The agriculture sector employs half of India’s 1.35 billion people and contributes nearly 15 percent of India’s $2.7 trillion economy. Nearly 80 percent of the farmers in India belongs to Marginal(less than 1 ha) or small farmers (1–2 ha) category. Every day there is news coming on farmers suicides from different parts of the country.
Given growing debt, poor harvests, and draught, farmers are coming suicide in despair. The condition of the most of the farmers is horrible. The Indian agricultural sector and farmers have been in a deep crisis over the past few years. A number of factors are known to have contributed to this agrarian crisis. There has been a steep rise in the cost of all major inputs, in access to better farming techniques. On the other hand, agricultural produce prices have not risen sufficiently to compensate for the rising cost of production.
Although the government has claimed that its new laws will streamline farming in India and will transform the agriculture sector through increased private investment. But we also need the gauge whether if these measures shall help only a few corporations while leading to unemployment and growing debt for smaller scale farmers. Farmers also fear losing land if they are forced to sell their property to corporates.
Taking prompt actions for past many years, aligning with the vision of PM Modi to double farmer’s income, and taking cognizance of present scenario, leading social sector influencers like AROH Foundation and HDFC Bank Parivartan have immensely invested to improve the situation of agriculture, agrarian and eventually the national economy with funds, manpower, resources and innovation.
AROH Foundation, in association with HDFC Bank has been working for farmer and agriculture welfare for past many years in around 80 villages of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Meghalaya under Holistic Rural Development Project “PARIVARTAN”. Catering to all different demographies in these states, Team Parivartan, equipped with experts, experience and resources have outlined many challenges that small or medium farmers were facing in the region through an extensive baseline study.
Program highlighted how the rise of agribusiness has impacted the agricultural sector. In these villages, many small farmers were negatively affected by the rise of agribusiness, as they were competing against large farms that had the access to more resources and money. Other key issues affecting agricultural productivity included decreasing sizes of agricultural land holdings, continued dependence on monsoons, inadequate and mismanaged irrigation facilities, imbalanced use of soil nutrients resulting in loss of fertility of soil, uneven access to modern technology in different parts of the country, lack of access to formal agricultural credit, limited procurement of food grains by government agencies, and failure to provide remunerative prices to farmers.
Over the years, Parivartan has taken each of these challenges in a phase wise manner and has put in strategic interventions to mitigate them. These interventions included formation of Farmer’s Producer Organization (FPO) to ensure better income for the producers through an organization and face the competition by large scale farmers.
Other reforming interventions included Soil and Water testing of the agricultural periphery, accordingly new crop farming trainings were conducted for farmers, introduction of zero budget natural farming, trellis farming, organic farming were done ensuring optimization of resources, also to optimize water available construction of farm bunding, flood water irrigation, farm ponds, renovation of Rain Water Harvesting structures, Check dams are being done, then shifting to micro-irrigation techniques like Drip irrigation & Sprinkler to improve efficiency of water use, distribution of quality seeds to ensure diversification and high yield are facilitated, AROH has trained these farmers in making natural organic manures and setting up credit linkages, convergence with government schemes are being done to allow the trading of agricultural produce offline and online both.
Not just uplifting the socio-economic stature of existing farmers, project PARIVARTAN also envisages to encourage farming as a profitable profession for both youth and women, especially during COVID when many of them have gone jobless. While present scenario shows that the agriculture needs the young work force, and so involvement of youth in agriculture is vital, as if trained in the trade, youth can be a game changer in India Economic Reforms.
Adding more to the force, the true potential of our demographic dividend cannot be harnessed if we do not ensure equal participation of women in agri-economy by introduction of women- friendly farming interventions like more than 500 kitchen gardens and help them contribute to national development, an area where AROH Foundation has forayed and established itself as lead player in this arena. By these interventions, PARIVARTAN has been successful in positively impacting more than 25000 farmers and their families by far.
Tripling the income for Ajay Kumar
Ajay Kumar, 28 years was a small scale farmer from Kudi village of Firozabad. With the insufficient output of 2 beegha of small piece of land with Ajay, he was unable to sustain his family of 5. He was in constant lookout for a parallel livelihood for himself, as he could not afford buying more land. For many such small scale farmers, the situation was almost similar in Firozabad. Either they had to quit farming completely or had to work as farm labors in other big farmer’s land.
Project PARIVARTAN had stepped in with a focus to elevate the socio-economic status of these small scale farmers only. With an innovative technique of “Multi-Layer Trellis Farming”, farmers like Ajay could produce three crops at the same time. In Trellis, crops are sown inside ground like brinjal, chilly etc, over the ground like green vegetables and a third layer is created on a mesh through fencing and wiring for creeper crop. So, eventually along with triple yield, many like Ajay were getting triple the profit.
Exhilarated Ajay says, “Trellis method has been very beneficial for us. With 2 beegha of land, I am able to produce equivalent to at least 6 beegha yield. It can increase even more too. With the detailed training by team PARIVARTAN, we now know how to experiment with land, crop and farming techniques. Many like me are having actually double the income or rather triple the income compared to before. Isn’t it the same like Modiji’s vision.” He laughs.
Putting more light on the initiative, Dr Neelam Gupta, Founder president of AROH Foundation said, “A farmer is characterized by his persistence and hard work. AROH under project PARIVARTAN makes concerted efforts to create a conducive eco-system to support his hard work so that these small & medium scale farmers gets optimum returns on a sustainable basis. Over the years, with the lab to land approach, farmers with AROH have been closely mentored for scientific farming and many of them have adopted modern scientific farming. The shift from conventional to knowledge based farming has led to sustainable agriculture growth in recent times. Our farmers are already a step ahead towards fulfilling Honorable PM Shri Narendra Modi’s dream to ‘Double the farmers’ income by 2022’.”