Innovations That Will Give Small Farmers Advantage in India’s Risk-Prone Ecologies

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 20, 2014

IMG_3943Picture a rice farmer taking soil samples with a handheld meter to gauge nutrient and moisture needs, calibrating planting along plot contours with GPS-guided tools, placing rice in precise rows using a mechanical transplanter, and doing this with the backing of reliable, customized financing.

Although it seems far-fetched, this future could be nearer than we imagine and it was the focus at a roundtable on “Sustainable Intensification in South Asia’s Cereal Systems: Investment Strategies for Productivity Growth, Resource Conservation, and Climate Risk Management” held on May 19 in New Delhi.

The roundtable brought together 20 of India’s leading firms and entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector: ITC, John Deere, Mahyco, and Claro Energy Systems, to name but a few. Their objective was to explore solutions—innovative products, services, and business models—for India’s risk-prone ecologies. These are the ecologies concentrated in India’s underserved but emerging agricultural markets in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha. In these places, farmers were passed over by the Green Revolution and still struggle with acute weather and price risk.

Read the full article here.

New Rice Planting Technique Scores a Hit among Tribal Farmers in Odisha

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 7, 2014

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.IMG_8832

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)

 

Today’s Service Providers, Tomorrow’s Rural Entrepreneurs

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 7, 2014

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”.

zero till machineThe 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.

Small Machines, Big Yield

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 7, 2014

The US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena recently visited Laharhat Char of Tungibaria union in southern Bangladesh to see CSISA-MI activities. He highlighted that small machines are beneficial to increase yield and reduce production cost for the marginal farmers in chars.

Farmers of Tungibaria union in Barisal Sadar Upazila are cultivating wheat using the Power Tiller Operated Seeder (PTOS) machine and Axial Flow Pump (AFP), a new practice that is four times more profitable than their traditional practice of cultivating low-yielding crops such as peas and lentils. PTOS allows farmers to prepare the land, sow seed and spread fertilizer simultaneously, boosting planting precision and saving labor costs. AFP is an inexpensive ‘off-the-shelf’ surface water irrigation technology that reduces fuel consumption for surface water pumping — and thus irrigation costs — by up to 50 percent.US Amb Wheat field

Local farmers shared their experiences with the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena during his visit to Laharhat Char (inner-island) of Tungibaria union on 28 February. “For the past three years, farmers have switched to growing wheat because higher yields can be obtained and the market price for wheat grain is better than lentil,” said Darbesh Farazi, one of the farmers.

Commenced in Bangladesh in 2013, under President Obama’s Feed the Future (FtF) Initiative, CSISA-MI is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in partnerships with iDE. The project seeks to transform agriculture in southern Bangladesh by unlocking the potential productivity of the region’s farmers during the dry season, while conserving that land’s ability to produce quality crops in the long-term, through surface water irrigation, efficient agricultural machinery and local service provision.

At Laharhat Char, Ambassador Mozena came across the distinct visual difference between mechanized and conventional practices of farmers of the area. The Ambassador learned about the need for using scientific machinery and precise fertilizer application practices in wheat cultivation and the extra profit that can result from innovative technologies. Used in tandem, small machines like the PTOS and AFP can help ensure the optimum use of fertilizers, reduce costs and lead to higher yields, a huge benefit for the marginal farmers of southern Bangladesh’s chars, the Ambassador said.

“In the first year, only two farmers cultivated wheat in the char. Other farmers were impressed with the higher yield and formed a 13-member group to expand the cultivation coverage”, said farmer Rahim Khan. Laharhat Char, still uninhabited, was formed from a sand bar in the main river about 30 years ago. Farmers initially seeded wheat in this land by broadcasting with little knowledge of the right fertilizer rates to use. He shared that using the PTOS to till and seed, timely application of AFP to irrigate the cultivated land, exercising recommended amount of fertilizer resulted in increased yield and reduced production cost. “This season, comparing to lentil, we expect to have a net profit of US $258 per hectare from wheat production,” said Rahim.

Kamal Mallik, another local farmer told Mozena, “Earlier, lentil production was around 600 kilograms per 0.40 hectare, but now it seems that wheat production will be around 1,000 kilograms from the same parcel of land; and the net profit is expected to be US $77.25”.

Other farmers were so impressed with the crop growth and reduction in planting costs that they hired the LSP to plant additional fields. From this year they have moved to sow wheat in lines by a PTOS operated by a local service provider, using the appropriate fertilizer rates and applying fertilizer using an AFP.

During the visit, the Ambassador also stopped at an agricultural fair where CSISA-MI was promoting agricultural machinery. There he met local service providers, machinery dealers, local agriculture department staff, agricultural scientists and CSISA-MI staff. At this event, Mamun Chowdhury, a service provider for PTOS in Laharhat Char, shared that he bought the PTOS for its multiple, simultaneous functions and high levels of precision. “This season, using the seeder, I have provided services to around 55 farmers and have earned around 50% more than the previous season when my service tool was the traditional power tiller,” said Chowdhury adding that he is aiming to extend his business by sowing wheat and irrigating adjacent chars that have been fallow in previous years.

CSISA-MI has partnered with large private sector companies, like RFL-Pran and ACI, to leverage its outcomes in the field. RFL and ACI collectively invested over $600,000 of their own funds to scale up access to agricultural machinery. Over 2,500 hectares of land in southern Bangladesh are now under the new machineries, in less than six months since the project began.

To reduce purchase risk and facilitate future adoption of the technologies, CSISA-MI introduced a cost discount model, a joint venture agreement in collaboration with the companies’ dealers. It offers vouchers to the LSPs, which makes the PTOS and AFP financially attractive.

“This is only the first year of marketing the AFP; we expect that next year the pump’s demand will double. The seeder will need three to five years to take over the market. People don’t know or understand much about the seeder as there was no such machine earlier, more seeder demonstrations will help increase its demand.” said Syed Md. Asraf, Director of Machinery Stores, one of the AFP dealers of RFL-Pran in Barsal.

Improved Feeding for Better Dairy Production

Posted on News - Homepage, Trainings and Events, May 7, 2014

CSISA’s partner, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), recently conducted training programs on dairy cattle feeding management in the Indian states of Odisha and Bihar. The trainings focused on improving the nutritional benefits of crop residues and demonstrated the benefits of new feeding strategies for improving the milk productivity of dairy cattle.

Adoption of New Agricultural Technologies: Evidence from Field Experiments in Rural India

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 7, 2014

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. IMG_3943The 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.

Local Ingenuity Multiplies Intervention

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 10, 2014

Like many other farmers of Bangladesh, forty-year-old Ashim Halder of Batiaghata Upazila in Khulna is also skilled in carpentry, Ashim Halderearning extra money on the side by offering carpentry services to neighbors. This ability turned out for Ashim to be the key to innovate a wooden seed plate for the Bed Planter. Besides maize and wheat, the machine now also works for Sunflower seed plantation.

The Bed Planter is a new piece of technology introduced by USAID’s CSISA-MI project. The machine, marketed by agricultural retailer ACI, allows Local Service Providers (LSPs) like Halder to add seed to the farms as they plow – drastically increasing the rate at which land is prepared and the value of their services.

“I wanted to plant Sunflower with this machine, but it had no plate for Sunflower seed. They (CSISA-MI) said it’ll take two weeks to research on this. But by that time, plantation time would be over. So, I thought to try… within hours and after few trial and errors, I made the plate,” says Halder, describing how his innovation improved the Bed Planter and saved him from waiting till next Sunflower season.

Halder purchased the machine under the voucher scheme of CSISA-MI. “It cost 10,000 taka (US $128.62)… though the actual price is 40,000 taka (US $514.47). For this, I have to cultivate at least 8.1 hectares of land by this season (April). I already cultivated around 6.5 hectares. Once I fulfill the condition, I plan to cultivate another 2.0 hectares this season.”

Last season, at least 10 laborers were needed to cultivate and plant seed for a 0.1 hectares plot. This season, Halder has not only saved this cost, but his fuel and seed costs are actually half. Female members of his family are also relieved from a large work load. “Before (in plantation) at least 10 laborers used to work for a week. The women had to cook and serve meals three times a day for the laborers. In comparison, they are quite relaxed now,” says one of the female neighbors of Halder.

CSISA-MI’s innovation, combined with Halder’s hard work and ingenuity, are already improving lives of farmers and LSPs as labor scarcity is high in the rural as well as not affordable for smallholder farmers. It also contributing to increase production during dry season in the region.

Farmers in western Nepal excited about new spring maize varieties by CSISA-Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, September 19, 2013

In Terai, farmers were initially skeptical about growing maize in the dry spring period, with one farmer’s wife berating him for sowing maize on land she thought they should grow a fodder crop on. By about two months after planting, she was delightedly admitting being wrong, and showing visitors their maize field, with both the farmer’s variety and a hybrid, both under farmer management and recommended nutrient and establishment practices. All hybrids tested yielded at least 2 t/ha more than the farmer’s open pollinated variety (OPV), Arun-2 — which also yielded over 1 t/ha more with improved management than under typical farmer management.

Arun-2 (L) and hybrid (R) at Kanchanpur site in the far-west

Arun-2 (L) and hybrid (R) at Kanchanpur site in the far-west

Yields of the Rajkumar hybrid that farmers voiced early preference for were often doubled, at over 10 t/ha with just 3 irrigations. Hybrid yields under farmer management were comparable to or better than OPV yields under best practices, leading several farmers to state that they wanted to expand spring maize area next year and plant the Rajkumar hybrid by line-sowing as introduced by CSISA-NP rather than the traditional practice of broadcasting: they said that although initial time for line-sowing might be high, applying irrigation and weeding were cheaper and easier in the line-sown plots. Feed industry representatives invited to visit the plots were also pleased with the hybrid maize, and told farmers that they could guarantee the purchase of these farmers’ hybrid maize at the same rates as they currently pay Indian producers if they could increase production, as currently purchase over 200 t of maize annually from India at NPR 24/kg to meet demand. Following the discussion with feed company representatives, CSISA-NP participating farmers in the far-western Terai project sites were able to negotiate higher prices (about NPR 4-5 per kg) from the (non-feed company) buyers of their maize.
Typical farmer spring maize in far-west: water-stressed, and poorly managed

Typical farmer spring maize in far-west: water-stressed, and poorly managed

Contributed by: M. Devare

Farmers learn to manage paddy transplanting “business”

Posted on News - Homepage, Uncategorized, September 16, 2013

Satyadev Prasad of Ratanpur Birta is like any other farmer of his village. Formerly, he cultivated paddy much the same way as his father and grandfather did. This year, however, he purchased paddy transplanter with the aim of providing custom-hire services. To ensure success of his envisioned business, he also undertook the challenge of raising mat-type nursery, which is mandatory for the paddy machine transplanter. With guidance from CSISA team, he began the task of raising of mat-nursery for paddy. He took advantage of an agricultural program on community nursery (financial assistance is provided by Govt. of Bihar) for aggregating demand and raising community nursery for other farmers in the village. Also, he availed of the benefit from State Department of Agriculture schemes (in the form of subsidy on the purchase of agricultural machinery) enabling him to procure machine at subsidized price.

Satyadev Prasad in his machine transplanted paddy field

Satyadev Prasad in his machine transplanted paddy field

Further, by using it for his own field and hiring it to the neighboring farmers, he ensured commercial success of this venture. He has planted paddy in about 80 acres for 31 farmers. “On seeing the success of my business model, other farmers are also in the process of purchasing paddy transplanter,” he exclaimed. Owing to efforts of CSISA, the mechanised paddy transplanting this year has increased to 360 acres in East Champararn district. Currently there are 9 paddy transplanters in East Champararn, compared to two last year.

Continued support for mechanical transplanting of rice in Bihar

Posted on CSISA Success Story, India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, September 16, 2013

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.

Newly transplanted rice seedlings: a mechanical transplanter in operation

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.

 

 

 


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