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.