Anantapur is the Southernmost district of the Rayalaseema region, located to the west of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. This district is located in the rain-shadow region of Andhra Pradesh and receives an average annual rainfall of 522 mm, the second lowest in India. It is one of the poorest districts in the country. Recurring droughts are a common phenomenon in this district, which was one of the thirty-one districts identified by the Government of India as being prone to agriculture-related suicides in 2006. It is also one of the 17 districts identified as centers for human trafficking in A.P.

Based on the provisional population from the 2011 Indian Census, Anantapur has a total population of 4.083.315 (2.064.928 males and 2.018.387 females). According to the data, the population density is 213 per sq km, compared with 190 in 2001.

The overall literacy rate in Anantapur district, according to the 2011 Census, is 64.28%, as opposed  to 56.13% in 2001, and is lower than the average AP state and national literacy rates (67.7% and 74.04%, respectively).

Both male (74.09%) and female (54.31%) literacy rates in the Anantapur district are also lower than the AP state and national averages. The district is divided into 63 Revenue Mandals, which are now called Taluks, spread across 3 Revenue Divisions: the Anantapur (20 Taluks), Dharmavaram (17 Taluks), and Penukonda Divisions (26 Taluks). There are 929 inhabited Revenue Villages and 3.360 hamlets in the district, according to the 2001 Census.

As per the 2001 Census, the overall literacy rate among SC is 44.48%, compared with 44.52% among ST. There is a marked difference between male (55.90%) and female literacy (32.48%) in Scheduled Castes. Likewise, in 2001, female literacy (30.29%) in Scheduled Tribes was lower than male literacy (57.22%).

In terms of gender ratio in Anantapur, there are 977 females for every 1,000 males, compared with 958 in the 2001 Census. This is lower than the AP state average (992), but higher than the national average (940). There are 426.922 children (221.539 males and 205.383 females) between the ages of 0 and 6. According to the 2011 Census, the child gender ratio was 927, compared with 959 in 2001. The drastic fall in the number of girls is very alarming.

Of the total geographical area of 19.13 lakh hectares, the total net area sown as per the 2008-09 statistics was 10.82 lakh hectares (56.61%). The district occupies the lowest position in terms of irrigation facilities with only 1.45 lakh hectares (14.08%) of gross irrigated area, which consists mainly of undependable tube wells and tanks. Anantapur farmers are largely dependent on drought-prone, rain-fed agriculture. Given such harsh agro-climatic conditions, farmers rely heavily on one single crop: groundnut. With virtually no other industry, Anantapur's lack of development and poverty become apparent in its severe rural debt, high seasonal migration, low literacy levels, rapid depletion of underground water resources, the highest number of farmer suicides in the country, and the trafficking of women in certain areas.

On one hand, the intensification of recurring droughts is speeding up the process of desertification in the district, ultimately resulting in extreme poverty, while on the other, deteriorating eco-systems are seriously affecting livelihoods. Consequently, deprived and marginalized communities are suffering, e.g. dalits, tribes, backward castes, people with disabilities, and women. In light of these circumstances, RDT deemed the Anantapur district the neediest district for outside aid in Andhra Pradesh in 1969, and the place to start the Foundation’s work.