The land resources of Karnataka especially its dry drought prone lands, which comprises more than 79 % of the total arable area, have been poorly managed by the resource poor farmers of the state. Soil loss due to erosion coupled with reduced water resources has led to a situation of rapid soil fertility deterioration, declining/stagnating crop yields, depletion of underground water sources, deforestation, denudation, destruction of natural pasture and diminishing biomass production. Exploring the full potential of rain fed agriculture to meet the food , fodder and fuel requirement of the state population, is the only alternative, however, this will require investing in suitable soil and water conservation technologies, crop breeding targeted to rain fed environments, agricultural extension services, and access to markets, credit and input supplies in rain fed areas.
The potential for increasing the irrigable area and enhancing productivity from irrigated lands has its limitations. The total irrigation potential from all sources, including inter basin transfers, is estimated at around 50 % of the total cropped area of 104.89 lakh hectares by the Karnataka state land use board. The remaining land has to depend on rain fed farming forever. Therefore if the state has to conserve and develop natural resources in rain fed areas to improve their production and productivity, their development on watershed basis is inevitable. Development of rain fed areas is important because more than 44 % of its agricultural production comes from dry landsKarnataka has the highest proportion (79 %) of drought prone area among all major states in the country and in absolute terms it has the second largest area of dry land in the country after Rajasthan. In addition, Karnataka also has the second lowest (154.2 M ha M/Yr) replenishable ground water resources among major states after Rajasthan.