Building Resilience in Agriculture: Drought-Resistant Crops and Farming Techniques

Drought-Resistant Crops

Drought is one of the most significant challenges facing agriculture today. It affects crop productivity, water availability, and food security, leading to economic losses and social disruption. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), droughts cause more than 80 per cent of the damage and losses related to natural disasters in agriculture. Therefore, it is essential to build resilience in agriculture to overcome the effects of drought and ensure sustainable food production. This article will discuss drought-resistant crops and farming techniques that can help farmers adapt to drought-prone conditions.

Understanding Drought-Resistant Crops

Drought-resistant crops are plants that can grow with limited water resources and resist the effects of drought stress. Unlike conventional crops, which require high water inputs, fertilizers, and pesticides, drought-resistant crops have adapted to harsh environments and developed physiological mechanisms to conserve water and nutrients. Some examples of drought-resistant crops are:

  1. Millets: Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses highly tolerant to drought and heat stress. They require less water and fertilizers than other cereals and can grow on marginal lands. Millets are a staple food for millions of people in Africa and Asia and have significant potential for improving food security in dry areas.
  2. Sorghum: Sorghum is a grain crop widely grown in arid and semi-arid regions. It has a deep root system that can access moisture from deep soil layers and survive prolonged periods of drought. Sorghum is used for human consumption, animal feed, and biofuel production.
  3. Legumes: Legumes are a family of beans, peas, and lentils. They are known for fixing nitrogen from the air and improving soil fertility. Legumes have a deep taproot that can access water and nutrients from lower soil layers. Some legumes, such as cowpea and pigeon pea, are tolerant to drought and can be used as a source of protein for humans and animals.

Drought-resistant crops have several benefits for farmers and the environment. They can reduce water use, fertilizer and pesticide application, and greenhouse gas emissions. They can also enhance biodiversity and soil health by promoting agroecological practices.

However, growing drought-resistant crops also has some challenges. These crops often have lower yields than conventional crops, reducing farmers’ income and food availability. They also require specific management practices and knowledge, which may not be available to all farmers. Moreover, the market demand for drought-resistant crops is limited, which can hinder their adoption by farmers.

Farming Techniques for Drought-Prone Areas

In addition to growing drought-resistant crops, farmers can also use various farming techniques to adapt to drought-prone conditions. Here are some examples:

  1. Soil conservation techniques: Soil conservation techniques, such as conservation tillage, cover cropping, and mulching, can improve soil moisture retention and reduce erosion. These techniques can also enhance soil fertility and biodiversity and reduce the need for irrigation and fertilizers.
  2. Rainwater harvesting: This technique involves collecting and storing rainwater for later use. It can be done at different scales, from the household to the community level, and provide water for domestic use, livestock, and irrigation. In countries like the USA, a water recycling system is being adopted by many on a residential and commercial level. The recycled rainwater is used for, among other uses, irrigation. Rainwater harvesting can also help recharge groundwater and reduce runoff and soil erosion.
  3. Crop diversification: Crop diversification involves growing different crops in the same field to spread risk and enhance resilience. It can also improve soil health and provide a variety of food and income sources. Crop diversification can be combined with intercropping, where two or more crops are grown together to enhance their productivity and nutrient cycling. For example, planting legumes and cereals together can improve soil fertility and reduce pests and diseases.
  4. Agroforestry: Agroforestry involves integrating trees and shrubs with crops and livestock on the same land. It can provide multiple benefits, such as improving soil fertility, water conservation, and biodiversity and providing timber, fruits, and fodder. Agroforestry can also sequester carbon and mitigate climate change.
  5. Efficient irrigation: Efficient irrigation techniques, such as drip and micro-irrigation, can reduce water use and increase crop productivity. These techniques apply water directly to the root zone of plants, reducing evaporation and runoff. Efficient irrigation can also save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


What are some examples of drought-resistant crops?

Some drought-resistant crops include millets, sorghum, teff, chickpeas, lentils, and cowpeas.

How can farmers conserve water during periods of drought?

Farmers can conserve water during drought by implementing water-efficient irrigation techniques, such as drip irrigation or micro-sprinklers, using rainwater harvesting systems, applying mulch to the soil to retain moisture, and planting cover crops to reduce evaporation and erosion.

What are some challenges associated with drought-resistant agriculture?

Some challenges associated with drought-resistant agriculture include limited access to drought-resistant crop varieties, lack of knowledge and training on drought-resistant farming techniques, and inadequate financial resources to invest in water-saving technologies and practices.

What role can policymakers play in promoting drought-resistant agriculture?

Policymakers can promote drought-resistant agriculture by incentivizing farmers to adopt water-saving technologies and practices, investing in research and development of drought-resistant crop varieties, and implementing policies supporting sustainable water management practices.

Can drought-resistant agriculture help mitigate the effects of climate change?

Drought-resistant agriculture can help mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing water consumption, increasing soil fertility and carbon sequestration, and enhancing food security and livelihoods of small-scale farmers in vulnerable regions.


Drought-resistant crops and farming techniques can help farmers build resilience in agriculture and adapt to drought-prone conditions. These approaches can reduce water use, enhance soil health, and improve food security and livelihoods. However, their adoption requires supportive policies, investments, and knowledge dissemination. Governments, donors, and development organizations can be crucial in promoting and supporting drought-resistant agriculture through research, extension, and capacity building. Building resilience in agriculture can create a sustainable and secure food future for all.

Author Bio:

Brad Smith is a researcher and writer at OmniHomeIdeas, specializing in sustainable agriculture and food systems. He is passionate about promoting agroecological practices and social justice in food systems.