CEO Message

CEO Message

Dr. Ashok Dalwai

Chief Executive Officer

Agriculture is an important constituent of Indian economy, and the livelihood matrix of the country’s population. The rainfed system of agriculture and its development are key to healthy growth of the agricultural economy considering its predominance. Unfortunately, while India’s extent of rainfed area is the largest in the world, its productivity @ 1 ton/ha is one of the lowest. As high as 78 m.ha. accounting for 64 per cent of the country's net sown area is rainfed. These areas are home to majority of the nation’s farmers and rural population, who encounter multiple risks and uncertainties relating to bio-physical and socio-economic conditions. The rainfed regions are characterised by relatively higher intensity of land degradation, loss of biodiversity, poor soil organic carbon, low moisture holding capacity, and decline in ground water table. The climate change has been exacerbating the already existing state of vulnerability and putting at elevated risk, the agricultural production system. The increasing number of weather extremes, rising temperature and uneven distribution of rainfall are clear indicators of the growing complexity. This precipitous context warrants a robust platform that can suggest a package of innovative policies, knowledge and technologies that will enable practice of an ecosystem-based agriculture that is sustainable, while addressing simultaneously the concerns of farmers’ income & consumers’ nutrition.

The National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) was constituted as an attached office of the then Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (now Department of Agriculture & Farmers welfare), Ministry of Agriculture (now Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare) on 3rd November, 2006. The Authority has been meeting its obligations as mandated by a Cabinet decision, and the learnings from more than a decade of experience offer changes needed to be effected to the future roadmap of agricultural transformation.

In the changed context of India’s agricultural production environment, growing population & demand for gainful employment & incomes, NRAA as an Organisation dedicated to the rainfed regions of the country sees an opportunity for a reshaped & sharper emphasis on a new approach. It seeks to adopt the role of an advisory body for formulation of policies, designing of programs and monitoring of programs/schemes/projects based on optimisation of total output, rationalisation of resource use and sustainability of technology & management practices.

The approach translates into a new basket of specific interventions by NRAA, and the first set of interventions needed are to: a) identify& collate best practices for rainfed agriculture available across different research organizations & academic institutions, and offer recommendations for sustainable development of agriculture in rainfed and vulnerable districts across the country; b) develop area-specific farming systems for critically vulnerable 150 districts (now 167 as per Composite Index-based district prioritisation), and promote sustainable and profitable agriculture; c) pilot best practices in priority drought-vulnerable districts to demonstrate their efficacy, and lay a roadmap for scaling up across all the vulnerable districts; d) develop various modules for master trainers, farming system, water budgeting and accounting for these areas.; e) assist states and union territories (UTs) in revisiting the District Irrigating Plans (DIPs), if required, from the perspective of addressing the district-specific water budget in critically drought-prone districts in particular, and all the districts at large in view of climate change implications; f) assist states & UTs in preparation of Annual Action Plan for implementing “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna” (PMKSY), for enhancing access to irrigation water & achieving water use efficiency (per drop more crop); g) suggest short & long term plans for sustainable development of rainfed area by conservation of water, optimal harvesting of water and agroecology-based production systems; h) set an appropriate research agenda and roll out action research projects to draw evidence-based policy recommendations; i) monitor and supervise programme implementation in all the identified critically-vulnerable drought prone districts in particular, and all the rainfed districts at large; and j) identify and recommend various agro-forestry models and mulching systems suitable for vulnerable districts across the country.

Secondly, the Authority shall serve as a knowledge platform, and for this purpose bridge the research/academic institutions with the implementing agencies to promote science-based agricultural management. It would also aim at stimulating livelihood options for the landless and marginal farmers, besides the landless agricultural labour who constitute a large majority of the rainfed area population.

Thirdly, NRAA shall facilitate development & upgradation of skill and knowledge levels of the farmers, and enable openness and ability to adopt improved technologies & management practices across all the sub-sectors of the larger agricultural sector. Considering the need to capture higher value from agriculture for the farmers and minimise food loss & waste, the principle of the rainfed agriculture shall be reorganisation of the agricultural sector as an agricultural value system (AVS), that links farm gates with demand centres in both domestic & global markets. In addition to sustainable production systems, post harvest management shall receive due attention. From the perspective of job creation & income generation in the rural region, both primary & secondary agriculture will be the norm. The strategy of achieving ecosystem-based and sustainable system of developing of the rainfed agriculture in the country will largely be guided by the principles of integrated farming/livelihood system (IFS/ILS), watershed management, landscape-based agriculture, agriculture value system and climate smart/resilient agriculture.

Fourthly, the Authority looks forward to partnering with various agricultural research and academic institutions (in both public & private sectors), all central and state ministries & departments related to farmers’ welfare, NGOs, professional associations of knowledge, information, trade, commerce & industry; and also various international bodies and institutions working in India. The Authority would be keen to avail itself of the fund of knowledge, expertise and experience from across the country in service of the rainfed farmers, and contributing to the nation’s food and nutrition security and livelihood opportunities. Both production & enrichment of the nation’s ecology shall always be the watch word of every intervention.