Stories tagged: India

10 Ways Agriculture is Improving Lives in Asia

In this latest instalment of our “Supporter Spotlight” series, we take a trip to Asia to learn about the innovative projects Farming First supporters are working on all over the continent to improve food security and farmers’ lives.

1. Fintrac: Beating Drought with Smart Water Management in Cambodia

When the rains did not come in 2015, one group of farmers in the northeastern province of Pursat not only survived, but thrived. They had banded together to form a Water User Group, that managed farmer access to the Polyum Canal. By maximising efficiency and eliminating conflict around water use, and using good agricultural practices taught by the Cambodia HARVEST program, group members have increased their productivity from an average of 2,500 kilograms per hectare to more than 4,000. As a result, their household incomes have increased by 536 percent! Read more >>

2. GAIN: Meet the Wheatamix Women in India

Through funding from the Bestseller Foundation, GAIN is working in the states of Karnataka and Bihar in India to improve the nutrition and lives of groups of semi-literate women. These women are trained to run their own factories producing a quality blended complementary food product called ”Wheatamix” in Bihar and “Shakhti Vita” in Karnataka. This complementary food product, fortified with vitamins and minerals, has the potential to reach thousands of women, adolescents and children in the region. Read more >>

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3. CropLife: An Indian Farmer Perspective on Biotechnology

In this interview with CropLife International, Balwinder Singh shares his experience of planting an insect-resistant strain of cotton. “I was lucky to be part of the trial when Bt cotton came to India, and when I saw the benefits of this technology; I was the first person to say, this is what is going to save us,” he said. “I took a gamble, and took an additional 50 hectares of land on lease to sow Bt cotton.  It has paid off and my family is enjoying a decent living.” Read more >>

4. IPNI: Healthier Soils Make Indian Farmers More Maize

Access to water has created a challenge for many Indian farmers, increasing interest in alternative crops to flooded rice. Working in West Bengal, research staff at the International Plant Nutrition Institute have focused on developing a rice-maize rotation as an alternative to rice to address the water challenge. Research showed that adding potassium, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc in order to grow maize effectively added US$80 – $290/ha to the farmer’s income. Not only was the maize yield increased, but similar responses were recorded in the rice in these on-farm trials. Read more >>

5. CNFA: Building a Network for Agro-Input Services in Bangladesh 

CNFA implements the USAID-funded Agro-Inputs Project (AIP) to improve the knowledge of and access to quality agricultural inputs for farmers in Bangladesh. CNFA provides trainings and technical assistance on business management and ethics, basic agronomics, safe use and handling of pesticides and other related topics to 3,000 agro-input retailers. Of this, 300 women-retailers are specifically targeted. These agro-input retailers are expected to serve 1 million smallholder farmers, impacting more than 5 million individuals across 20 southern districts of Bangladesh, generating more than $100 million in sales. Read more >>

6. Livelihoods: Mangroves Restore Agricultural Land in Indonesia 

In 1987, Northern Sumatra had 200,000 hectares of mangroves. Today, less than half of that amount remains, with only 83,000 hectares standing. This Livelihoods project has restored mangrove forests, and as a result, increases the safety of the local population. Replanting coastal mangroves significantly buffers coastal communities from future tsunamis akin to that of the 2004 tsunami. Mangrove forests also help to restore vital agricultural land. Additionally, this project generates new sources of economic income. Local villagers are able to increase their revenues by selling the by-products of the mangroves such as fish, mollusks, batik dye and honey. Read more >>

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7. HarvestPlus: Iron Pearl Millet Enriches Diets in India

Iron deficiency is rampant in India, affecting 7 out of 10 children. It impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue, and may increase the risk of women dying during childbirth. HarvestPlus is working with partners to promote varieties of pearl millet rich in iron, to help combat malnutrition. Read more >>

8. iDE: Saving Time and Earning Money Through Water Access in Nepal 

Rural villages in Nepal lack several basic services, but the primary issue for many is access to water. Multiple-Use Water Systems (MUS) are an improved approach to water resource management, which taps and stores water and distributes it to households in small communities to meet both domestic and household agricultural needs. In addition to dramatically decreasing the workload of women and girls, MUSs provide benefits in health and sanitation, as well as enabling communities to improve their decisions on the allocation of water resources. “After we got the water it was easy to grow vegetables,” says Kamala Pariyar, a rural farmer in Dikurpokhari. “I used to ask my husband for money to buy basic things. Now, by selling the vegetables, I can earn 600 rupees a day. I have enough money.” Read more >>

9. World Vision: Mangrove Planting Revitalizes Philippine Fishing Community

When a fishing village in the western part of Leyte in the Philippines was struggling to catch enough to feed their families, World Vision helped to implement a mangrove planting initiative. Each family was provided with an average of 1,000 mangrove stalks to plant in the area near their house, to provide a safe habitat of various species of fish, where they can lay their eggs without being disturbed by double net fishing. There is now abundant fish for catching once more, and the community is protected from the risk of typhoons. Read more >>

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10. IFA: Combatting Iodine Deficiencies Through Fertigation

Globally it is estimated that 2.2 billion people in the world are at a risk of iodine deficiency, which causes a wide range of physiological abnormalities, mainly related to defective mental development and brain damage. The content of iodine in food depends on the iodine content of the soils in which crops are grown. In Xinjiang Province, in the North West of China, the soil is particularly poor in iodine with an associated high infant-mortality rate. A project was put in place to supply the water irrigation system with iodine using an iodine fertilizer dripping technique, called fertigation. With this technique, the iodine from the treated water is absorbed by the soil and progresses through plants, animals and humans that eat the iodine-rich plants. Thanks to this project, rates of infant mortality halved and local livestock production increased by 40% in the first year! Read more >>

Do you have an inspiring story about Asian agriculture? Tweet @FarmingFirst and tell us about it!

Video: Feeding India with Finite Resources

“You can’t cook a cuisine with just one ingredient,” Indian farmer Balwinder Singh Kang tells Farming First TV. Farming, he explains is the same. “I don’t say you can only use one technology, I say use the best of everything.”

Mr. Kang has been farming for the past 30 years on a small farm at Hanumangarh in the state of Rajasthan. He grows GM cotton as well as conventional varieties of wheat, mustard, beans, and some vegetables. Not all technologies, however, are reaching him and his fellow farmers. Continue reading

Video: Beyond Borlaug – New Priorities for Agriculture

When Dr. Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for his spearheading of the Green Revolution, he decided there should be an annual prize that rewards outstanding contributions to the fight against food insecurity. The World Food Prize was first given in 1987, and the very first winner was Dr. Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, for his work introducing high-yielding wheat and rice varieties to India’s farmers.

Farming First met Dr. Swaminathan at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa and asked him how research priorities have changed in the 29 years since he won the Prize. Continue reading

Prabhu Pingali: Women’s Groups as Conduits Towards Resilient Communities

Our guest author, Prabhu Pingali, Professor of Applied Economics & Director of the Tata-Cornell Agriculture & Nutrition Initiative at Cornell University, continues our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are becoming ubiquitous across rural India.  There are currently around 3 million registered women’s SHGs in the country. These groups are becoming integral to the lasting resilience of its rural food systems and communities, and can provide some useful lessons for the rest of the developing world.

Initially set up for facilitating microfinance, SHGs are now playing an important role as conduits of overall empowerment of rural women in India, giving women the strength to create change that they could not have been able to achieve individually, in terms of access to finance, environmental stewardship, and even political empowerment.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN ACTION

This year I have visited many groups that demonstrated the impact women’s SHGs are having on building a resilient community. In Gufu for example, a village located a few hours outside of Ranchi, Jharkand, we visited an SHG that was helping women break their dependence on local moneylenders and stop selling valuable assets (often land) when they needed access to credit. It began life as a savings and loans group and is now operating a cooperative store selling seed and fertilizer and has helped its members purchase irrigation pumps for their land.

The leader of an SHG in Kunti, a neighboring area to Gufu, told us proudly, “We now have a bank account and I go to the bank to manage the account. I never went into a bank before I started with this group.  I always thought banks were for people with money. We have money now.” This new sense of confidence has women increasing their participation in village-level meetings and talking about their aspirations to run for local government offices.

In Jharkand we visited PRADAN, an NGO that has a long track record of working with women’s groups. PRADAN was helping one rural community improve the supply of water to its drinking water wells by changing the way it uses land on the upper watershed. The women in the community participated in mapping the watershed, in making decisions on cropping pattern changes, and in implementing the change.  Today perennials have replaced annual crops in the upper watershed, soil erosion has reduced significantly and well water is available throughout the year, even during the peak summer months.

NOT ALL SELF HELP GROUPS ARE SUCCESSFUL

The evolution of SHGs from savings and loans groups to become an access point for political decisionmaking and natural resource management is truly astounding – but not all groups are able to step up to taking on the broader development and local governance challenges.  So what makes an SHG flounder or flourish?

Many of the groups we visited lacked leadership or managerial skills, or exhibited poor group cohesion.  In many cases, the leaders were overburdened by numerous and competing demands from the various development projects that are trying to use the SHGs for accomplishing their objectives. All too often, external organizations, eager to see change, have elected to channel projects through SHGs. They are perhaps unaware of how the splintering of limited time and resources of SHG women might undermine the capacity for SHGs to manage their own affairs, a fundamental dimension for change.

FOCUS ON GROUP BUY-IN AND OWNERSHIP

Institutions, donors, and organizations looking to leverage the power and potential of SHGs should be optimistic, but keep in mind the ultimate goal of enhancing women’s empowerment and opportunity. Individual ”buy-in” and group ownership of decisions are vital to ensuring that SHGs are a platform to facilitate transformative change that will build a more resilient community.

As development agencies, researchers, or practitioners, we need to proceed with caution so as not to undermine the potential of SHGs. Equipping SHGs with the financial and managerial resources they need to meet goals determined by the group and forgoing projects that could highlight the differences amongst women (educated versus non-educated, young versus old) will remain critical principles of practice.

Certainly, it will require a more nuanced view of SHGs, one that looks at them as organizations on a pathway to determining their own future rather than simply vehicles for project implementation that can provide heartwarming stories about women.

 

This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

Climate Smart Agriculture: Stories of Success

A series of success stories of climate smart agriculture in action, has been released by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) to demonstrate the varied ways climate smart agriculture can take shape.

In an effort to inspire future policies and investments for making the world’s one billion farmers most resilient to the immediate threats that climate change poses on their livelihoods, the new booklet Climate Smart Agriculture Success Stories from Farming Communities around the World examines sixteen up to date examples from around the world.

A woman farmer tends works in a paddy field in the Eastern Indian state of Orissa

A woman farmer tends works in a paddy field in the Eastern Indian state of Orissa

Did you know:

– Over 5 million ha of degraded land in the Sahel have been restored through a practice known as ‘farmer-managed natural regeneration’, increasing the food security of millions of people and enhancing their resilience in the face of climate change.

– Weather-index-based crop insurance has encouraged over 12 million farmers in India to invest in their crops, boosting food security and the resilience of smallholder production systems.

– Denmark’s Green Growth policy has helped reduce the agriculture sector’s carbon footprint while ensuring the sector remains vibrant. Smart measures, such as improved use of manure and a 40% reduction in the use of inorganic fertiliser, have contributed to a 28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2009.

The lack of progress at the UN climate talks, still underway in Warsaw, Poland, have left farming organisations frustrated. The examples set out in this new booklet must serve as inspiration to continue collaboration and knowledge sharing that is already helping to equip farmers with the tools they need to cope in the face of a changing climate.

Download your copy of Climate Smart Agriculture Success Stories from Farming Communities around the World here.

Digital Green: Agricultural Extension Goes Viral in India

Agriculture accounts for between 50-60% of the workforce in India. India is also the country that dedicates the second largest workforce to agriculture extension, employing more than 100,000 people to share knowledge on best agricultural practice.

Yet several barriers have hindered adoption of best practice in India, from illiteracy levels in rural communities, to lack of access to cost-effective technology and the limited mobility of extension agents. In 2006, US born Rikin Gandhi set up an organisation that would significantly break down these barriers for the first time. Six years later, his platform Digital Green has reached nearly 118,000 Indian farmers.

“We like to say that Digital Green is essentially American Idol for Indian farmers”, Rikin smiles. This means that Indian farmers are coached to ‘star’ in their own videos that demonstrate an agricultural practice that is relevant to their local area, in their local language. These videos are then shared, by the numerous extension agencies that Digital Green partners with. The extension agents use a low-cost, battery operated pico projector, that is able to work in areas with limited electricity. Since the programme’s inception in 2006, over 2,000 videos have been produced.

“The aim is to improve the efficiency of the existing extension agencies that we partner with”, Rikin comments. Digital Green now works in six states in India, across 1200 villages, reaching well over 100,000 farmers. Video content produced varies greatly, given that the challenges that face farmers across India vary with each region. Rikin commented that the most popular video on Digital Green is one teaching farmers about the cultivation of Azolla. Azolla is an aquatic fern that when fed to cattle can boost their milk production by up to one litre. “This practice started off in one corner of a state we worked in about six years ago, and now we see it all across the six states we work in.”

This example video demonstrates the key aspects of all Digital Green videos. Videos are recorded in local languages and dialects, making them easy to understand, and local farmers are the ‘actors’, meaning they are by farmers, for farmers, of farmers. The reconnection with local communities is the defining feature of this extension model; as the farmers that watch the videos feel inspired by fellow farmers in similar circumstances. Statistics available on the Digital Green website are testament to the success of this model, showing that of the farmers adopting new agricultural practices, over half had seen a Digital Green video in the last 60 days.

The Digital Green revolution is growing, with an average of 80 videos shown to farmers daily. To find out more, visit www.digitalgreen.org, or follow @digitalgreenorg on Twitter.