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Farmers in the new State of Telangana are the key to harmonious social and economic development. In this semi-arid region of Central India, poverty is concentrated in rural areas. ICRISAT has been hosted for over 42 years in Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana and will continue providing agricultural innovations to improve the life of smallholder farmers.

35 million - Population in the 10 districts of Telangana in 2011

5.55 million - Number of farms in Telangana (2011 census)

522 kg/ha - Average pigeonpea yield in Telangana in 2013-14

9 out of 10 - Districts classified as backward in Telangana (World Bank 2010)


General context

Telangana State, situated in the Deccan Plateau in Central India, officially separated from Andhra Pradesh in June 2014. Most of it was part of the princely state of Hyderabad which merged with Andhra State in 1956. The separation movement was mostly driven by the rural poor seeking radical land reforms. The great majority of the 35 million Telangana population belongs to the disadvantaged sections, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other minorities, who aspire for a more inclusive development. The new state has the tremendous task of addressing the large inequity and many development issues such as land tenure (land distribution to the landless farmers and securing tenure to the tillers), access to irrigation, power and other means to adapt to the water scarcity in the state, and disparities in education and health. According to the Backward Regions Grant Fund 2009-10, nine out of ten districts in the State are classified as backward.   

Agriculture is the backbone of the Telangana economy. The State has good water resources with the Godavari and Krishna rivers flowing across it and large-scale irrigation infrastructure. However, many small farmers have poor access to irrigation, where rainfall is limited and erratic. Industries and modern infrastructure are mostly concentrated around the capital Hyderabad, a large Information Technology hub. 

Telangana state gets an average annual rainfall of 750 mm, mostly in the rainy (kharif) season between June and September. A majority of farms in this semi-arid region practise rainfed agriculture, and are therefore highly vulnerable due to the hot, dry and erratic climate.

ICRISAT research in Telangana

ICRISAT works closely with the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (AGRAU) and other research and development partners to raise the productivity of Telangana farmers, 86% having less than 2 hectares of farmland. Research focuses in particular on improving farmers' access to better seeds, integrated watershed management, the use of modern information and communication technologies for better extension services, and creating new market opportunities through innovative agribusiness services.

Facilitating a pigeonpea revolution: Pigeonpea is the main pulse crop during kharif, grown on 266,000 hectares in 2013-14, yet yields are way below potential. Maruti and Asha varieties were released in 1986 and 1993 respectively and cover half of the area. Support for the production of high-yielding pigeonpea hybrids, farmer training on better crop production practices and the setting up of sustainable seed systems are starting to yield results.

Farmer participatory integrated watershed management: For over 30 years, the rural community of Adarsha watershed has learnt how to improve climate resilience and agricultural productivity through low-cost natural resource conservation interventions and livelihood diversification. A recent impact study showed that groundwater recharge increased by over 200%. This model watershed is a precious site of learning of participatory natural resource management in semi-arid agroclimatic conditions.

Sorghum for food, animal feed and biofuel: Telangana has become a hub for sorghum seed production. Many improved varieties have been released for both kharif and rabi seasons, including hybrids, thanks to our collaboration with the Directorate of Sorghum Research. To respond to the animal feed demand from a growing dairy sector, ICRISAT is developing cultivars with high stover digestibility. Sweet sorghum is also a promising crop for the biofuel and beverage industries.

Better extension with innovative ICT: Numerous ICT platforms have been tested over the years with Telangana farmers and extension workers, so that farmers can get the right information at the right time. The latest system, the Green SIM, provides personalized and generic advisory services in the local dialect, such as recommendations for targeted soil fertilization, advice on credit and insurance, weather and market information. 

Incubating promising and inclusive agribusiness: ICRISAT's Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program has been providing comprehensive agribusiness services to more than 200 ventures in various fields like the seed sector, bioproducts, millet processing and mobile applications for farmers.

Village-level studies in Telangana: Extensive socio-economic studies have been carried out since 1975 in Aurepalle and Dokur villages in Mahabubnagar district to better understand the poverty dynamics and drivers of change in rural Telangana. Data are collected in particular on farming systems, households economics, nutrition and health, as well as gender indicators. Ultimately, women's empowerment will be measured using new data and strategies to reduce the gender parity gap.

Sorghum is an important food crop in Telangana, grown on 139,000 ha. Sorghum roti (flat bread) is popular, and sorghum stover provides a good fodder source.
Pigeonpea culture in Kothapally village - The ‘Hybrid Seed Road Map' aims to bring nearly 200,000 ha under hybrid pigeonpea cultivation by 2017.
Investing in community water harvesting and conservation has helped the population of Adarsha watershed better cope with drought and boost their agricultural production.
Food and feed: Edible sorghum stover is a key selection trait as it provides good fodder to increase milk and meat production.
Photo: A Sidhu/ICRISAT
The CAPI socio-study tool being pilot tested in Dokur village (Village Dynamics South Asia).