Shahdol is predominantly a tribal district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Tribals are indigenous forest-dependent communities. Constituting 46% of the district population, the tribe members have low income and low literacy rates.
Agriculture is one of the main sources of livelihood in Shahdol. The district receives a mean annual rainfall of 1,072 mm, usually, from July to September. The number of rainy days during the period may reach 48. Rainfall is erratic and its distribution uneven. The undulating terrain and sandy soil fail to retain the rainwater that flows rapidly, carrying with it the topsoil. The soil is predominantly sandy, though black soil is also found in small mosaic patterns in the district.
A majority of the farmers belong to the complex diverse risk-prone (CDR) group. Only 7% of the total cultivated area (343,900 ha) in the district is irrigated from various sources. Thus, the wet season is the main cultivation period and rice is the main crop, occupying 204,234 ha or 60% of the total cultivated area. Lowland rice occupies 40%; the rest is upland rice. The erratic rainfall, the poor moisture-holding capacity and fertility of the soil, as well as the socioeconomic conditions of the CDR farmers compel them to practice low-input rainfed rice farming. The resulting yields are usually poor (0.05 and 0.13 t ha–1, respectively, from upland and lowland under normal conditions).