Reviving knowledge in India's rainfed farming and livestock systems

'Valuing variability: new perspectives on climate resilient drylands development' provides fresh perspectives on the value of dryland production systems from across Asia and Africa.
Press release, 20 August 2015

A new book that challenges those who see India's rainfed agriculture and livestock systems as inherently vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty, will be debated at a panel event on Friday, 21 August at 3pm at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)

'Valuing variability: new perspectives on climate resilient drylands development', published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and launched in the Kenyan Parliament earlier this year, argues that improved agricultural productivity in rainfed environments is possible by working with climatic uncertainty rather than seeking to control it. This view runs contrary to decades of development practices. 

In India, this is crucial as around 68 per cent of its 142 million hectares of arable land is under rainfed agriculture, accounting for a significant amount of major food and industrial crops, as well as hosting most of India's cattle, sheep and goats. 

The panel, co-hosted by the Centre for Studies in Science Policy (CSSP)-JNU, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), the Revitalisation of Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN) and the Rainfed Livestock Network (RLN), will discuss how the book's findings and linked briefing paper can be applied to the Indian interventions in arable land under rainfed farming.

Key policy pointers from the briefing paper include:

  • Systems were more climate-resilient when they worked with the natural diversity within the systems, using practices unique to each local area
  • Policy and support systems have become too rigid in the wake of the chemical-based and genetics-led green revolution. Variable rainfed systems require an alternative approach
  • Mixed crops and integrated crop-livestock systems allow rural households greater food security and sustainability than monocultures, and
  • Unless planning and implementation for rainfed systems is undertaken at a more local level, food insecurity and unsustainable agriculture will continue to be an issue.

Many people who undertake rainfed farming know how to live with climate change and work with variable rainfall. They recognise variability as an inherent feature of their landscapes and use it productively for generating the foods we all eat.

The team behind the book hope that by sharing examples of how different communities undertake agricultural production that embrace climatic variability, rainfed economies may yet reach their true potential. 

Further information

The publication of the book 'Valuing variability: new perspectives on climate resilient drylands development' and its associated research has been generously funded by the Ford Foundation. The launch was presided over by Hon. Ekwee Ethuro, the speaker of the Kenyan Senate, in Nairobi on 29 April, 2015

The speakers include:

  • Chair – Abhijit Sen (professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU) 
  • Pranav Desai (professor, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, JNU) 
  • Wen Jun (S&T counselor, Chinese Embassy, New Delhi
  • Anshu Bhartia (Revitalisation of Rainfed Agriculture (RRA) Network)

The panellists are:

  • Navroz Dubash (senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)
  • Sanjay Bhoosreddy (joint secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, New Delhi),  
  • PS Vijayshankar (research director, Samaj Pragati Sahyog, Dewas) on Rainfed Farming and resilience - research constraints/opportunities
  • Anushree Singh (PhD student, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, JNU, New Delhi) on community knowledge systems and mobilisation-STS 
  • Sabyasachi Das (theme leader, Livestock Node, RRA Network, Bhuj) on Pastoral systems, variability and development programmes
  • Rajeswari S. Raina (principal scientist, CSIR-NISTADS, New Delhi), opening/closing remarks


Download the case studies from the book (PDF)


To attend the panel discussion, please contact:

For more information, interviewees and images, please contact:

Notes to editors

About the RRA Network: Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture Network's (RRAN) mission is to reconfigure the nature, amount and delivery of public investments for productive and resilient rainfed agriculture.

About Rainfed Livestock Network: Housed by the Foundation for Ecological Security, this initiative is a consortium of organisations – the Rainfed Livestock Network (RLN), which aims to synthesise lessons for policy advocacy and programmatic action for livestock development in the arid and semi-arid regions. Our partners in this initiative are Lokhit Pashu Palak Samiti (LPPS), Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), Sahjeevan, Sewa Mandir, ANTHRA and Mitan. The initiative is supported by Ford Foundation. 

About IIED: IIED is a policy and action research organisation promoting sustainable development and linking local priorities to global challenges. We are based in London and work on five continents with some of the world's most vulnerable people to strengthen their voice in the decision-making arenas that affect them.

For more information or to request an interview, contact Simon Cullen: 
+44 7503 643332 or [email protected]