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Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is one of the least developed states in terms of food security and poverty, with many rural areas disconnected from mainstream development. However, the state has been catching up in the last few years. ICRISAT research, from sorghum and pearl millet farmer varietal selection to community watershed management provides the tools for a more inclusive agricultural growth, especially in the drought-prone regions of the state.

0.375 - Madhya Pradesh's Human Development Index (2011) rank

94.2  (deaths out of 1,000 births): Mortality of children under 5 in Madhya pradesh is one of the worst among Indian states [UNICEF 2006]

~3.9 million - Number of marginal farms (less than 1 hectare) in Madhya Pradesh


General context

The second largest state in India, Madhya Pradesh, is home to a large tribal population. Many parts of the state, rich in forests (30% is covered in forests), and mineral resources have been cut off from the mainstream Indian development. It separated from Chhattisgarh region in 2000.

Madhya Pradesh ranks among the lowest in term of food security, poverty and other development indicators. Its human development index (0.375 in 2011) is well below the Indian average; and malnutrition is as alarming as Chad's, according to IFPRI's India State Hunger Index. 

The economy is slowly catching up with booming tourism and industries but remains largely agrarian. The major crops grown are wheat, soybean, chickpea and other grams, pigeonpea (arhar), sugarcane, rice, maize, cotton, rapeseed and mustard. There are about 6.34 million small and marginal farmers (over 71% of the farms) and the majority are underemployed. They typically practice subsistence farming with 1-2 draft bullocks to produce at least half a year's needs of foodgrains (pulses, coarse millets, oilseeds), take additional acres of land on lease and present themselves to larger farms as casual labourers in low paid, exploitative conditions.

Forests and fishery resources can play an important role in village livelihoods. Dryland parts of Madhya Pradesh like the semi-arid Bundulkhand suffer frequent droughts.

Women and children are the most vulnerable. Madhya Pradesh has the highest infant mortality rate (IMR) among Indian states (70 per 1,000 births) and the life expectancy of women is lower than that of men.

The Madhya Pradesh government has defined several pillars of inclusive rural development in the coming years, including better watershed management, developing irrigation and horticulture, livelihood diversification and investment in small rural industries and rural infrastructure [ref: 2011 MP development report].

The growth of Madhya Pradesh's agriculture sector in the last five years has been impressive. The State has received the Krishi Karman award for record foodgrain production increases twice.

The priority is now to sustain such growth and make it inclusive, given the many challenges farmers have to face: rising population and urbanization, fragmented holdings, inadequate irrigation, storage and other rural infrastructure issues, and poor linkages to credit and markets for the majority of smallholders.

ICRISAT research in Madhya Pradesh

ICRISAT's research in Madhya Pradesh focuses in particular on improving the productivity of sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra) and pulses, and farmer-centric natural resources management.

Access to better seeds is a major limiting factor for dryland cereals and legumes. Improved chickpea varieties with 50% higher yields than local ones have been successfully introduced through participatory varietal selection.

Sorghum and pearl millet are important crops in the drylands of Madhya Pradesh, both for food and as a fodder source. Under the Indo-US Consortium for the Sustainable Advanced Ligno-cellulosic Biofuel Systems (SLABS) initiative, farmers are testing dual-purpose hybrids with very good stover quality.

Crop intensity in the state can be further improved as over 60% of farmland is rainfed and over 2 million hectares are under fallow after the main crop's harvest, despite good water retention soils like vertisols. Growing additional crops like chickpea in fallow lands, using seed priming, can minimize land degradation and improve the profitability of small holdings.

ICRISAT works with partners in community watershed management initiatives in several drylands districts (Jhabua, Mandla, Guna) in order to identify cost-effective scalable interventions to improve rural livelihoods through more efficient management and conservation of natural resources. Research aims at identifying best-bet practices through a holistic and participatory Integrated Genetic and Natural Resources Management (IGNRM) model. This means testing different technical or institutional innovations (such as access to better seeds through participatory varietal selection and village seed banks), crop-livestock farming systems, and policy and gender-oriented changes.

In Garhkundar-Dabar watershed in the poor and arid Bundelkhand region, soil loss was reduced by more than 50%, and income per hectare more than doubled from  Rupees 11,500 to 27,500 ha/year through IGNRM.  

In Jhabua and Mandla districts, nutrient soil testing and optimum application have significantly improved crop yields (between 14 and 57% for soybean, paddy, groundnut, black gram, and green gram).

Women empowerment is a key dimension of rural development; in Padarlya-Siyalwada , self-help groups are successfully engaged in producing and selling high quality pulse seeds.   

Photo: Ekta Parishad
Young Baiga women:Tribal people in some districts of Madhya Pradesh like Mandla represent over half of the population.
Chickpea seed priming with Rhizobium culture and sodium molybdate; seed priming can help farmers use rice fallow lands. 
Soil test-based balanced plant nutrition significantly improves yields [Jhabua and Mandla districts, 2013 ]

The Padarlya-Siyalwada watershed is a site of learning for community natural resources management.