A majority of people in India would continue to live in villages for decades to come1. Natural resources of land and water are and would remain primary rural livelihood anchors as over half the ‘main workers’ remain in agriculture2, there is little occupational diversity in villages and very few working age people have skills useful in cities3. Increasing natural resource productivity is thus critical to enhance livelihoods and reduce poverty in villages; it is an imperative for our food, water and ecological security. About 55% of our agriculture is rain-fed4 where delayed, deficient or erratic rains lead to severe reduction in crop output and even total crop failure and only one crop is typically cultivated in a year5. The gains of the great strides the country has taken in food production have largely been confined to irrigated plains and deltas; rain-fed regions have lagged far behind and have in fact suffered widespread resource degradation due to inappropriate resource use6, poor husbandry and low investments. Since growth in agriculture has historically been the largest driver of poverty reduction in India, rain-fed regions remain mired in poverty.

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