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Despite half the state suffering with water scarcity, Gujarat is one of the leading states that embraced the Indian green revolution with successes such as the Amul milk cooperative and cash crops like cotton, groundnut and sugar. Agricultural growth has however not been as inclusive. Smallholder farmers, especially in arid and semi-arid districts, need adapted climate-smart innovations to improve their livelihoods.  

70% - Territory classified as arid or semi-arid

918:1,000 - The female-male ratio, one of the lowest among Indian states

2.02 ha - Average holding size, double the Indian average

49.6% - Workforce involved in the farming sector

572,000 tons – Production of pigeonpea and chickpea in 2013-14, about three quarters of total pulse production


General context

Gujarat, a coastal state in Western India neighboring Pakistan, hosts over 60 million people. Gujarat's economic growth has been acclaimed for the last two decades, higher than average and private sector driven, raising in particular the performance of the agriculture and industrial sectors.

For instance, the milk revolution from the Gujarat dairy cooperative Amul (Anand Milk Union Limited) has lifted many small herders out of poverty, and is seen as a model for rural development that is now replicated in neighboring Rajasthan. However, inequity between cities and rural districts has widened and some social and health indicators are still alarming. 

The state still has a high prevalence of undernourished children. The sex ratio of 918 women to 1,000 males, is one of the lowest among Indian states, highlighting the need for greater women empowerment.

Gujarat's climate is quite varied with 8 agroclimatic zones but it is mostly characterized by its water scarcity, as 70% of its territory can be classified as semi-arid or arid. For instance, in North Gujarat, the Rann of Kutch is a seasonally marshy saline clay desert located in the Thar desert. The sector has invested in irrigation facilities but the state suffers from groundwater depletion and soil salinity.

Cotton, groundnuts, fruits like dates, sugarcane, milk and milk products constitute the major agricultural produce of the state. Annual agricultural growth rate has been around 9% while the all-India average is merely 3%. With the development of cooperatives, investment in research (the state has four agricultural universities) and infrastructure, the farming sector has been radically transformed. However, for two-thirds of the farmers who own less than 2 hectares, live in remote areas, and are less connected to market opportunities, farming is still a challenge. 

ICRISAT research in Gujarat

ICRISAT is collaborating with the state's researchers and development organizations to improve the productivity, profitability, resilience and sustainability of smallholdings in semi-arid districts of Gujarat. The areas of collaboration include the development of high-yielding climate-adapted varieties of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and pearl millet; community watershed management; and studies on poverty dynamics, among others.

Chickpea is a key pulse in terms of family nutrition for the rural poor of Gujarat's drylands. Research for development has intensified in recent years as national pulse food security is eroding. A chickpea research impact assessment has shown that farmers look at many traits like yellow grain color and round grain shape before adopting improved seeds.

Three quarters of the pigeonpea production area in Gujarat is at risk of waterlogging due to poorly drained soils, inducing greater susceptibility to phytophthora blight disease. Tolerance to waterlogging is therefore a crucial crop breeding trait to avoid annual losses estimated at 65,800 tons (20% of total pigeonpea production).

Gujarat is an important producer of oilseeds such as groundnut, castor and mustard. Optimum irrigation and soil fertility (sulphur) practices are tested on summer groundnut to get the highest yields (up to 3.7 tons/ha) and water efficiency.

Pearl millet is a very important cereal crop in some parts of Gujarat with annual production of about 1.5 million tons. Pearl millet research focuses in particular on downy mildew resistance and on promoting iron- and zinc-rich biofortified varieties to improve family nutrition. Research investigates feasible scenarios to raise low bajra productivity from less than 1 ton to a yield potential of 2.4 tons/ha.

Though paddy remains a key food crop, continuous monocropping has led to serious deterioration of soil health. Agronomists are looking at crop diversification of rice farming systems to sustain high production and greater water efficiency. Rice-fenugreek and intercropping with okra for instance produced 25.7 tons/ha against a mere 7 tons in the rice-wheat intercropping, and consumed less water.  

Extensive participatory research in Rajasamadhiyala watershed showed that investment in rainwater harvesting pays off. In 8 years, groundnut productivity doubled, cropping intensity increased by 32%, and groundwater availability improved significantly. Such investments make sense if accompanied by appropriate water efficiency measures.

Iron- and zinc-rich pearl millet varieties are promoted in Gujarat, Western Maharashtra and Rajasthan
Numerous Farmer Participatory Selection Trials on oil-rich high-yielding groundnut varieties are carried out across the state, like in Mota Gundala village (CRP Grain Legumes).
Rajasamadhiyala watershed, a site of learning in semi-arid Gujarat.