Shailesh Pant and Ellora Mubashir, PhD
Nearly 66 percent of India’s population depends on agriculture, which constitutes mostly marginal and small farmers who use traditional and sub-optimal farming practices. If the small farmer sector becomes competitive, it will create the base for the country to move upward toward being a developed country. A myriad of challenges are involved in achieving this, but it is possible with the wholehearted participation of each of the stakeholders, including the community, industry, and NGOs.
As early as 2008, the Mosaic company forged a strategic partnership with Sehgal Foundation called Krishi Jyoti, which was designed to work together with small and marginal farmers to improve their agriculture practices. At the onset, their agricultural land was found to be much degraded from a lack of essential macro and micronutrients, which reduced the productivity of all crops. This issue is was addressed by setting up demonstrations of a scientific Package of Practices (PoP) based on soil testing in farmers’ fields. So far, 37,080 PoP demonstrations were held in mustard, wheat, paddy, pearl millet, cotton, orchard, and in tomato, brinjal, and onion vegetable crops. Demonstrations were also held on other good farming practices including the use of seed drill machines, solar spray machines, reaper machines, and correct compost preparation. The vital aspect of holding demonstrations is conducting Farmers Field Days (FFDs), where all farmers of a village are invited to observe the demonstrations. Through FFDs, the introduced practices are adopted by many farmers in each village.
In 2009, the farming community expressed their constraint of inadequate water for crop irrigation. Since agriculture requires water, the project team added water management to their profile. This resulted in the building of seventeen check dams, which created an annual groundwater recharge potential of about 608 million liters of water. In addition, water conservation practices were promoted. The annual water-saving capacity created in wheat was 657 million liters in 1,000 acres, using laser leveling, 445 million liters in 423 acres using mini sprinklers, and 0.16 million liters in 190 acres using farm bunding.
Another need then voiced by the community regarding the inadequate condition of the village schools, resulted in the project team’s improving the infrastructure of thirty-two schools, positively transforming the lives of 7,551 students, which resulted in decreased absenteeism, increased enrollment, and improved learning. Noting the enhancements, the government upgraded three of the improved schools.
The project has now organically evolved to include a women’s empowerment initiative, on nutri-gardens, which enable women to grow vegetables in their backyard, so their families are able to consume a diverse, healthy, and wholesome diet throughout the year, and possibly sell the surplus. In its first phase, 700 kitchen gardens, 900 square feet each, were established in all twenty project villages. The savings obtained per household due to not having to buy vegetables from the market was about INR 3,804, and 431 out of 700 women farmers sold their surplus vegetables in the market, earning an average of INR 1,540.
The communities enthusiastically contributed 1–1.5 lakhs of rupees per village for the future maintenance of the infrastructures created by the project.
By 2022, this partnership project that started in only two villages in Nuh district, Haryana, expanded to 151,501 beneficiaries in 11,286 rural households in 155 villages in Nuh, Alwar, and Prayagraj districts of Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, respectively. The success thus far in the tri partite partnership, is intended to be further utilized and expanded in the continuing endeavor to work together with a common vision.
(Shailesh is program lead, Agriculture Development and Extension and Ellora is communications specialist)