification, soil improvement activities, application of non-pesticide management, the development of village seed banks, and the promotion of millet into the Government Public Distribution System (PDS). The project also supported farmers socially through convening self-help groups that work with farmers to manage, implement, and assess these 19 activities. Importantly, the project illustrated that community support and ownership is critical for an effective outcome and scaling up these kind of adaptation projects. 

Additionally, as part of this project, the "Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network" was created to promote and share knowledge on climate adaptation activities across organizations and geographic areas. This has been especially useful as it stimulates the transfer of knowledge on adaptation activities and expansion of activities to neighboring villages.

In conclusion, the report presents case studies from India but its lessons are useful across regions and stakeholders. The framework developed in the report can be used to design projects which are scalable, receive adequate funding and lead to the development of new policies that support the upscaling of rainfed agriculture adaptation activities. These case studies are generally funded by international donors, such as the World Bank, while incorporating a range of local actors and NGOs. The key messages from the report highlight the necessity of effective coordination between actors and a strong sense of community ownership; that projects need to be designed with the potential for upscaling and be supported by adequate resources; and that each project is context specific and that the report framework should be adapted to local conditions.

A link to the full report and case studies can be found on the World Resources Institute website:

Together with another IFPRI study, "Farmer preferences for drought tolerance in hybrid versus inbred rice: Evidence from Bihar, India," these studies find that farmers prefer drought-tolerant varieties in certain instances but not others: drought tolerant varieties can help farmers escape droughts that happen at the beginning and end of the monsoon season, but thendrought tolerant varieties are not preferred when farmers have access to irrigation systems due to the lower yields associated with drought-resistant varieties. For further reading:


BY: Bas Paris


Photo credit:Flickr (ADB)