Over centuries, people in the rain shadow region of Marathwada have developed a lifestyle that emphasizes conserving water. After bathing their children, for example, it is not uncommon for mothers in villages to give the collected water to livestock or use it to water plants.
Sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, isn’t well-suited to the arid landscape. Yet state-level policies have led to the establishment of 61 sugar mills in Marathwada, a region spread across 25,000 square miles in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
With the promise of higher returns, farmers were encouraged to move away from traditional crops like sorghum, bajra, groundnut, and pigeon pea.