Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG-8) is integral to the United Nations’ global agenda for attaining sustainable development by 2030. Its primary objectives are the advancement of comprehensive and sustainable economic growth, the creation of employment opportunities, and the provision of decent work for all. SDG-8 encompasses a range of specific targets, including enhancing labor productivity, economic diversification, and support for entrepreneurial initiatives. This goal is designed to tackle many challenges, particularly devoted to agricultural development, farmers’ welfare, and women’s active engagement in agriculture. This ensures all individuals have equitable access to gainful and sustainable employment prospects.
Where Does India Stand Concerning Agricultural Development In 2023
Agriculture, supporting nearly half of the population and contributing 17% to the GDP in 2023, commands a focused approach to propel the nation’s economic development. Agriculture stands as a pivotal avenue for realizing inclusive growth. Research from the World Bank highlights the profound impact of agricultural growth on poverty reduction, notably surpassing that of manufacturing. Ensuring that this agricultural expansion maintains sustainability is paramount, while also avoiding the overexploitation of natural resources, a concern seen in regions like Haryana, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab. Agricultural growth must embrace both comprehensiveness and environmental responsibility, and ensuring women’s active involvement in agriculture is pivotal for augmenting the sector’s productivity and socioeconomic influence.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index relies on various indicators to pinpoint individuals in poverty, and one such indicator is the lack of assets. However, a poignant concern arises as women often find themselves without access to immovable property or agricultural land, even within economically comfortable households. Sixty percent of women in India depend on agriculture for their sustenance.
This glaring issue highlights the undeniable reality that women actively involved in agriculture encounter significant obstacles in obtaining vital access to land, assets, and critical infrastructure that is indispensable for amplifying their agricultural productivity. In an endeavor to monitor and realize the objectives outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is increasingly imperative to secure comprehensive data about women’s access to land. Alas, such data is largely non-existent, and this deficiency poses a considerable hurdle in pursuing numerous SDGs, particularly SDG 8, which calls for sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. This data needs to be more accurate to gauge progress and effectively address women’s disparities in the agricultural sector.
Challenges Hindering The Achievement Of SDG-8
Here are a few challenges faced by India in improving agricultural development, leading to:
Limited Mechanization Adoption
While mechanization in Indian agriculture has grown, most farming operations still rely on labor-intensive methods. The highest mechanization levels, around 60–70%, are observed in plowing, harvesting, threshing, and irrigation. However, in areas such as seeding and weeding, where machinery is available, its usage could be higher, primarily due to challenges faced by small-scale farmers. Factors such as limited awareness among rural farmers and capital constraints contribute to this issue.
Soil Fertility Depletion: After the Green Revolution in the 1960s, it became common to use chemical fertilizers excessively. Farmers began to overuse fertilizers for quick results, leading to several detrimental effects. This included reduced organic matter and humus content, a decline in beneficial insects, weaker crop growth, increased vulnerability to pests, and alterations in soil pH, all culminating in decreased productivity.
The imbalanced use of urea, accounting for a significant portion of fertilizer production and consumption (58.4% and 57.9%, respectively, in 2022–23), has been a prime contributor to soil fertility depletion. Moreover, mono-cropping practices, which encompassed around 47% of total cropped areas in 2015–16, have further aggravated the issue of soil degradation.
Inadequate Irrigation Facilities: Irrigation is vital in Indian agriculture, with approximately 80% of water use dedicated to this sector. Unfortunately, the over-exploitation of groundwater sources, relied upon by 65% of irrigation practices, has led to a notable decline in the groundwater table. This depletion significantly impacts agriculture, making timely farming operations difficult. A substantial portion of India’s agriculture, approximately 51% of the net sown area, depends on rain-fed farming, accounting for nearly 40% of total production.
Limited Access To Training And Extension Services: Agricultural extension programs are crucial in technology transfer, problem-solving, and rural development. However, India’s extension system needs to be fixed. Farmers needing training and extension services need to be more informed about the latest farming practices, techniques, and technologies that enhance crop yields. This knowledge gap leads to reduced productivity and subsequently impacts farmers’ income.
Providing adequate training and extension services will protect farmers from pests and diseases that result in decreased yields. Financial losses accrue without information on how to prevent or mitigate these risks. Furthermore, farmers need to be made aware of recent schemes, financial assistance opportunities, and how to access these resources to invest in improving their yield due to the absence of comprehensive training and extension activities. Addressing these issues requires bolstering irrigation infrastructure and establishing equitable and robust agricultural extension systems to empower farmers with the knowledge and resources they need to thrive.
Impact Of Climate Change On Agriculture: Climate change is increasingly manifesting in altered weather patterns, marked by a heightened frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and storms. These climatic shifts can have far-reaching consequences on agriculture, from diminishing soil fertility to reducing crop yields and livestock production, which result in decreased farmer income. In response to these challenges, farmers must invest more in pest and disease management practices that may inflate costs and trim profits.
Climate-induced heat waves can induce stress in crops, particularly when they coincide with critical growth stages like pollination or fruit set. Climate change-induced water scarcity can disrupt irrigation practices, further exacerbating yield losses. Farmers may be compelled to rely on rain-fed agriculture, a more erratic and vulnerable approach in the face of climate change’s unpredictability.
Unpredictable rainfall patterns wreak havoc on various agricultural operations, with untimely rains during harvest leading to complete crop losses. Moreover, heavy rains and subsequent flooding can be highly detrimental to crops and soil. India has witnessed extensive damage to approximately 33.9 million hectares of cropped area due to hydro-meteorological calamities, including heavy rainfall and floods, between 2015–16 and 2021–22. Such losses underscore the urgent need for robust climate-resilient strategies within the agricultural sector.
How Involved Is The Government Toward Achieving SDG-8?
The government is committed to creating substantial employment opportunities to bolster economic growth, and elevating its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Here are a few notable initiatives and schemes to galvanize this vision:
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is a groundbreaking initiative that guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year, uplifting the livelihoods of rural communities. As of September 16, 2019, the program enlisted 120.1 million active workers.
Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana, launched by the Ministry of Labor and Employment in 2016–17, incentivizes employers to generate employment opportunities. By September 16, 2019, benefits had reached 1.21 crore beneficiaries, covering 1.52 lakh establishments.
Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, addressing critical infrastructure gaps in the fisheries sector, plans to establish 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organizations over the next five years.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) offers insurance coverage for all stages of the crop cycle, including post-harvest risks. In 2018–19, claims amounting to Rs. 8,665 crore were disbursed to 553.01 lakh farmers.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) is committed to providing farmers with a payment of Rs. 6,000 per year, distributed in three 4-monthly installments of Rs. 2,000 each, with certain exclusions for higher-income groups. In 2018–19, Rs. 12,646.579 crore was disbursed to 632.32895 lakh farmers.
Make In India, strives to establish India as a manufacturing hub by facilitating job creation and skill development across various sectors. It seeks to attract investments, foster innovation, enhance skill development, protect intellectual property rights, and build world-class manufacturing infrastructure.
Skill India Mission, launched in 2015, is a comprehensive program dedicated to training and developing industrial and entrepreneurial skills among Indians, thereby spurring job creation.
Digital India Mission, commenced in 2015, aspires to transform the Indian economy by focusing on three core components: creating digital infrastructure, delivering services digitally, and promoting digital literacy.
Through these transformative programs, India is advancing resolutely toward realizing SDG-8, fostering inclusive growth and sustainability on an unprecedented scale. Having said all the above, more than the government can enforce and ensure the enforcement of the initiatives and schemes. NGOs are crucial in advocating for sustainable agricultural methods that avoid heavy chemical reliance and prioritize soil vitality. These practices encompass organic farming, agroforestry, and integrated pest management. A central focus is cultivating traditional and climate-resilient crop varieties finely tuned to local ecosystems, ensuring agricultural continuity in the face of climate challenges.
Which is the top rural development NGO in India working toward achieving SDG-8 in India?
S M Sehgal Foundation
S M Sehgal Foundation’s Agriculture Development Program champions sustainable livelihoods by empowering farmers, notably women producers, by adopting cutting-edge agricultural practices and technologies. These initiatives bolster crop yields, preserve water resources, and enhance soil fertility. The program collaborates with smallholder farmers in both rain-fed and irrigated regions, focusing on various aspects, including soil health management, efficient crop production, resource utilization, mechanization, water-conserving irrigation techniques, horticultural advancements, livestock management, and the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in agriculture.
Elevating the income of farmers is pivotal to ensuring food security in India. Agricultural intervention, driven by modern technology and mechanization, has the potential to address a multitude of challenges, including poverty, malnutrition, water and energy use, and the impacts of climate change.
Laser Land Leveling
Ayyaz, driven by insights from a CSR-supported project facilitated by S M Sehgal Foundation, embraced modern technology to enhance his farming practices, particularly in land leveling. Educated about the manifold benefits of laser land leveling, he implemented this technique on one of his two-acre farmland. Laser leveling typically costs INR 2,250 per acre, but with the support of INR 800 from the project that is focused on encouraging first-time adopters and demonstrating its advantages to fellow farmers, he took the initiative.
The results were remarkable. Laser land leveling effectively halved the time and cost required for irrigation. Previously, Ayyaz spent approximately 10–11 hours and INR 90 per hour irrigating a one-acre wheat field, totaling INR 4,500 for five such irrigation cycles. After laser leveling, the same task took merely six hours, resulting in significant savings of INR 1,800. Moreover, this technique optimized crop productivity by ensuring uniform distribution of water and fertilizers across the field.
Promoting Gender Equality In Agriculture In India
S M Sehgal Foundation has launched an innovative pilot program to promote gender equality within the agricultural sector across fifteen villages in Bihar and Maharashtra, engaging 500 women farmers. Through the Women Farmer School (WFS), these women receive training on advanced agricultural techniques and technologies, empowering them to enhance crop yields, income, and nutritional outcomes. Training sessions cover soil health management, climate-resilient farming practices, efficient input utilization, balanced fertilizer application, small-scale mechanization, water-efficient irrigation methods, and address gender inequality. The initiative introduces flood- and drought-resistant seeds, direct sowing methods, and soil carbon-enhancing techniques to encourage climate-sustainable practices. The participants have consistently attended these sessions, showing growing enthusiasm and advocating for change within their communities.
Abdul Improves Livestock Nutrition
By selling the surplus quantity of milk at INR 40 per liter, I can earn approximately INR 3,600 more per month.
A livestock farmer from Nuh, Haryana, faced difficulties when his income decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave due to irregular labor work. Dependent on livestock rearing, he realized his cattle needed adequate nutrition from local fodder. In July 2021, Abdul attended a meeting organized by S M Sehgal Foundation and learned about balanced animal nutrition. He received an animal nutrition kit, including mineral mixtures and deworming tablets, and was also trained on proper feeding and milking practices. After a month of providing balanced nutrition, Abdul’s milch animals’ milk production increased by three liters per day, and his cattle conceived again within sixty days of delivery. This intervention significantly improved his livestocks’ health and productivity, ensuring a more stable livelihood for Abdul.
Multi Crop Reaper/ Harvester, A Sustainable Source Of Income
In October 2021, S M Sehgal Foundation launched a CSR development initiative in fifteen villages within Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district. Marginal farmers primarily inhabit these villages.
The project aims to introduce sustainable agriculture, livelihood, and entrepreneurship development solutions. To enhance agricultural income, the initiative emphasizes mechanization tailored for small-scale farming.
In March 2022, the multi crop reaper was handed over to me and installed on my tractor. In the early days, some people mocked me by saying that I
would not be able to recover my investment, but within five days, I got back my invested amount of INR 22,000, and by April 12, 2022, I had harvested fifty-eight acres of land growing wheat. I charged INR 1,400 per acre; my gross earning was INR 81,200.
One of the reasons for the popularity of the multi crop reaper machine is that the per acre harvesting cost is only INR 1,400 compared to INR 4,800 through manual harvesting, as well as a source of earning for the farmer entrepreneur.
~ Ajay Kumar, the recipient of a multi‑crop reaper from Undi village.
Upon conducting a comprehensive needs assessment, the community revealed that the prevalent practice of wheat harvesting through combine harvesters resulted in the loss of valuable wheat straw, which could have been used as cattle fodder. Furthermore, this method left crop residues in the fields, necessitating the burning of residues, leading to environmental pollution. In response, the project team proposed the adoption of a multi-crop harvester/reaper. This versatile machine can harvest various crops, including wheat, paddy, mustard, pulses, sesame, soybean, barley, oat, and fodder crops, covering ten to twelve acres of farmland per day. The multi-crop reaper is compatible with various tractors and offers a more efficient alternative to manual harvesting or combined harvesters. It is cost-effective, reduces labor-intensive work, eliminates wheat straw loss for fodder, and stands as an eco-friendly solution. Importantly, this machinery introduces a new avenue for agricultural entrepreneurship.