Diversification and Livelihood Options: A Study of Two Villages in Andhra Pradesh, India 1975?2001 uri icon


  • The diversification of rural livelihoods is the subject of a growing amount of conceptual and policybasedresearch. This paper reports on the findings from a re-survey and longitudinal panel surveycarried out in the villages of Aurepalle and Dokur in Mahbubnagar District in Andhra Pradesh,India. This is a particularly valuable data source since these villages have been surveyed at intervalsby ICRISAT since 1975 and have enabled an analysis of changing rural livelihoods over time.Agriculture remains the most important source of livelihood in both villages, though the relativeimportance of crop cultivation has decreased, as has real income from crops. Agriculture hasbecome an increasingly risky pursuit and households have sought other sources of income, mostnotably through migration for agricultural labour in other villages or for wage labour in urban areassuch as Hyderabad.Whilst there are a small number of cases where diversification has enabled households to liftthemselves significantly above the poverty line, the overwhelming experience of diversification isas a coping strategy. Mahbubnagar District experienced drought in 1997?8 and between 1999 and2001. The intervening years were characterised by only average rainfall. It remains to be seen,therefore, whether the diversification into non-farm activities is a short-term response to adverseagricultural terms of trade and ecological uncertainty brought about as a result of extended droughtor whether diversification represents a long-term move away from agricultural livelihoods in ruralareas that will be sustained. The prospects for a return to agriculture in the future will be diminishedif population density continues to rise and limited by the gradual erosion of agricultural assets, suchas land and large livestock like cattle and buffalo.The findings from this re-survey of two villages raise important policy challenges for governmentand other stakeholders in Mahbubnagar District, in Andhra Pradesh and in the semi-arid tropics ofIndia more generally. Whilst government policy and state interventions are made along sectorallines, household livelihoods are highly diverse. Policy-makers need to reflect on the most suitableways of supporting this diversity, for example by facilitating access to the assets that people drawon to diversify or by ensuring that agriculture is less risky and agricultural assets are not erodedduring periods of uncertainty. Only with more appropriate policies that recognise the importance ofdiversity will it be possible for more people to make positive exits from poverty throughdiversification

publication date

  • 2002