Rajasthan is India's largest state, representing about 10% of the total country's area (342,239 km2
). Located in the northwest part of India and sharing a border with Pakistan along the Indus river valley, Rajasthan has a rich historical heritage as well as many biodiversity spots.
Rajasthan comprises most of the inhospitable and thinly populated Thar Desert, covering about 60% of Rajasthan's territory in the Northeast, as well as the Aravalli Range which runs across Rajasthan diagonal with Mount Abu culminating at 1,722 m. Land is relatively more fertile in Eastern Rajasthan while the Northwest territory (with the Thar desert) is sandy and unproductive.
Despite being considered a slowly developing and very rural state, Rajasthan's human development indicators have significantly improved in recent years. For instance, the literacy rate has risen from 38.5% in 1991 to 67% in the last 2011 census. While there has been an official commitment since the nineties and an active civil society lobbying for the betterment of women, their status is still a serious concern in a predominantly patriarchal society. The female literacy rate at 52.66%, is the lowest in India.
Rajasthan has rich mining resources as well as significant crude oil production and is in a leading position in textile and tourism. Yet the Rajasthan economy is still mostly agrarian. The primary sector represents about 25% GDP, with the production of oilseeds and cereals like wheat, barley and pearl millet, as well as an important livestock sector (it has the 2nd largest herd after neighbouring Gujarat; contributing 10% of India's milk production).
Rajasthan's climate is marked by frequent droughts, a short monsoon season (July to September) and average annual rainfall of 576mm, but ranging from very arid (150 mm in the Thar desert) to semi-arid conditions (900 mm) across the state, while temperatures range from 5 degrees C to 45 degrees C and more.
Agriculture is therefore very challenging and highly vulnerable to droughts as the State is severely water deficient and most farmers have poor access to irrigation. Lots of farms have only one rainfed crop during kharif (monsoon) period.
Increasing the agricultural productivity of the 6.9 million smallholder farmers and improving women’s role in agriculture are crucial for Rajasthan’s social and economic development. This can be done through better natural resource management, growing drought-tolerant crops, better access to inputs and inclusive markets.