Spreading Innovation: New Partnerships Drive Change in Odisha

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, February 9, 2015

Video Screening OdishaThe 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.

Sharing Lessons on Sustainable Intensification

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, February 8, 2015

 

Photo 5

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) organized a cross-learning tour on sustainable intensification (SI) for a multi-institutional group of 13 representatives from USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Africa RISING, USAID’s Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab and the Innovation Lab for Small-scale Irrigation to share perspectives on SI in African and South Asian contexts from 28 January to 4 February.

Sustainable intensification of mixed crop-livestock systems is key to achieving better food security and improved livelihoods while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. The tour was designed to enable knowledge sharing among the flagship SI investments of USAID.

The group started with a full-day event in Delhi to discuss ways to build a global community of practice for SI, followed by a week-long tour of CSISA sites in Bihar and Odisha. “This cross-learning trip helped to showcase how we’ve built the CSISA program in South Asia so that lessons and insights with global resonance can be shared with other initiatives,” said Andy McDonald, Project Leader, CSISA.

Developing a global ‘community of practice’ for sustainable intensification (SI) and the need to define indicators for measuring SI activities were highlighted by the participants at the cross-learning SI event. The workshop looked at the approaches taken by the SI projects of CSISA and Africa RISING, collaborative research opportunities by the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab and the Innovation Lab for Small-scale Irrigation and the perspectives of the donors that fund SI projects.

“We need broad systems programs to make impacts truly happen,” said Thomas Lumpkin, Director General, CIMMYT, talking about CSISA’s cropping systems approach at the start of the event. He added, “We should get more value chains involved and need to look at regional and global levels to extract maximum value from our R4D projects.”

The field tour helped the team from Africa RISING to understand the commonalities as well as diverging points between CSISA and Africa RISING activities. “It was very promising to see that some of the mechanization components and technologies CSISA is promoting in South Asia may be adaptable to some contexts in Southern African countries where Africa RISING is working. Certainly a fruitful and much-needed learning experience,” said Carlo Azzarri, Research Fellow, IFPRI-Africa RISING.

The Africa RISING team saw the use of affordable and feasible mechanization options for smallholder farm activities in CSISA, which can be introduced in Africa, such as the use of two-wheel tractors for line sowing and fertilizer application, fodder choppers and axial flow pumps.

Talking about CSISA’s model of supporting service providers for the dissemination of different technologies, P.V. Vara Prasad, Director, Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, said, “The model of using service providers and government organization to reach out to larger communities of farmers was novel and seems to be working well.”

Neville Clarke, Director, Innovation Lab for Small-scale Irrigation, highlighted that the active approach to engage women farmers and the value chain approach being used by CSISA provides some overarching examples of how the Innovation Lab might better address their programs in small-scale irrigation.

“It was extremely informative to join our colleagues from Africa RISING and USAID to better understand the approaches they are taking and the common issues and differences not only between the project approaches but also in the differences in the needs of farmers in South Asia and Africa. BMGF focuses its agricultural development work in these two geographical areas and the chance to contrast and compare was very valuable,” said Tony Cavalieri, Senior Program Officer, Agricultural Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Related Stories

Strike Turns Farmer into Dairy Feed Businessman

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, January 26, 2015

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.Dairy  feed businessman

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.

Q&A with Mugalodi Ramesha: Developing Better Rice

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 22, 2014

Better riceMugalodi Ramesha is Irrigated Rice Breeder, IRRI and CSISA Objective 3 Leader. He has more than two decades of experience developing high yielding varieties with better grain quality, resistance to biotic stresses, better adaptability to puddle transplanted and dry direct seeded conditions in South Asia. He has developed and released two rice hybrids and three varieties for different states of India, published more than 60 research papers and been recognized through multiple awards.
 
In this article, he offers his personal insights on some of the most pressing issues concerning rice breeding today:

How does rice breeding help ensure food security in South Asia?

Sustainable, more profitable and viable methods of rice cultivation can help ensure food security in Asia. Degradation of natural resources, decreasing availability of labor and water, deteriorating soil health and water quality, ever-changing climatic conditions, reduced profitability of rice cultivation, lack of interest in agriculture by the rural youth, inadequate minimum support price and inefficient procurement of the produce are some of the major constraints for improving rice productivity and production in South Asia. Rice breeding helps produce improved varieties and hybrids with high yield potential, region-specific grain quality traits, biotic and abiotic stress-tolerance and suitability for different cropping systems. When coupled with better management practices, rice breeding can significantly improve the profitability of rice cultivation for farmers.

What are some of the key challenges for development and use of hybrid rice in India?

There is no doubt that hybrid rice can boost yield and enhance efforts to achieve food security. One of the key challenges is a moderate level (12 to 15 percent) of heterosis in present day hybrids. Achieving only moderate levels of outbreeding enhancement is not sufficient to make it attractive for farmers and hence, the magnitude of heterosis must be enhanced to at least 25 percent. Other challenges include development of region-specific long-duration hybrids with abiotic- and biotic-stress-tolerance and desirable grain quality traits as per consumer preference in different market segments. We must also work towards reducing the cost of hybrid seeds by increasing the seed-yield in hybrid rice seed production plots.

How does CSISA’s work on rice breeding address these challenges?

Mugalodi Ramesha

Mugalodi Ramesha

CSISA’s work on development of parental lines of hybrids, new varieties, the popularization of private-bred hybrids and varieties for different methods of crop establishment under various cropping systems have all resulted in enhanced system productivity, thereby increasing the profitability of various agricultural enterprises for farmers in South Asia.

How can new improved varieties reach farmers more quickly?

The answer to expediting the current lengthy process of variety release lies not in changing one particular aspect alone but in addressing a variety of factors together. First, the breeding programs need to be market-driven and should be accelerated through the careful blending of molecular and conventional breeding tools; second, by efficient and quick product testing and release policies; third, through aggressive seed production and distribution systems; and finally, in effective technology transfer by various stakeholders. A combined improvement on all these fronts is essential to reduce the time taken between the official release of a new variety and its eventual adoption by farmers.

Can you highlight some outcomes of CSISA’s rice breeding work?

CSISA has developed an array of new breeding lines with high genetic yield potential, region-specific grain quality traits, adaptability to water-saving technologies, improved plant-type features suitable for different methods of crop establishment, biotic-stress-tolerance and reproductive-stage heat-tolerance. These have been shared with the national agriculture research and extension systems (NARES) and many of these elite breeding lines are currently in advanced stages of testing in multi-location trials at state and national levels. The genetic yield potential of four elite varieties (NSIC Rc82, NSIC Rc158, NSIC Rc222, and NSIC Rc238) and three mega varieties of India (Swarna, Samba Mahsuri and MTU1010) is being enhanced by incorporating three cloned genes, for high grain number (Gn1a), bigger panicle size (Spl14) and strong culm (SCM2). Many promising entries for direct-seeded rice have been identified in Nepal and Bangladesh. Out of 60 rice entries tested during the 2014 dry season under machine-sown dry direct-seeded rice, 15 entries recorded more than 7.5 tons/ha. Besides assisting the strengthening of NARES breeding programs for accelerated product development, CSISA has also contributed to their regular breeding programs with new breeding lines with novel traits such as phosphorous uptake, anaerobic germination, and better plant architecture.

Read the Q&A with Arun Joshi on Developing Better Wheat

Q&A with Arun Joshi: Developing Better Wheat

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 22, 2014

CISSA-MI_Barisal

Arun Kumar Joshi is Principal Scientist, Global Wheat Program, CIMMYT and CSISA Objective 4 Leader. Based in Kathmandu, Nepal, he is a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and also of DAAD Germany. He has facilitated development of around three dozen wheat varieties and made numerous contributions to disease resistance, heat and drought tolerance and biofortification in South Asia. He has been awarded the Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum Mentor Award 2014 from Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, Cornell, USA.
 
In this article, he offers his personal insights on some of the most pressing issues concerning wheat breeding today:

How does wheat breeding help ensure food security in South Asia? 

South Asia faces multiple challenges in future wheat production, including heat stress, dwindling water supplies for irrigation, changes in urbanization patterns and a growing threat of increased virulent diseases such as wheat rusts (yellow, brown and black) and leaf blight.

Wheat breeding has played a major role in ensuring food security and combating these challenges by developing agronomically superior cultivars with good quality traits and genetic resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The Green Revolution came about due to the release of dwarf, photo-insensitive, nitrogen-responsive varieties and some of the most important gains have been sustained by the continued release of improved varieties and the associated support of agronomy, policy and socio-economic factors.

While many smallholders throughout South Asia benefited from the introduction of first-generation Green Revolution cultivars that replaced lower-yielding landraces, the adoption of second and third-generation cultivars has led to ongoing improvements in wheat production. Wheat production in India in the last five years (2009-14) increased from 80 to 96 million tons, in Pakistan from 21 to 25 million tons, in Nepal from 1.3 to 1.9 million tons and in Bangladesh from 0.84 to 1.37 million tons.

What is Ug99? Can you put into perspective the magnitude of the challenge stem rust diseases pose for food security? 

Ug99 is a race of stem or black rust caused by Puccinia graminis f. sp. Tritici. It was first identified in Uganda in 1999 and has since spread to other countries in East Africa and to Sudan, Yemen and Iran. At the time of discovery, nearly 80-90 percent of wheat cultivars in the world were susceptible to this race. Thanks to strong collaborative work with the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and various national agricultural research systems (NARS), wheat breeders and other relevant stakeholders managed to develop and disseminate Ug99-resistant wheat varieties, keeping the disease in check.

However, there is no scope for complacency. Given certain conditions, Ug99 threatens to spread to other wheat-producing regions of Africa and Asia and potentially the entire world. The threat is particularly acute in South Asia, which produces 20 percent of the world’s wheat. Other rusts are also equally potent. Recently, for example, yellow rust has become extremely threatening for India, Pakistan and Nepal.

Stem rust has been known to be a constant threat causing severe losses to wheat production worldwide. It has remained in control for the last three decades only through the use of genetic resistance in semidwarf cultivars. This is a significant reason why resistance-breeding programs must continue.

Arun Joshi

Arun Joshi

How can wheat breeding help smallholder farmers in South Asia mitigate the effects of problems such as scanty rainfall, increasing temperatures, salt-affected soils and increasing incidence of diseases?

A critical factor in the Green Revolution’s success was that new varieties were broadly adapted to the resource-poor environments prevalent in South Asia and they performed well under abiotic stresses such as heat, drought (exacerbated by limited irrigation) and variable fertilizer doses. An aggressive strategy to develop and disseminate stress-tolerant cultivars in farmers’ fields is an important response to abiotic stress in South Asia as resource-poor farmers cannot afford to use many other control measures. Stress-tolerant varieties combat multiple problems and hence can be very useful for farmers.

Disease-resistant varieties are one of the most effective control strategies for most diseases of wheat grown by resource-poor farmers in the developing world and are often considered by commercial producers as the most environment-friendly and profitable responses to disease as well. For a farmer, the cost of protecting 1 hectare of wheat against disease through the application of modern chemicals is estimated to be US$ 10-80 per hectare. With the use of disease-resistant varieties, farmer can save this cost as the rust resistance in wheat is embedded in the seed.

How can new improved varieties reach farmers more quickly?

Two systems of germplasm dissemination and adoption are found in South Asia – formal (organized) and informal (unorganized). Modern crop varieties are the backbone of the formal seed industry, which is almost equally shared by public and private sectors. The private sector takes more interest in cross-pollinated and low-bulk crops, in which hybrids are common. NARS plays a major role in germplasm conservation, variety development and in generating appropriate technologies to utilize the yield potential of new varieties. New varieties are passed through a series of evaluation and release tests before farmers can access them.

Although new improved varieties developed by NARS should be multiplied and made available to farmers in the shortest possible time so they can realize the benefits, in practice, weak extension and seed distribution systems often slow the distribution of new varieties to farmers. As a result, more than 80 percent of all seed in South Asia is saved by farmers and it can be even higher for self-pollinating crops such as wheat. In some regions such as the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains of India, the availability of experienced seed growers, supported by either the public or private sector, is far lower than in the north-western plains.

The options for improving germplasm dissemination and adoption in India include: strengthening the public and private sectors through vigorous policy planning and implementation and promoting participatory research. Indian research centers already work on this model with partners (including CIMMYT) and it has so far proven quite successful. Anticipating the advantages of working in a participatory mode, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research made it mandatory for all research centers receiving support under the National Seeds Project to actively engage in participatory seed production since 2003. This path can be used effectively for quick dissemination of superior varieties in areas characterized by weaker linkages.

Another approach being used for rapid multiplication and distribution include pre-release seed multiplication whilst candidate resistant lines are being tested in national evaluation trials and farmers’ participatory selection approaches. This pre-release multiplication was successfully used in Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan for faster dissemination of Ug99-resistant varieties as part of a US Agency for International Development seed project from 2009-2012.

Can you tell us more about CSISA’s work on wheat breeding?

One of CSISA’s objectives is to develop high-yielding, heat and water-stress-tolerant and disease-resistant wheat varieties for current and future cereal and mixed crop-livestock systems. To this end, we have produced a series of new varieties and ensure their multiplication and dissemination. For instance, in the last year alone, 12 wheat varieties were released for different environments and management conditions of South Asia. In addition, 10 varieties were identified for release in different environments of South Asia. Seed growers and farmers’ groups continued seed dissemination of superior lines produced by CSISA over the last five years and as a result, according to breeder seed indent and production figures, CSISA-bred lines now cover 18 percent of the wheat production area in India, 24 percent in Nepal and 34 percent in Bangladesh.

Can you highlight additional impacts of CSISA’s wheat breeding work?

Considerable spillover effects have also been achieved on account of CSISA’s work on wheat breeding. One of the most tangible spillover output of our wheat breeding work occurred on August 13 this year, when the Government of Bhutan officially released two new improved wheat varieties (Bajosokhaka and Gumasokhaka) from CIMMYT. This is the first release of any wheat variety in Bhutan in two decades. On average, both varieties yielded 50 percent higher than the most popular variety (Sonalika) in three years of multi-location testing in Bhutan. Both varieties are believed to have water-stress-tolerance and good resistance to yellow rust.

Further, two wheat varieties from Punjab (PBW 621, PBW 644) that were released for the northwestern plains zone have been widely adopted Bihar. Also, CSISA-bred wheat varieties in Bangladesh have spread to new areas in southern Bangladesh, benefitting nearly 10,000 farm families.

Read the Q&A with Mugalodi Ramesha on Developing Better Rice

Improved Cattle Feed Provides New Business Opportunities for Farmers in Bihar

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 22, 2014

Ram nandan_SStory (2)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.

Partnering for Progress

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 15, 2014

 

601814_2866010629163_1615225722_nOne of the biggest challenges for women farmers in Odisha is to gain recognition as farmers and not just laborers. For most development agencies working in the state’s agriculture sector, the word farmer is synonymous with a man. Women farmers, especially those in the state’s tribal regions, remain unnoticed. Flying under the radar, women miss out on valuable opportunities to use and learn new technologies that can help reduce their drudgery. Besides, most agricultural machines are designed with the assumption that men will be the end users, so even when women access to these machines, they sometimes find the machines cumbersome or unusable. Numerous complementary schemes introduced to benefit farmers also often fail to recognize women’s needs and circumstances; the Kisan Credit Card, for example, is allotted based on land patta (legal record of rights), but women mostly do not have land in their name.

Fostering Community Support

Against this backdrop, PRADAN is working with women to make collectives or self-help groups (SHGs) that foster the unity and support of their peers to address different life and livelihood issues such as gender, sanitation and agriculture. Besides sharing relevant success stories and examples, the group also helps women prepare seasonal agricultural plans; understand the importance of different inputs like seed, fertilizer and irrigation; access loans from the SHG/bank; connect with different government departments and provide the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful.

PRADAN also helps women identify the major drudgery-prone agricultural activities and gain access to relevant drudgery-reducing technologies, as well as access improved technologies to store their produce and establish the necessary market linkages to sell it. The objective is to involve women from the start of planning to the sale of the crop.

To achieve this goal PRADAN partners with local women’s federations, such as Sampurna and Swayamsiddha, who serve as the main grassroots-level partners who facilitate the actual social mobilization and technology adoption process among community members. Eventually, PRADAN will remove itself from this equation after having equipped the women with the tools to have greater control over their own agricultural decisions, activities and investments.

A Common Goal

As an example, PRADAN has been working with 37 households and three women’s SHGs in the remote forested village of Kanthikana in Jashipur block for the last six years. The major livelihood activities in the village, which is dominated by the Santhal tribe, are the collection of non-timber forest products and agriculture. This year, while planning their agriculture and other livelihood-supporting activities in their respective SHGs, it emerged that women had expanded the area under agriculture and had introduced new crops into their cropping systems. The SHGs provided financial credit to the women but they needed proper technological support in order to manage larger-scale cropping.

With support from PRADAN and CSISA, the women’s groups planted maize using garden seeders on 10 acres, undertook line sowing of rice in 5 acres, introduced sahbhagi dhan (a rice variety) to all families in the SHGs and facilitated three families to use manual spreaders for seed and fertilizer application. These interventions also allowed women to take up off-season vegetables like tomatoes and other creepers on 6 acres of land. As a result, all 37 families learnt new technologies and women were able to lead on these efforts, receiving direct training and sharing their knowledge with family members.

This collaboration is an example of how PRADAN and CSISA, together with local federations, are supporting women in agriculture by introducing relevant innovative technologies and practices and educating women on modern practices like zero tillage, seed-cum-fertilizer drills, timely application of herbicides and appropriate-scale mechanization. Participating women attained higher yields, reduced their drudgery and established themselves as successful farmers.

The article is authored by Satish Patnaik, Team Coordinator (Mayurbhanj, Odisha) for PRADAN, a national level Civil Society Organization working in seven Indian states with around 3,00,000 women (where each woman represents one family) with a vision of a just and equitable society with change in human conditions. In Odisha, PRADAN through its 52 executives, is working in six districts – namely Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj – with 55,000 poor families.

Improved Hybrid Maize Cultivation Enhances Productivity and Food Security for Tribal Farmers in Odisha

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 9, 2014

Hybrid maize

Of the 437,000 hectares of cultivated land in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, nearly 50 percent is classified as upland area. The district’s plateau region, which holds the major share of this upland area remains fallow throughout the year. Some farmers grow short duration paddy during the rainy season every alternate year, but the output remains very low. The tribal farmers growing maize have also met with little success. Without the proper support and guidance on good agronomic practices, the yields are as low as 1.5 tons to 2 tons per hectare.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has been working with tribal farmers to help them overcome these challenges by promoting adoption of low-cost, best-bet agronomic practices that increase productivity and reduce cost of cultivation besides also establishing market linkages with appropriate buyers to help increase their net profit.

Chaitanya majhi (1)

Chaitanya Majhi

Exponential gains
For the last 10 years, 41-year-old Chaitanya Majhi, a physically disadvantaged tribal farmer from Kasipal village, has grown maize on 1.5 acres of land using traditional agricultural practices. Last year, Majhi only managed to earn a net profit of Rs. 13,000 (US$ 210) having invested Rs. 8,000 (US$ 129). Majhi’s field had poor plant population since he used a country plow for sowing, did not account for appropriate spacing, practiced poor nutrient management and wasn’t aware of proper weed management techniques.

This year, however, he received training and assistance from CSISA to cultivate hybrid maize on the same patch of land using modern agronomic practices. He sowed in a line using a seed drill and at the right time, used herbicides and applied fertilizers at the right time and in the right amount. Instead of the standard 1 ton per acre that he was accustomed to, Majhi’s field this year produced 2.2 tons per acre. So, with an investment of Rs. 15,750 (US$ 254) he was able to earn a net profit of Rs. 56,800 (US$ 917) – by doubling his investment he has more than quadrupled his income. Majhi is definitely convinced but seeing his success other farmers in his village are also keen to adopt modern maize cultivation practices next season.

Recognizing potential
In a village not too far from Majhi’s, a women’s self-help group (SHG) is also convinced.

The 12 women that comprise the Jay Maa Ambica SHG from Nua-Deogaon village used to rely on work through an intermediary for the local Anganwadi center (government run pre-schools) to supplement their existing incomes. But when that intermediary left, the group lost this valuable source of additional income with which they could more effectively support their families.

Initially when CSISA suggested that they try collective maize farming on the 5 acres of land that their members owned they weren’t entirely convinced – not least because this land had not been cultivated in the last five years. But with a little motivation, and a lot of their own determination, they agreed. After land preparation using a tractor, they purchased 40 kg of hybrid maize seed from the state’s Department of Agriculture, which they sowed in a line using a seed drill provided by CSISA.

Today, it’s hard for them to imagine how they could ever have been apprehensive. Their investment of Rs. 34,000 (US$ 549) has been already recovered from the sale of 35 quintals of green cob. They’re looking now to earn an extra Rs. 60,000 (US$ 969) by selling 50 quintals of dry grain. And that’s not even their total produce. Beside the financial gains they have achieved, their families have also consumed nearly 5 quintals of the maize during the rainy season – an especially critical time in the region when food security is threatened. Further, these women farmers have also utilized the maize straw as feed for their cattle.

It’s not surprising that other women SHGs and their fellow villagers are now asking them a lot of questions on how they too could practice collective maize farming next season.

Seeder Fertilizer Drill Securing Market in Barisal, Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News & Announcements, August 21, 2014

Seeder Fertilizer Drill in Barisal, Bangladesh

The local service providers of Barisal are thrilled with the seeder fertilizer drill (SFD) marketed and sold by the agricultural retailer RFL, one of the private sector partners of CSISA-MI. Compared to a traditional power tiller, this two wheel tractor attachment can be used to seed and fertilize in lines while preparing land. With minor modification, it can also be used for conservation agriculture based crop management, which lowers production costs, conserves soil moisture and can help boost yields. Using SFD results in per hectare savings of around 30 percent in fuel, US$168 in cost and about 60 hours in labor.

Strip tillage is a conservation system that results in reduced tillage, improved soil moisture and cost savings for farmers, by tilling only small strips of land into which seed and fertilizer are placed. When practiced in the long term, these methods can improve soil quality.

Since CSISA-MI started in July 2013, 57 local service providers have adopted the SFD, which is also known as a power tiller operated seeder (PTOS) mostly in Rajbari, Faridpur and Patuakhali districts. These LSPs have cultivated 132 hectares of land for over 205 farmers so far, mostly for wheat, pulses, sunflowers, mung beans and maize.

“One pass with an SFD is enough, whereas at least three pass is required with traditional power tiller,” shared farmer and service provider Rezaul Karim Pannu from Patuakhali district. “We are hopeful to have 300 kilograms more mung bean per hectare this season.”

According to RFL’s dealers, who are marketing the SFD, the machine’s prospects in Bangladesh are good. Md. Muzahidul Islam, proprietor of New Islam Enterprise and a RFL dealer, said, “although this is a very new technology in the country, it will have a great effect in our agricultural sector due to its traits of time and cost savings, as well as increase in production.”

To read CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation Newsletter, click here

Wants to Work for Greater Participation of Women Scientists in Wheat Research, says CSISA Fellowship Recipient

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, August 7, 2014

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

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

Improving Women Farmer’s Access to Agricultural Information and Training in India

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, August 7, 2014

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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 20140606_122152CSISA 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.

Best Bets for the Wheat Season in Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, June 11, 2014

At the end of the Rabi 2013-14 wheat season, CSISA’s hubs in Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh demonstrated the impact of better agronomy Public Harvestingmanagement by organising public wheat harvesting events to showcase the yield advantages of early wheat sowing in combination with zero tillage and new wheat varieties.

Most of these events were organised from 4- 11April and were attended by farmers and officials from the Departments of Agriculture (DoA) in Bihar and Eastern UP. Wheat was harvested from large plot sizes ranging between 1 and 3 acres. These events help in engaging grassroots workers such as block agriculture officers, subject matter specialists and farm advisors (Krishi Salahakars), to show them the virtues of better bet agronomy. They also help to persuade the district agriculture officers and joint directors of agriculture to make the case to policymakers that early sowing and zero tillage of wheat should be accelerated.

Wheat yields harvested from five sites in Eastern UP (Harpur, Pokharbinda, East Champaran, Hasanpur Pipra and Devpokhar) were 6.0, 6.5, 6.5, 6.0 and 6.7tonnes/ha, respectively. The impressive yields from wheat harvested from six sites in Bihar (Begahi, Matlupur, Manda, Naola, Hanspur and Rajapur villages) were 6.4, 5.8, 6.2, 6.8, 5.7 and 6.0 tonnes/ha, respectively. Out of 11 public harvesting events, the grain yield with best management averaged around 6.0 tonnes/ha. All fields where these events were organised were sown between 31st October and 15th November, were planted using zero tillage technology and long duration varieties were planted, with focus on HD 2967, which is a newly released variety. Better bet agronomic management was followed.

After watching the crop harvest taking place in Rajapur village (Buxor, Bihar), farmers said “this crop is as good as in Punjab.” After completing the harvest in Naola village (Begusarai, Bihar), the combine harvester operator described it as “the best field he ever harvested in the area.”

Wheat crops sown early appear to hold advantages in the number of tillers and number of grains per ear head, and were physiologically mature at the start of terminal heat. The crop seemed to withstand the adverse effect of a sudden rise in temperature starting from 27th March this year. CSISA’s experience is that even if the grain yield stays statistically similar, the sowing done after 15 November is vulnerable to the vagaries of terminal heat.

CSISA is aiming to develop consensus among extension agencies around the need for early wheat sowing under zero tillage, which could be the engine of yield growth in Bihar and Eastern UP. With consistently higher yields under these management practices than under conventional (late sowing) practices, CSISA believes that the area under early sowing and zero tillage will keep rising and farmers and their wheat yields will benefit.

Innovative Solutions to Accelerate Agricultural Development in India

Posted on News & Announcements, June 9, 2014

 

 

IMG_9008 copy

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG) convened an international conference on Innovation in Indian Agriculture: Way Forward, held on December 4–5, in New Delhi.

The conference explored innovative ways of accelerating development in India’s agricultural sector through productivity growth, higher returns to farming, acceleration of poverty reduction and the improvement of social and economic welfare in rural India. The conference aimed to:

  • highlight research on the impacts of past reforms in Indian agriculture, structural changes in production, consumption and demand, resource degradation and climate change;
  • analyse policy options for Indian agriculture going forward; and
  • draw on the theoretical and empirical evidence on agricultural development from other countries and regions.
Participants and speakers were drawn from a rich mix of backgrounds: senior officers and advisors from policymaking circles, analysts from the policy research community, representatives of farmer and civil society organizations, and executives and entrepreneurs from crop science and agribusiness concerns.

For more details, please visit the conference page 

Designing Solutions to Improve Delivery of High-Yielding Varieties to Farmers in Eastern India

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, June 2, 2014

Expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services will help promoting new varieties to farmers Photo: Ashok Rai/CSISA

Expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services would help promote new varieties to farmers Photo: Ashok Rai/CSISA

Seed Scenario

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

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.

Looking Forward

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.”

Read media coverage of the Seed Summit

View photos from the Seed Summit

Watch video: Using Super Bag for Better Storage of Seeds

 

The Economics of Hybrid Rice in India

Posted on News & Announcements, May 25, 2014

With the Lok Sabha recently passing the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) that promises subsidised foodgrains to 75 percent of the rural csisaIndiapopulation and 50 percent of the urban population, India is under huge pressure to significantly increase its cereal grains production.

One such method of doing so is through the accelerated adoption of hybrid technologies, including hybrid rice. Hybrid rice has the potential to significantly increase rice yields, often to the order of 15-30 percent relative to local or even modern high yielding varieties.

These higher yields allow for more intensive rice production, thus allowing farmers to either produce more output on a particular plot of land or to diversify into higher-value crops like vegetables and other horticulture crops. Both strategies potentially result in higher farm incomes and more abundant food supplies that can stabilise prices for both urban and rural food-insecure households.

The government of India has set an ambitious target to increase the area under hybrids to 25 percent of total rice area by 2015. Despite these promising results, the pace of hybrid rice adoption in India has been slow, particularly in comparison with experiences in China. At present, over half of all rice area in China is under hybrid rice, resulting in improved food security for an estimated 60 million people per year. The adoption of hybrids has been much slower in India, with only about 7 percent of rice area under hybrids.

The low rate of adoption is largely due to poor grain quality and the resulting low market price, difficulties in achieving high rates of heterosis in tropical hybrids, high hybrid seed cost, limited availability of quality seeds, and hybrids not suited to ultimate consumers’ tastes and preferences. These are just a few of the main challenges facing the expansion of hybrid rice in India.

To read the full article, click here. Source: Op-ed by Patrick Ward, The Financial Express

India’s Rural Employment Guarantee Act: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 22, 2014

India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is an influential law passed in 2006 to guarantee any rural Beushani (2)household up to 100 days per year of public works employment within 15 kilometers of their residence paid at state-level minimum wages. Introduced with the aim of increasing rural incomes, helping villages to accumulate assets and strengthening local government institutions, NREGA is now in its ninth year of implementation. But with national elections now completed and new governments taking office at the federal and state levels, there are new concerns about whether or how NREGA can continue to evolve in playing a role in India’s efforts to reduce rural poverty.

The potential for NREGA to catalyze change in rural India remains significant, particularly in the risk-prone agro-ecologies covered by CSISA. NREGA was thus the focus of a major policy conference convened in Mumbai on 26-28 March by the Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Cornell University, with funding from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). The specific aim of the conference was to evaluate the state of knowledge about NREGA’s impacts, achievements and shortcomings, while also exploring how NREGA might renew its focus or adapt to changing realities moving forward.

CSISA was represented at this conference by P.K. Joshi, IFPRI’s director for South Asia, and by Anil K. Bhargava, a collaborator from the University of California Davis who has been working closely with IFPRI and CSISA since 2011. Bhargava’s paper, “The Impact of India’s Rural Employment Guarantee on Demand for Agricultural Technology,” focused on how small and marginal farmers in India are impacted by NREGA.

The paper suggests that, because the program focuses on employing the poorest rural workers on (mostly) irrigation-related infrastructure, the price of unskilled labor may have increased to the point where some farmers shift production practices towards labor-saving inputs and technologies and away from water-related ones, at least in the short run. To the extent that these inputs and technologies increase agricultural productivity, rural laborers may eventually see more skilled agricultural work available in the long-run at higher wages, provided workers are able to increase their education and develop their skills.

Collaborating with other NREGA researchers from the conference, Bhargava will be evaluating new data on production, technology and labor markets to demonstrate long-run impacts of NREGA. Joshi, Bhargava and other researchers who attended the conference discussed the metrics on which NREGA should be evaluated, as well as evidence centering on NREGA’s implementation, impact and unintended consequences.

The conference also included presentations from beneficiaries who shared individual stories of empowerment, respect and gender equality outcomes from the program that are hard to capture in broad, data-driven analyses. Program administrators and social auditors presented their state-level experiences, successes and challenges liaising between beneficiaries and government institutions, including ideas for moving forward with NREGA on state-specific strengths. The conference closed with a synthesis of perspective on NREGA’s achievements and shortcomings.

Looking forward, many participants — including NREGA’s own architects and implementers — agreed that much more had been accomplished since inception than the program is often given credit for, although there is still much to be done.

Written by Anil K. Bhargava, University of California, Davis and David J. Spielman, IFPRI

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.

Intercropping Takes Root in Southern Bangladesh

Posted on News & Announcements, May 8, 2014

Farmers of Jessore Sadar Upazila in Bangladesh are adopting intercrop cultivation — beneficial for crop yields and helps bring extra money for farmers during the lean period of cultivation. Peas, introduced in this dry season by CSISA-MI, are now cultivated along with maize by many farmers in the Upazila. The price of the produce is good and the farmers are able to cover their cultivation cost with that extra income ahead of harvesting the main crop, maize. By growing two or more crops in proximity, intercropping helps to produce a greater yield on a parcel of land by making good use of resources that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop. Strategies vary depending on soil, climate, crops and varieties. Peas and maize are a particularly good combination as they don’t compete with each other for sunlight, nutrients or space. Until now, farmers like 55 year-old Abder Ali Biswas of Gobila village cultivated rice only. This dry season, with support from CSISA-MI, he is growing maize intercropped with peas on 0.15 hectares of land. “Next season we’ll have intercrop in 1.34 hectares of land,” said Jasim, son of farmer Biswas.abder ali Maize, which is comparatively a new crop in the area, is more profitable than rice and gives more yield per hectare. Intercropping further increases income and decreases the cost of cultivation. Biswas harvested 560 kilograms of peas per hectare this January and sold them at more than 60 percent of his total cultivation cost. As Biswas is making a secure income and his farming has become more cost-effective, his son Jasim is insisting him to use more agricultural technologies advocated by CSISA-MI for better profits.

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)

 


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