The contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is 15.4 percent, which is higher than world’s average of 6.4 percent. This massive contribution comes mostly through the use conventional farming practices, but there is no estimated record on what new mechanized methods could bring.
A report of ICAR’s Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering states that farm mechanization leads to input saving such as: seeds up to 15–20 percent, fertilizers by 15–20 percent, and increased cropping intensity by 5–20 percent. Mechanization increases the efficiency of farm labor and reduces agricultural operation time by 15–20 percent.
However, India continues to practice farming through traditional, non-mechanized methods due to the small and scattered landholdings, a lack of information on available technologies, and financial inefficiency, among other reasons.
Until a few years ago, Ram Pukar Khushwaha from East Champaran, Bihar, was one such farmer, but today he is a trendsetter in his region. He was one of the first few farmers to adopt mechanization practices.
S M Sehgal Foundation (Sehgal Foundation), with support from partners, started working in Bihar on agricultural interventions that included promoting the use of agricultural machinery, including potato planters, laser leveling, maize shellers, reapers, zero tillage, solar water pumps, and solar pumps. All these machines are well-suited for small agriculture.
Making farmers ready for smart agriculture
Well aware of the constraints farmers face in adopting farm machinery, the foundation team follows a capacity-building approach to sensitize farmers on the technologies available and their benefits before promoting them in the community. Farmers contribute partially to the cost of the machinery and use government subsidies for use of the equipment. Cost contributions instill a sense of ownership among the farmers. They are also trained on operations and maintenance of machines, along with asset sharing within their cluster.
The promotion of farm machinery supplements farmer’s agro-based requirements, and has given them an opportunity in entrepreneurship with a means to gain additional income by renting the machines to fellow farmers on an hourly or per acre basis.
“I receive demand of potato planter and laser leveling from various villages around me and even further. I have traveled 14 kms to provide services. I earn ₹1,000/hour from laser leveling and ₹130/kattha (1 acre=32 kattha) for renting the potato planter.”- Ram Pukar
East Champaran, Bihar
Every extra rupee earned by a farmer from the use of these machines helps farmers better their livelihoods, and those who rent also save on input costs and increase their crop productivity. Entrepreneurship builds confidence and makes farming remunerative, thus ensuring greater food security.