By Vikas Jha
Sehgal Foundation is facilitating greater engagement of farmers with Krishi Viygan Kendras (KVK) (Agriculture Extension Centers) in several locations of India. In the period April to October 2022, four farmer meetings were organized in Muzaffarpur (Bihar), Aurangabad (Maharashtra), and Alwar (Rajasthan). The scientists from KVK trained nearly 200 farmers on soil health and soil testing, a package of practices (PoP) for local crops, and farm mechanization. The presence of women farmers in the training program was a step forward as Sehgal Foundation is working with women farmers in several states of India. This was a good occasion for women farmers to interact face-to-face with women scientists from KVK and be inspired to take a more active role in agriculture.
The scientists from KVK, Saraiya, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, participated in two events at e-Panchayat (village council) training and resource center of Sehgal Foundation from April to October, 2022, training farmers on soil testing, modern agriculture practices of lentils, maize, and mustard, and farm mechanization, especially zero tillage. Forty-six farmers were given PUSA research seeds, mustard and lentils, covering nearly 23 acres. Surendra Singh who attended the training program says that convergence with KVK leads to the adoption of better agriculture practices by farmers as they receive advice from experienced and credible scientists. Asha Devi, a women farmer in Ratanpura village, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, says that agriculture training by scientists motivated the farmers in her village to adopt new cropping practices with confidence.
In Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Sehgal Foundation organized training of farmers by KVK scientists of Marathwada Agriculture University at e-Panchayat training and resource center, Nidona village, Auranagabad. Scientists trained farmers on a package of practices of oil seeds and distributed its PoP to fifty farmers of the village.
In the training organized at Goojarpur Khurd village, Alwar, Rajasthan, farmers were trained by farmers on a PoP of guar (cluster beans) and til (sesame); and eleven farmers were given the seeds of cluster beans and sesame for demonstrations. The farmers were also advised to get their soil tested regularly and use balanced fertilizers and micronutrients in order to make agriculture sustainable.
The establishment of a forum for training, information updates, and crop demonstrations at e-Panchayat training and resource center by Sehgal Foundation has created opportunities for the interface of farmers with scientists of KVK. Since KVKs often face difficulties in identifying progressive farmers and tracking the progress of good practices adoption, Sehgal Foundation fills this gap as it is already working with a number of farmers in various locations in India. Further, training and information updates from agriculture scientists convince the farmers to adopt good cropping practices. Such an interface bridges the divide between labs and farms, which has been a roadblock in promoting good agriculture practices in rural India. The farmers in India depend mostly on local agriculture shops for advisories on agriculture, leading to excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides that cause soil degradation, poor yield, and increased input costs on the strained economic resources of farmers.
The collaboration between NGOs and community-based organizations and 645 KVKs across India has the potential for creating several forums for training and information exchange in India. KVKs with the mandate of frontline demonstrations of agriculture technologies, capacity development of farmers, and knowledge center for farmers increases their reach several times by such collaborations, which helps millions of farmers to save money on inputs and increase their yields.
(Vikas is principal lead, Local Participation and Sustainability, at S M Sehgal Foundation)