Important Rainfed Farming Systems of South Asia

  • Peter R. Hobbs
  • Mahmood Osmanzai


Rainfed farming in South Asia uses some 60% of agricultural land. Much of this land receives no irrigation but some receives a partial or life-saving water supplement. These rainfed lands have a wide array of climates, rainfall regimes and soil types, which determine their cropping systems. The major systems in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan are described. Various common features are discussed, including use of animals, fallowing, mixed cropping, rotations, legumes, manual labour, cow dung for cooking, water harvesting and need for off-farm income. These rainfed areas have benefited from the introduction of new crop varieties and modern technology, including farm mechanization, although to a lesser extent than in the irrigated areas. Crops and livestock are both crucial to these systems with the animals often providing draught power and fiscal security. The highly variable rainfall is an important source of risk to millions of the poorest people in South Asia. However, suitable policies and greater emphasis and funding for these rainfed areas could improve livelihoods and contribute substantially to the economies of South Asian countries.


South Asia Afghanistan Pakistan India Bangladesh Nepal Rainfed farming Dryland agriculture Farming systems 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crops and Soil ScienceCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.CIMMYTAfghanistan Global Wheat ProgramKabulAfghanistan

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