Reversing desertification in Andhra Pradesh: a case for ‘engagement landscapes’

22 January 2020
Sabrina ChestermanMieke BourneLeigh Ann Winowiecki

The government of the Indian state is speeding up efforts to return land to productivity through local engagement, increasing knowledge and skills.

Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh in India has experienced drought for 17 of the last 20 years. Over the past few decades, the natural vegetation, forested land and biodiversity have all dramatically decreased.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has been taking active measures to counter the degradation of the state’s land and the threat of desertification, to enhance biodiversity, and to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

One of the ways this is being done is through the Andhra Pradesh ‘Zero-Budget’ Natural Farming Programme, implemented by Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, a corporation for farmers’ empowerment.

Zero-budget natural farming focuses on regenerating soil fertility, reducing water use and increasing species’ diversity through natural agroecological approaches. Rythu Sadhikara Samstha aims to convert 8 million hectares in Andhra Pradesh, farmed by 6 million farmers, to zero-budget natural farming.

However, in order to adopt zero-budget natural farming at this scale, policy-makers and programme managers need to have a thorough understanding of numerous environmental and social factors.

To support the efforts of the Government through Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, World Agroforestry (ICRAF), along with the Accion Fraterna Ecology Centre and the Climate and Land Use Alliance, held a 5-day workshop, 2–6 November 2019 in Anantapur, attended by 77 people.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.