CSISA’s research team from IFPRI are deep into the design, data collection and initial analysis phases as they start work on three major studies rolling out during the kharif (monsoon) rice season. These studies will provide new insights on how farmers perceive different CSISA-supported technologies, and how these perceptions vary across different types of farmers. This helps CSISA and, more importantly, extension agencies and NGOs, to have a better understanding of what works, where and why.
The latest study will explore farmers’ valuation of – and returns to – the use of mechanical rice transplanters (MRTs) in Bihar. Another study examines farmers’ preferences for – and uptake of – new stress-tolerant rice cultivars coupled with a weather index insurance product in Odisha. Both studies take their cues from prior IFPRI studies: the former on farmers’ willingness to pay for laser land levelers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and the latter on farmers’ preferences for a similar cultivar and insurance product in Bogra, Rajshahi division, Bangladesh.
Each study combines exercises that explore respondents’ perceptions of new agricultural products and services before actually providing them. For example, the study in Bihar uses experimental games with farmers to discern differences in male and female demand for MRTs and the potential labor savings it might offer. The studies in Bogra and Odisha use similar exercises to understand how farmers perceive the probability of a drought during kharif and the costs and benefits of somehow insuring themselves against that risk, with weather index insurance and/or drought-tolerant rice varieties.
With a better sense of farmers’ preferences, these studies will then introduce novel products and services for use during the upcoming kharif season. In Bihar, selected farmers will receive (and pay for) mechanical transplanting services. In Odisha, selected farmers will receive (and pay for) a drought-tolerant rice cultivar and/or a weather index insurance policy.
At this moment, several of these experiments – accompanied by village and household surveys followed by distribution of products and services – are underway and in the field. The team is working with local partners for these studies – Gram Unnayan Karma (GUK) in Bogra, Balasore Social Service Society in Odisha, HopUp for survey management and implementation in Bihar. And with collaborators from the University of California, Davis and the University of Georgia, these studies will provide critical insights for CSISA and its wide range of stakeholders. And with these insights, IFPRI and CSISA are better able to advise policymakers on the types of policies and investments they might make to affect evidence-based solutions that encourage inclusive technological change across South Asia’s rural economy.
This article is authored by David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI.
Pravati Prabha Behera is a member and secretary of the Kapila Muni Milk Society under Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation (OMFED) in Barandua village, Bhadrak district. She owns 7 cows that produce 15 liters of milk per day. Three of these are crossbred, which produce more milk than a local breed. She is responsible for the maintenance of the straw chopping machine, the only one in their village. The machine is kept at the village trading square, where women members of the Kapila Milk Society come to get their straw chopped.
Feeding livestock is often a challenge in Barandua. The plots of land are small and mostly devoted to growth of paddy during the rainy season and to some extent vegetables during winter. The cattle are fed at home until harvest is over, when they are allowed to feed on the remaining straw in the rice fields. They are also fed on the broken rice and bran from the market and they do home-based feeding. Historically, farmers have used a home-based hand cutter for chopping the straw, which is tedious and time consuming.
Through CSISA, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has introduced crop residue-based animal feeding strategies and provided the chopping machine in Behera’s village, and farmers like her are now seeing the benefits.
Women farmers find the machine useful as it can chop straw in less time than the hand cutter can. Farmers are also chopping and soaking the straw that helps to increase its digestibility and intake. So they are using less straw and less concentrate than previously and are getting more milk yield. They feed the chopped straw to the animal in a bowl, which reduces chances of contamination, as a result cattle health is improving. The saved rice straw can be fed to cattle over 4-5 months, helping reduce expenses.
“The animals are also adapting to the new taste of soaked fodder,” Behera observes. “Once they have tasted the green fodder and the chopped and soaked straw, they no longer want to eat the dry straw.”
Women in Barandua have learnt to organize their week around the machine – often cutting the straw two to three times in a week and storing it in gunny bags. The milk society pays for the maintenance costs of the machine and sometimes Behera collects some money from the society members. Neighboring villagers have also started adopting the technology after seeing the benefits.
As a mother, Behera considers the food security of her family, and others’, very important. She teaches other mothers in her village to give their children milk before the remainder is sold. “Milk helps us guard against the effects of crop failure and it improves our nutrition. Every day, we have milk to drink even when it is too little to sell.”
This article is authored by Jane Wanjiku Gitau, Communications Specialist, ILRI.
The gap between research and the application of new technologies or management practices on farmers’ fields often results because farmers do not receive timely information about emerging research outputs, technologies or improved practices. Innovative new methods of linking research, products, practices and farming communities must be explored and developed.
Sajit Kumar Mohanty, a farmer from Kansapal village in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, used a traditional method of rice planting – manually uprooting and transplanting rice seedlings. He was introduced to the benefits of mechanical rice transplanting by his local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (farm science center, the local agricultural extension hub) but he wasn’t convinced. “I found the technology useful but nobody really knew how to properly prepare the mat nursery or operate the machine,” said Mohanty. This sentiment is common among other smallholder farmers in his village, who often require more hands-on support on using a new technology.
More than 83 percent of the total farming population in Odisha is comprised of smallholder and marginal farmers, who have limited resources and rely mostly on the state for access to agricultural information. Presently, farmers like Mohanty receive information primarily by two means: Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), which is aligned with the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), and Department of Agriculture (DOA), Government of Odisha. Both KVK and DOA work directly with individual farmers to provide field-level technical inputs, create awareness about improved technologies and provide information on entitlements under government programs.
Old Meets New
“The Odisha state government and OUAT recognized the need to strengthen their capacity to transfer suitable technologies to small-scale farmers in ways that were faster, more efficient and more timely,” said Sudhir Yadav, IRRI Irrigated Systems Agronomist and the CSISA Odisha Hub Manager. “The innovative use of ICT tools such as the use of video for outreach can be part of the solution to strengthen the existing system.”
It is with this vision that Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) collaborated with Digital Green (DG), the DOA, Government of Odisha, KVKs and OUAT for a pilot project to integrate ICT based video-led information dissemination models with the current state system.
How the pilot works: Digital Green trains and builds the skills of the state agents to shoot and create videos with farmers on improved farming practices and then screens those videos to small groups of farmers, using small-sized, low-cost, battery-run pico projectors. CSISA provides its technical inputs in video topic selection, content planning and story boarding. During the video screening, state agents keep track of the questions asked and have follow-up meetings with the farmers to check on the adoption.
The Digital Green system of information dissemination benefits from the trust that emerges when they see their fellow villagers demonstrating new technologies in their language and in their village, and from the group setting that allows information to reach multiple people using a relatively low level of resources.
“We aim at both increasing the participation of the community into extension and making a two-way flow between research and extension,” said Rikin Gandhi, CEO, Digital Green, presenting at the Borlaug 100 event organized by CIMMYT, reaffirming Digital Green’s mission to establish an exchange between research and extension leveraging technology.
Implemented in 20 villages of Puri district in Odisha, this CSISA–DG initiative has begun producing videos on 10 technical themes based on the needs of the local farming community. The topics included the demonstration of new paddy, post-harvest and livestock management technologies and highlighting relevant successes by local farmers. So far, six videos in Odiya have been produced, featuring CSISA-promoted technologies. The videos were shown 91 times through group screenings and nearly 500 farmers in Puri district have attended at least one of the video screenings. “Each video requires good planning, a good script and technical understanding of the subject,” Yadav said. Synergy between partners is therefore very important, he added.
Local Farmer is the Star
These videos are generating interest among farmers to learn about and adopt new technologies and management practices. The video on the benefits of chopped straw as fodder in dairy management has helped farmers to enhance milk production, commented Suresh Parida, a farmer from one of the pilot villages. Farmers have also found it easier to identify pests and diseases in their crop after seeing the images in the video of pest and disease management in paddy.
“As the actors in the video are local farmers from the local area, it generates trust among the viewers to adopt a demonstrated practice,” said Avinash Upadhaya, Regional Manager of Digital Green for Odisha at a recent participatory stakeholders workshop in Puri.
Farmers, mediators (KVK staff) and project co-ordination staff (including from DOA, CSISA and Digital Green) came together to discuss the changes that the ICT model has brought and the challenges in integrating the ICT model with the traditional training method.
Talking about the advantages of the DG approach, Ashok Lakra, the village agricultural worker of a pilot village highlighted, “At a demonstration, we might miss some important information but these videos deliver the entire package and cover all the points.” One of the suggestions from the meeting was to distribute leaflets about the technique to the farmers at the end of the video screening for future reference.
“The best language that the farmer understands is the language of other farmers. This works as a good communication model to help in creating awareness and dissemination of improved technologies,” said Yadav.
The article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communication Specialist, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia.
The seemingly sleepy village at the end of the road is not so sleepy after all. Guagadia village in Odisha produced an overnight entrepreneur, one who had never imagined he would ever do anything beyond feeding his dairy cattle, milking them and selling the milk to the local dairy board, Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation (OMFED). But all that changed when workers of the OMFED feed supplier went on strike. Wondering “How am I going to feed my cows?” farmer Kishore Kumar adapted and rose to the occasion.
Driven by his desperation, Kumar reached out to the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) for help. To address the plight of the farmers, CSISA-ILRI organized a training workshop on concentrate feed in Bhubaneshwar. Four days later, Kumar was making his own concentrate feed and was self-sufficient.
The training program he attended entitled, ‘Crop Residue-Based Feeding Strategies to Improve Milk Production of Dairy Animals,’ covered feeding chopped rice straw supplementation with mineral mixture and self-preparation of concentrate feed. Participants were taught how to mix the balanced concentrate feed, how to chop straw and soak it to feed the cattle as well as entrepreneurship skills. The program reiterated the importance of using locally available materials – that can either be found on their own farms, purchased from neighbors or local markets.
In three months, Kumar emerged as an entrepreneur not only making feed for his own cattle but also selling the surplus to villagers that lacked the resources to do so themselves. His customers now span six neighboring villages. These fellow farmers have grown to appreciate the consistency of the feed Kumar supplies and have told him that they would be willing to pay even a higher amount but not to compromise on the feed quality.
Kumar is grateful for the support he received from CSISA and acknowledges the training program that gave him skills to last for a lifetime. From his increased earnings he has already bought sacks, a weighing machine and a sealing machine for the feed – to ensure he sells the right quantities and of the best quality. He even took a loan with a local financial institution for buying a tractor to carry the rice straw from the fields and the ingredients bought from local markets. He recognises he became a businessman out of necessity, but says he is committed to make the most of it and is working hard to grow his newfound business.
Ram Nandan Prasad, a dairy farmer in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, was convinced that his 19–20 crossbred dairy cattle could yield more milk than they were producing. So, he fed them concentrates available in the local market and ensured high levels of hygiene. Yet, the average yield per cow was just 15–20 liters per day.
There is a strong demand for milk in the region where Prasad lives, for direct human consumption and for mixing in tea/coffee, making ice cream, sweets, curd and butter. Milk provides vital nutrients for the community, besides serving as an important source of income for producers. Prasad sells his milk to the Ganga Dairy, a local private corporation, as do a number of his fellow villagers.
Last year, Prasad participated in a farmers’ training program organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) under CSISA for members of the Hitkari Krishak Club, a local farmers’ association where Prasad serves as the secretary. In this training on ‘Crop Residue Based Feeding Strategies to Improve Milk Production of Dairy Animals,’ he learned that the potential average milk each cow can produce with improved feed is 30 liters.
Using the scientific formula taught during the program, Prasad prepared balanced concentrate feed from locally available ingredients for his dairy cattle and also adopted the use of green fodder. The results, he says, were remarkable. “Within two months the quantity and quality of milk drastically improved even though I was now feeding the cows a lesser amount of concentrates than before.”
Encouraged by this outcome, he increased his herd to 25 crossbred dairy cattle with milk yields incresead by 10-15%, milk fat and solids-not-fat (SNF) increased by 10-12% and 3-5%, respectively, and decreased concentrate consumption by 8-10% per cow. The increase in milk fat and SNF represents an improvement in the quality of milk, which results in higher price per liter of milk sold. For many of his fellow farmers, however, preparing the concentrate was time consuming and buying individual ingredients was expensive as most farmers keep only one or two cows. So, Prasad went a step further. He produced more concentrate than he required and sold the surplus to other farmers in his village at no profit, only charging an additional Rs. 1 ($0.02) as service charge.
Seeing this change in the level of milk production, farmers from other villages have become his customers as well. Today, Prasad manually prepares 25–30 tons per month, using 8 tons for his own herd and selling the rest. He also increased his land under green fodder so that he can sell that surplus as well. He is also assembling a tractor-driven grinding, milling and mixing machine to produce more concentrate to meet the demand of his growing new business.
Barsaprasad Hembram, a maize farmer from Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, purchased a variety of modern farm machines this year by participating in a government scheme that gives farmers a 50 percent subsidy on tractors and seven auxiliary implements such as the seed drill. Today, Hembram uses his new farm equipment to provide agricultural custom-hire services to other like-minded farmers, charging $14.35 (Rs. 910) per hour for the tiller and $15.78 (Rs. 1,000) per hour for the Mould Board plow.
Not only does this service give Hembram additional income, it helps other smaller farmers who can’t afford to buy machines to reap the benefits of modern farming technologies. Hembram says, “Word got around about the success of my maize crop and more and more people became interested in using technologies such as the seed drill. Availability of labor is a huge challenge for all the farmers here so naturally they’re interested. I already have requests from five farmers to help with their fields next year.”
Hembram is a CSISA-supported service provider — or ‘change agent intermediary.’ By offering custom-hire agricultural machinery at relatively affordable rates, these service providers are bringing the benefits of modern agricultural mechanization even to the smallest farmers – in addition to serving as an important source of information on better-bet agronomic management. CSISA supports a network of more than 1,700 mechanized service providers across India.
With an increasing agricultural labor shortage in India, shifting to mechanical power seems like a logical response. Not only does mechanization support the optimal utilization of resources (e.g., land, labor, water) and expensive farm inputs, it also helps farmers save valuable time in completing a variety of operations. The judicious use of time, labor and resources can help facilitate sustainable intensification (e.g., multi-cropping) and the timely of planting of crops, which can give crops more time to mature and increase productivity. The use of scale-appropriate machinery can also help reduce drudgery.
The shortage of labor in Mayurbhanj is a challenge that farmer Sajit Kumar Mohanty is familiar with as well. He shares, “Most of the local labor is employed by brick kilns, making it nearly impossible for me to find the 20–30 people it would take to manually uproot and transplant rice seedlings for my field. Thanks to the machine transplanter, I can now manage the same task with just four people.” Farmer and service provider Kishore Kinkar Padiari says that in Bhadrak, Odisha, “Not only is labor expensive and hard to find, there is also no assurance that they will come exactly when you need them to, which can be of critical importance with the changing climate and shifting planting windows.”. Thanks to Padiari’s custom hire services farmers in his village now manage to plant more than 1 acre per day (0.40 hectare) with just three people using the machine transplanter for rice instead of the 20 people they previously needed at a cost of $3.47 (Rs. 220) per person. “Using this technology farmers also save nearly 10–15 kg seed per acre.”
Benefits for Smallholders
India has a large number of smallholder farmers who have landholdings of less than 2 hectares. The role of change agent intermediaries like Hembram and Padiari becomes even more significant in eastern India, where the average landholding size is decreasing and the procurement of machines individual farmers is often not economically feasible.
From this year, Padiari has also started renting out his laser land leveler and has already received requests to service more than 30 hectares. Sharing insights on the business of service provision, he adds, “I’m only charging Rs. 400–600 ($6.30–9.50) initially to build demand and in some cases I’ve only asked for the cost of the diesel. A lot of the farmers don’t know about these technologies so they are apprehensive in the beginning. But when they see results they’ll come back and even be willing to pay more.”
For technologies such as zero tillage (ZT), service providers provide crop establishment services to more than 20 households each — a core example of CSISA’s strategy for achieving sustainable intensification at scale through change agent intermediaries. Across Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, over 50,000 hectares of ZT wheat were sown by CSISA-supported service providers in 2013–14, reflecting an area increase of 42% over the previous year.
But the business of service provision is not for everyone, warns Vijay Kumar Singh from Vaishali, Bihar. “Most people with tractors don’t want to buy ZT machines because they can only make money from it once per field. The plow in comparison will be needed at least five to six times. I only bought the ZT machine because I have enough land of my own to use it on and not because I was dependent on using it as a source of income,” he explains. And perhaps rice farmer Tushar Ranjan Biswal from Bhadrak would agree.
Biswal approached CSISA to learn about technologies that could help him cultivate his 8.09 hectares of hereditary land that were lying fallow. “I’m ambitious and wanted to earn some money. I was told about the option of becoming a service provider and earning an extra income by renting out my machines to other farmers in the area. But I realized that I could make much more money by simply leasing their farms instead and am hence now cultivating a total area of nearly 80 acres (32.37 hectares).” Biswal does, however, invite farmers from neighboring villages to showcase the benefits of using more modern agricultural practices. He admits, “If it wasn’t for this technology, I could never have cultivated such a large piece of land.”
Another challenge according to Parmanand Pandey from Samastipur, Bihar is that parts for machines aren’t always readily available, which means that if a machine needs to be repaired, it will become unavailable for that entire cropping season. But why, then, did he become a service provider with the zero tillage machine for wheat, bed planter for maize and machine transplanter for rice? “You cannot always think in terms of cost and profit. Mechanization is also about risk mitigation. With a single machine I can cover 35 acres (14.16 hectares) while with a plow I cannot. More and more people are realizing this every year and so every year my business is increasing.”
Mechanized rice production, including mechanized drill seeding, has the potential to improve yields and reduce labor demand in Tamil Nadu. Because mechanized rice production involves a relatively knowledge-intensive set of practices, extension agents involved in providing support and information must receive proper training. Capacity building efforts for state extension agents are often insufficient and existing training programs sometimes suffer from being either too theoretical or narrowly focused on a small window of the cropping cycle.
To provide a comprehensive and hands-on training experience and to build capacity within the state extension system, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and CSISA are piloting a season-long training course at the Needamangalam Krishi Vigyan Kendra (farm science center) in Thiruvarur District. The training will cover all aspects of growing drill-seeded rice (DSR). Course materials have been fine-tuned and adapted to the specific conditions of Tamil Nadu in a joint workshop by TNAU and CSISA staff.
The training program covers 13 major steps for successful rice production, from crop planning to milling to processing. The course is composed of 10 training days spread across the production cycle of rice and includes classroom sessions as well as practical exercises and applications in the field.
The beginning of the curriculum includes an overview of rice ecosystems, rice morphology and the cropping calendar, followed by a field-based introduction to laser land leveling. Subsequent modules focus on land preparation, farm power and tractor operation and maintenance and are followed by exercises on crop planning, financial management and matching equipment to farm size. Students will then prepare land for DSR. The next steps include practical exercises on seed quality measurement, seed drill calibration and sowing. This will be followed by lessons and exercises on weed and water management and population maintenance. The emergence of the crop will be monitored, emerging weeds identified and the post-emergency herbicide applied. The next training day will focus on nutrient management of rice with an introduction to the nutrient requirements and deficiency symptoms of rice, site-specific nutrient management, Leaf Color Chart and Nutrient Manager. Additional lessons cover insects, rodents and diseases in rice and their control, pesticide safety, knapsack sprayer use, etc. Harvest day will see students taking yield measurements, harvesting, threshing and drying rice. Practical exercises on assessing grain quality will be done with the IRRI Rice Quality Assessment Kit. The course will culminate on 29 January 2015 with an excursion to a modern rice mill after lessons on rice storage, milling and processing as well as a practical introduction to the ‘Superbag’ and ‘Cocoon’ as hermetic storage systems.
As a next step, CSISA also plans to introduce the season-long training concept in Odisha with a focus on mechanical transplanting of rice.
Bihar Department of Agriculture (DOA) has included machine transplanting under non puddled condition (MTNPR) and direct dry seeded rice (DSR) in the road map of Kharif Production Activities 2014. This is largely due to CSISA’s efforts to promote the rice establishment methods (MTNPR, DSR and community nursery) and get these technologies mainstreamed through the state agriculture department in Bihar.
Bihar agriculture department’s road map of Kharif Production Activities 2014
CSISA has been engaging and participating in a series of planning meetings with DOA for scaling-up of these technologies in the state. At a meeting organized by Bihar Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute (BAMETI) and chaired by Vivek Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, CSISA presented data on success of these technologies in different clusters for Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh and expressed the need to expand these technologies.
Labor scarcity during rice transplanting remains a serious challenge in Bihar and has started affecting the state’s existing labour-intensive System Rice Intensification (SRI) program. Better bet agronomic practices, like SRI, can be expanded more efficiently by machine transplanting rather than manual transplanting.
“This is an important step directed at improvement in cropping system productivity and mechanization of rice cultivation in Bihar. If the extension process capitalizes on this, it will lead to a long-term gain for sustainable intensification (SI) of the cropping system in Bihar”, said R.K. Malik, the leader of CSISA’s Objective 1 and the Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh hub manager.
At the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) 2014 Technical Workshop in Obregón, Mexico, Dr. Chhavi Tiwari received the ‘Women in Triticum Award 2014.’ Tiwari was a recipient of the CIMMYT-CSISA Research Fellowship in 2010 and has been actively engaged in wheat research for the past nine years, targeting the crucial wheat concerns of the Eastern Gangetic Plains of India, particularly the heat stress and micronutrient deficiency in the region.
The Women in Triticum Award, established in 2010, provides professional development opportunities for women working in wheat during the early stages of their career. The award is named after Jeanie Borlaug Laube, daughter of Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.
Dr. Chhavi Tiwari receives Women in Triticum award from Dr. Jeanie Borlaug Laube. Photo: Kat Coldren, BGRI
Pleased with this opportunity, Tiwari feels it will help her to “contribute to enhanced wheat production and improve the socio-economic status of resource poor farmers.” Chhavi received her Ph.D. (Agriculture) in Genetics and Plant Breeding from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 2012. Currently she is working as a Research Associate in the HarvestPlus Wheat project at BHU, India.
Tiwari said that the CSISA Fellowship and guidance from CIMMYT scientist Dr. Arun Joshi during her PhD helped her to find pragmatic solutions for heat stress in wheat in South Asia. It also provided her with a platform to travel and meet with international scientists and helped to improve her research knowledge base.
Tiwari plans further work to enhance Zinc and Iron, crucial micronutrients in wheat and hopes “her strategies for meaningful research in wheat will ensure both food and nutritional security as well help in social upliftment of women.”
Watch the video: BGRI Women in Triticum Award Ceremony 2014
On a hot summer day in the Muzaffarpur District of Bihar State, India, 345 women farmers gathered to talk about the challenges they face in agriculture with a visiting team from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During the event, which was organized by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), one woman said, “Brothers, if you are farmers, so are we.” The group responded with loud claps and whistles. The women then discussed their day-to-day issues and shared their enthusiasm to learn about new agricultural technologies and management practices.
It is relatively uncommon to see women in rural India – where gender discrimination runs deep and women often are not empowered to speak or make decisions – talk openly and passionately about their lives. The farmers who attended the CSISA meeting are members of the new initiative, Kisan Sakhi, meaning “a woman farmer friend,” jointly started by CSISA and the Bihar Mahila Samakya, an Indian government program on women’s equality.
Women work extensively on farms across India – participating in sowing, weeding and harvesting – and are responsible for managing farm work and household chores. However, their contribution in agriculture remains largely unseen and unacknowledged. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, women account for 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries and produce 60 percent of the food, yet compared with men farmers most women don’t have land rights or equal access to education or training.
Kisan Sakhi aims to empower women farmers in Bihar by disseminating new climate-resilient and sustainable farming technologies and practices that will reduce women’s drudgery and bridge the gender gap in agriculture. FAO estimates that the productivity gains from ensuring equal access to fertilizer, technology and tools could raise the total agricultural output in developing countries and reduce the number of hungry people.
“In spite of doing all kinds of work in the field, I never got the respect as a farmer that men farmers would get,” said Sumintra Devi, who is now a member of Kisan Sakhi. She is being introduced to new technologies and management practices such as improved weed management, maize intercropping, intensification of cropping systems with summer green gram, machine transplanting of rice under non-puddled conditions and nursery management.
“We have discussions with the group members during which they identify the training needs and practices they would like to adopt,” said CSISA gender specialist Sugandha Munshi. In one such discussion, the women mentioned the painful and tedious process of shelling maize by hand. CSISA organized training that demonstrated post-harvest technologies such as a hand-powered maize sheller and “super bags” for effective grain storage.
Six geographical areas – Aurai, Bandra, Bochaha, Gai Ghat, Kudhni and Musahri – in Muzaffarpur District have been identified for the pilot work. “Women farmers recognize that receiving information and skill is more important than short-term monetary support from a project,” said R.K. Malik, the leader of CSISA’s Objective 1 and the Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh hub manager.
CSISA has also started helping women farmers to become entrepreneurs. As part of Kisan Sakhi, four women self-help groups in the Bandra area are pooling resources to buy a rice-transplanting machine, which will help them to earn income by offering custom-hire services. “It is part of a major shift in perception of participating women groups. CSISA and its partnership with the government of Bihar now see an opportunity to involve women for adoption of new technologies and facilitate them to become service providers,” said Malik.
Expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services would help promote new varieties to farmers Photo: Ashok Rai/CSISA
In recent decades, a large number of rice and wheat varieties have been released in India, which have the potential to significantly increase agricultural productivity and reduce rural poverty. However, most small-scale and poor farmers in eastern India do not have access to new generations of modern rice and wheat varieties that can tolerate flooding or are resistant to pests and diseases, and give higher yields.
Seed replacement rates in key crops like rice and wheat are extremely low in eastern India, which can be attributed to many factors. Farmers are not aware of the potential of new varieties; lack of proper seed storage infrastructure to maintain good quality; poor linkages among government, private sector and farmers to provide seeds in a timely manner and a lack of a policy environment that will support faster adoption of new varieties.
“Some of the concerns that need to be addressed in this sector include why farmers are still buying old (but popular) varieties from the market, how to ensure that more farmers can access seed markets and how to bridge the gap between demand and supply,” said Takashi Yamano, Senior Scientist and Agricultural Economist, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), highlighting the scope and purpose of the meeting entitled, ‘Seed Summit for Enhancing the Seed Supply Chain in Eastern India’, organized by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on 14-15 May in Patna, Bihar. The event touched on topics such as better-targeted subsidies on seeds, improved storage infrastructure, the policy environment and stronger extension systems to increase farmers’ accessibility and adoption of improved seed varieties.
More than 60 seed experts from the government, research and private sectors identified the challenges in the seed value chain and discussed actionable solutions that will improve the delivery of improved rice and wheat varieties to farmers in eastern India.
The event was divided into several plenary and group discussion sessions that focused on strengthening the financial capacity and marketing
Seed Summit: Aiming to enhance seed supply chain in Eastern India
skills of rural seed dealers and input retailers, expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services, leveraging civil society — farmers’ associations, community groups and non-governmental organizations — to help promote new varieties and encouraging greater engagement from India’s vibrant private sector in the region’s seed markets.
David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said, “India is the fifth largest seed market in the world, growing at 12 percent annually.” He underscored the gaps in the policy environment of India’s seed market and how public and private sectors need to work together for farmers’ benefits.
“There is a need for better decision-making tools – better data, information and analysis at a strategic level to improve seed systems and markets in Asia. Greater investments in the research systems and improved market surveillance to identify and prosecute fraudulent seed production are also required,” Spielman added.
Vilas Tonapi, Principal Scientist (Seed Science and Technology), Indian Agricultural Research Institute, promoted alternative seed system models – individual farmer as a seed bank, village-based seed banks and self-help group-based small scale seed enterprises – to provide local platforms that farmers can easily access to buy improved seeds. Tonapi also emphasized the importance of public-private collaborations to make available appropriate varieties at the right place and time, in sufficient quantity and good quality.
The last session at the summit discussed the priorities for a future action plan in the Indian seed sector, especially in the eastern states. Participants highlighted the role of local seed dealers and the need for workable business models to expand the use of varieties. Defining which varieties are old and which are not is equally important. Participants also explored strategies to prioritize breeding, enhance varietal turnover and market development for the procurement of open pollinated varieties and hybrids.
Four main priorities came up at the end of the deliberations that will be critical going forward. Extension systems should be restructured and revived. Effective seed subsidy programs should be designed that are based on evidence, are cost-effective and are better targeted to reach poor farmers. Mechanization of the seed sector should be promoted with the introduction of mobile seed treatment units and seed weighing machines. Demonstrations of new varieties and new farm technologies should be promoted through progressive and innovative farmers.
Sain Dass, Indian Maize Development Association President, said, “Proper infrastructure, local production and sale to ensure timely availability, better extension services and more demonstrations to increase farmers’ awareness will help enhance the seed supply chain in eastern India.”
In 2013, CSISA partnered with the Department of Agriculture (DoA) of Odisha state to introduce mechanical transplanting of rice and community mat nursery production in tribal areas of the state. The pilot’s success has spread enthusiasm in the community for these technologies and could help to alleviate constraints associated with labor availability, labor costs and the costs of rice production.
Sabirti Nayak, a tribal farmer from Badjod village, would often face labor shortages during peak manual transplanting time, when she needed additional help planting rice seedlings in her fields. Like other farmers in her village, she was growing rice using the traditional method where seeds are first germinated in a nursery and then rice seedlings are manually transplanted into the fields, a practice that is both labor and cost intensive.
This year, she tried a new way of rice planting with support from CSISA and the Odisha DoA. In collaboration with fellow farmers in her village, she first raised a mat nursery for rice seedlings and transplanted the seedlings into the field using a mechanical rice transplanter.
Sabriti said, “I generally suffer from skin problems after working in wet fields for nursery preparation, uprooting the seedlings and transplanting. This new method is good for health and I avoided skin infections in this season.” Sabriti, along with other farmers from her village, attended a meeting on mechanical transplanting in November 2013 with the CSISA team and government extension workers, where she learned about the benefits of this new method over the traditional practice.
Mechanical transplanting, as it is popularly known, is new in Odisha’s tribal district of Mayurbhanj, where many farmers still practice traditional methods of growing rice. Last year, CSISA and the Odisha DoA launched an initiative to popularize mechanical transplanting in the district. Following the meeting, 40 farmers from the district, including Sabriti, decided to adopt this technology and attend a CSISA on-site training in January.
Since the paddy transplanter machine was not locally available, CSISA supported a progressive farmer, Chinmay Naik, in his purchase of transplanting machine. He now provides transplanting services to his fellow farmers. A mat nursery was planted in an area with assured irrigation and level topography and planting was staggered in order to produce seedlings of different ages. Farmers had initially planned to cultivate a community mat nursery for transplanting onto 40 acres of paddy field, but after seeing the ease of preparation and lower costs, they increased the coverage area to 80 acres. Once mechanical transplanting started, farmers began to see the results. The demand increased as they found that using 15-day old seedlings and wider plant spacing was resulting in good plant growth and increased tillering. Chinmay bought an additional transplanter and was able to service 100 acres, belonging to 120 farmers.
During the community nursery phase, CSISA trained seven female farmers and 10 male farmers to serve as nursery providers for the next season. As the data on final yields are coming in, farmers have provided early feedback that mechanical transplanting has led to good plant populations and easy weeding due to line transplanting. Sabriti said, “With this new technique, we can save labor costs of about US$ 50 per acre.”
Watch the video on Nursery Management in Rice Cultivation (in Oriya)
During the last two years, CSISA has facilitated more than 1,300 farmers in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh to become service providers and has built their capacities through trainings on conservation agriculture, small-scale mechanization, post-harvest technologies, and business development services. CSISA is now aiming to help them become rural entrepreneurs providing multiple services through a “single window”.
The eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains, in which CSISA hubs of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) operate, are on the verge of a second Green Revolution, this time driven by agronomic management rather than varieties. The pace at which new innovations are reaching farmers has been accelerated through CSISA’s creation of a network of service providers (SPs), linked with CSISA’s partner agencies and empowered through a variety of tailored capacity-building efforts.
The concept of custom-hire service began evolving as farmers started purchasing conservation agriculture machines including zero-till seed drills, laser land levellers, rice transplanters, bed planters and threshing machines. These farmers become SPs when they provide mechanized services to other farmers including smallholder and poor farmers who cannot afford to purchase machines on their own.
During the last two years, CSISA has facilitated more than 1,300 farmers to become SPs and has been building their capacities through trainings on relevant knowledge and skills, such as conservation agriculture and small-scale machinery.
In 19 districts across Bihar and eastern UP, CSISA has been playing a critical role in facilitating a shift in the way new agricultural technologies are delivered. After creating a network of SPs, CSISA links them with the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and a variety of important private sector actors. CSISA also demonstrates that yield stagnation can be resolved through agronomic management, not only the replacement of varieties.
A survey of service providers done by CSISA in Bihar and eastern UP has found that subsidy-based interventions helped farmers to acquire new machines, but often farmers’ lack of knowledge about how to use the machines forced many farmers to abandon them. In this scenario, a strong network of SPs enables farmers to adopt mechanization not only to intensify their cropping systems but also to improve their productivity by undertaking the timely seeding and harvesting of crops.
The survey also showed that SPs are well-positioned to deliver new technologies in part because they represent the same communities they are serving, and because they can reduce the transaction costs associated with adopting new technologies.
Based on data from 2013-14 from 52 zero-till service providers, the average net profit was US$360/year without any subsidy on the machine. Profit increased to US$456 and US$533/year with a subsidy of US$322 and US$645 per machine, respectively. The paddy thresher SPs earned an average net profit of US$1,036/year without subsidy and US$1,326/year on a machine subsidy of US$968. In the long-run, SPs can stay competitive without machine subsidies.
Talking about the entrepreneurial energy among the SPs in the districts where CSISA works, R.K. Malik, the Objective Leader for CSISA’s hub-based activities (including Bihar and eastern UP), said, “It is expected that in the future SPs will complement their farm machinery-based services with knowledge-based services including input supply and extension services for crop management”.
CSISA aims to encourage some SPs to become small-scale rural entrepreneurs providing multiple services through a “single window” and market-oriented service approach. Malik added that SPs will be able to complement the extension services provided through the state’s DOA, and enable farmers to more quickly adopt new technologies and management practices.
Agricultural development is largely dependent upon technological innovations that increase or enhance agricultural productivity. Despite the heralded benefits of many new agricultural technologies, their widespread adoption is often slow.
Slow uptake of new technologies may be due to supply-side constraints; large, fixed costs; or difficulties in learning about their relative benefits. The lack of key information about a technology’s benefits may be especially relevant for technologies such as abiotic stress-tolerant cultivars, which may not show benefits under all degrees of stress.
Adoption can be constrained by the uncertainty that arises due to both risk and ambiguity. Some factors that influence adoption decisions may not be directly visible, such as farmer preferences regarding uncertainty. Farmers in developing countries face a wide range of uncertainty, not the least of which arises from climate variability, including droughts. Droughts represent one of the most pressing constraints to rice production in rainfed environments.
Risks and Ambiguity
Risk arises because, while almost all new agricultural technologies tout increases in mean productivity, many perform optimally only under certain conditions, such as with precise additions of complementary inputs. Deviations from these conditions may result in reduced yield benefits vis-´a-vis the traditional technology and increased variance. Many farmers may dislike these risks and prefer more traditional technologies with less variable outcomes.
Ambiguity, on the other hand, arises because new technologies are unknown and unproven in the minds of prospective adopters, who generally do not know the yield distribution of the new technology. While this ambiguity makes it difficult for farmers to formulate profit expectations, farmers may also have apprehensions due to insufficient information, which may influence behavior and decision-making.
In a recent IFPRI Discussion Paper, selected as Best Paper from among 86 competing presentations at the recently held 4th International Conference on Applied Econometrics in March 2014 in Hyderabad, CSISA researchers Patrick Ward and Vartika Singh measure and analyze various behavioral parameters related to decision-making under uncertainty collected through field experiments in rural India. The experimental design allows for the identification of several different behavioral parameters, including risk, ambiguity and loss aversion and individuals’ tendency to weigh disproportionately the probability of rare events when making decisions.
Researchers conducted a series of five experiments, each comprising a set of choices between two options with different real payouts. Specifically, they observed that risk aversion alone does not sufficiently describe individuals’ behavior, but individuals have a tendency to weigh outcomes differently and demonstrate aversion to potential losses.
Disaggregating by gender, the research found that women are both significantly more risk averse and loss averse than men.
Farmers Willing to Adopt the New, Risk-reducing Variety
When they studied preferences for drought tolerant (DT) rice, the researchers observed that farmers’ risk and loss aversion interact with their perceptions about the potential risks and losses associated with the new seeds.
Unlike other new agricultural technologies, which may increase expected yields at the expense of increased variability, DT rice actually reduces overall yield variability and provides protection against downside risks, at least up to a certain level of drought stress. Both risk aversion and loss aversion significantly increase the probability that farmers will choose the newer DT variety seeds over their status quo seed (the seed they cultivated in the previous Kharif) since the additional value given by DT paddy is more compared to other paddy.
Therefore, the role of risk and ambiguity preferences seems straightforward when it comes to a technology like DT rice, since the technology provides benefits specifically targeted to farmers addressing climate-related risks and potential losses. However, considerable scope remains to explore the role of risk and ambiguity preferences on other agricultural technologies or farm management practices, especially ones in which the benefits are less visible in the physical product.
In South Asia, 90 percent of smallholder farmers do not have access to soil testing. Blanket fertilizer recommendations are made over large regions, an approach that discounts all the different site and year-specific factors that govern economically optimal fertilizer usage. Existing approaches lead to inefficient use of nutrients and in case lower yield and profitability.
The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and CIMMYT jointly developed the Nutrient Expert® decision support tools under the umbrella of the Cereal System Initiative in South Asia (CSISA) and later CRPs MAIZE, WHEAT, and CCAFS, to provide location-specific fertilizer recommendations for farmers growing maize and wheat and to help Indian farmers achieve higher yields and profits.
These easy-to-use, interactive, computer-based tools capture spatial and temporal variability to provide precise nutrient recommendations to smallholder farmers in the wheat and maize systems of India. In February 2014, the tool received the award for Best Innovation at the Bihar Innovation Forum II, which recognizes innovations to improve rural livelihoods in India. Nutrient Expert® is the product of close collaboration with key partners such as national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES), seed and fertilizer industries, non-governmental organizations, farmers’ and women’s self-help groups in India. “The advantage of developing the Nutrient Expert® in a participatory mode was that the partners were on-board from day one and ultimately ‘owned’ the innovation,” said Kaushik Majumdar, Director of IPNI South Asia. Read the full article here (Source: CRP Maize)
Sekhpura is a small village in the Fatua block of Patna District in Bihar. Farmers of this village have been practicing traditional methods of paddy cultivation. During the transplanting peak season, many farmers faced acute labor shortages for various farm operations, leaving them with little option but to delay the transplanting of paddy seedlings. This year CSISA has been active in training farmers to introduce dry direct-seeding of rice (DSR) using zero-tillage machines, to help solve the problem of labor scarcity. Rajiv Ranjan Singh has cultivated 3 acres of land under DSR. Expressing satisfaction on the progress of his crop, he said,”We saw the demonstration of this technology in nearby village and were inspired to adopt this method. The success of my crop will surely inspire others to follow.” Fatua and Punpun block was selected as it has a vast low-land area, which is suitable for DSR. The CSISA team worked closely with many farmers of the region to help them follow the appropriate technologies, which are pre-requisites for the success of DSR. This includes: time of seeding, weed management, and irrigation-water management. Training and consultation were conducted in Fatua which involved correct seeding method using seed-drill and spray techniques of herbicide by the CSISA team. Effective ways of water management for paddy cultivation were also explained, in the wake of low rainfall registered in the region. CSISA agricultural officer Anurag Ajay said, “Following the success of DSR in Baisa of Punpun during last year, many farmers were eager to adopt this technology. Training has helped us create awareness leading to adoption of this technology.”
Mr. Rajiv Ranjan Singh of Sekhpura from Fatua village in his DSR field
Besides addressing labor scarcity issues, DSR can help reduce the amount of water needed for paddy, more so at a time when there has been scant rainfall in the region.
Ranjit Singh, who cultivates paddy and maize on 22 acres of farmland with his brother, Neeraj Singh, said that although they had not yet quantified in detail the benefits of mechanical transplanting of rice, in general their observations indicated savings in labor and irrigation costs, and resulted in higher yields than traditional methods of paddy cultivation. Having started the operation in 2012, this year the acreage under mechanized transplanting in the village has increased substantially.
In Rampur village, Tribhuvan Singh is also convinced that mechanical transplanting has helped them address challenges associated with farm labour in the region. The other advantage of this technology has been that it allowed him to transplant seedlings immediately after irrigating the field in an unpuddled condition, thus saving irrigation cost. “The practice of transplanting in unpuddled conditions has been helpful in saving water and maintaining of soil structure. The yield has been exceptionally good, which reinforced my belief in the technology. Other farmers are also convinced of this technology and were enthusiastic about opting for it,” Tribhuvan said.
The technology dissemination for mechanical transplanting of paddy is supported by CSISA team in Bihar which included raising of mat-type nursery, field preparation for transplanting in unpuddled conditions, and weed management.
According to scientific studies, around 10-20% of the total water required for rice culture, dedicated to puddling and transplanting, can be saved by unpuddled transplanting using self-propelled mechanical rice transplanters. Farmers benefit due to:
Efficient use of resources by saving on labour (20 man-days ha-1), cost savings (Rs 1500 ha-1), and water savings up to 10%
Timely transplanting of seedlings of optimal age (20 days)
Uniform spacing and optimum plant density (30 -35 hills/m2 with 2-3 seedlings per hill)
Higher productivity (0.5 to 0.7 t ha-1) compared with traditional methods
Less transplanting shock, early vigour of seedling, better tillering, and uniform maturity of crop that facilitate timely harvest and reduce harvest losses
Less incidence of ‘Bakanae’ disease due to less root injury
Improving soil health through eliminating puddling
Employment generation and the creation of alternate sources of income for rural youth through custom services on nursery raising and mechanical transplanting.
CSISA Odisha hub carried out different inception activities to strengthen its entry points across various potential areas for technological interventions in the targeted districts of Puri, Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj.
The demonstrations and research carried out at the various locations includes components like crop establishment methods, site specific nutrient management (SSNM), seed to seed demonstration, integrated weed management for transplanted rice, varietal demonstration, crop establishment methods in rice, laser land leveling, intercropping, germplasm testing and line sowing using seed drill in maize.
Strip tillage in maize trial in Mayurbhanj
Demonstration and trial of Laser land leveler in Puri for rice fields
SSNM trial in maize in Mayurbhanj
Sowing of maize with tractor drawn seed drill in Mayurbhanj
Line sowing of maize using maize seed drill at Manada, Jashipur in Mayurbhanj
A two-day traveling seminar sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) project of IRRI was organized by CSISA Bihar hub for visiting scientists from Nepal, Bangladesh and India during 31 August – 01 September, 2013. The objective of the seminar was to initiate a discussion on the performance of conservation agriculture (CA)-based best management practices for rice in Bihar. A total of 59 people (including 3 women) consisting of 22 scientists and 37 farmers participated in the event.