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Research for Developing Rural Drylands

Adapting migratory pastoralists to climate change in Rajasthan, India
Migratory drylands pastoralist and his livestock in Rajasthan, India. Photo: Dryland Systems


Drylands are diverse both within and between dry regions; they vary climatically, topographically, environmentally, economically, socially, and culturally. The program studies two main environments:

  • first, dryland regions where production is inherently low, and,
  • secondly, dryland regions where agriculture can be sustainably intensified.​

Within these environments, the research focuses on agricultural livelihood systems, defined as the sets of farming and other human activity systems that determine the livelihood opportunities for agricultural households, communities and enterprises.  Our work is organized along three main research flagships that focus on specific groups of agricultural livelihood systems.

Agricultural Livelihood Systems

At one end of the ALS spectrum – pastoral and agropastoral livelihood systems where resources are scarce – we work to build resilience. We provide farmers with innovative practices and technologies to mitigate risks and vulnerability in the face of climate variability and extreme events, such as drought, flooding, and outbreaks of pests and diseases. In such systems, intensification is possible for subsistence farmers but it generally involves significant trade-offs that must be considered so that resources are not over-exploited.

At the other end of the ALS spectrum – rainfed, tree-based, and irrigated systems where resources are richer and more diverse – we work to provide farmers with innovative practices and technologies to intensify sustainable production and therefore increase yields, maximize incomes, add value to products, enter into commercial agriculture, and diversify livelihood options.

Research activities focus on:

  • Strengthening innovation platforms/value chains: Combining and testing integrated packages with communities, in areas such as crop-livestock systems, wheat-legume systems, integrated watershed management, diversification of production systems, and rangeland rehabilitation.
  • Strengthening the drylands evidence base: Gathering a wide range of baseline studies, surveys, and assessments to better understand socio-economic and biophysical conditions, as well as constraints and opportunities.
  • Identifying and scaling out and up resilience and intensification options: Packaging and testing options with communities for resilience in marginal areas and intensification in higher potential areas.
  • Putting knowledge sharing and learning into action: Progressing a strategy and approaches to ensure continuous learning, and the synthesis and exchange of information across target regions and agro-ecosystems.
  • Building local capacities and strengthening partnership: Establishing and strengthening a range of partnership and capacity-building activities in all locations.