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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

India: Sustainable Development and Social Change


In a climate of globalized politics and neoliberal economics, it can be difficult to isolate the impacts of agricultural and economic policy on the lives of the rural poor in India. Hidden behind a veil of economic growth, pro urban, and pro industry governments, the stories of small and marginal farmers have been overlooked in the name of different development priorities. This study endeavors to put the agrarian poor back into the scholarship spotlight by deconstructing livelihood crises and farmer debt in Sulthanpur Village, Andhra Pradesh. This effort is important because although Andhra Pradesh has the highest rate of farmer indebtedness in India, few village level analyses have been preformed.

Through a combination of formal interviewing, direct observation, and case studies, this study found that farmer debt in Sulthanpur can be traced to two phenomena– a crisis of productivity and a crisis of profitability – which are both intimately connected by issues of water scarcity and irrigation investment and simultaneously framed by issues of globalization and agricultural policy. This paper will analyze these two crises in depth as it seeks to understand the role that the search for water, especially through personal investment in borewells, plays in creating perpetual and outstanding debt for farmers. In doing so, this paper will also explore a other contributing factors, including a local widespread shift toward cash crop, linear, input intensive agriculture, the role of informal finance in the local economy, and increasing expenditures for farmers. In discovering the extent of the debt burden in Sulthanur, this study concludes by calling for a partnership between scholarship and activism as a necessary intervention in agrarian crisis.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Agriculture | Family, Life Course, and Society | Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Rural Sociology | Water Resource Management


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