Posts Tagged ‘Bihar’

Geospatial Technology Holds Potential to Revolutionize Agricultural Interventions

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, December 1, 2016

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What information is needed to make a reasonably precise agronomic recommendation for a small plot of land, or for an entire district or a state?

Agronomists must collect and analyze a multitude of variables when formulating agronomic recommendations, including crop and soil types, biotic and abiotic stresses, weed and nutrient management practices, weather and available irrigation infrastructure. Moreover, agriculture is extremely dynamic and conditions can change rapidly – with each cropping season and from one farm to another, making the process of formulating agronomic recommendations a challenge.

This is where a Geographic Information System, or GIS, comes into play. GIS is an applied science that analyzes information pooled from various sources at precision and landscape scales and enables evidence-based decision making. When used effectively, it can serve as a powerful, interactive tool that presents complex information in an actionable and simplified form, including as maps, graphs or reports. In combination with remote sensing, which involves the collection of information for a specific geographic area or object remotely – typically by satellite or aircraft – GIS can be used in diverse fields such as natural resource management, transportation and infrastructure planning. In agriculture, although GIS use is in a relatively nascent phase, it is increasingly being used as a basis for crop management and policy making.

CSISA relies on GIS and remote sensing for crop monitoring, area identification and technology targeting. Further, CSISA employs these technologies to complement monitoring, learning and evaluation activities being conducted on the ground. For example, when selecting areas to be surveyed to evaluate the impact of CSISA’s interventions on timely sowing of wheat in Bihar, GIS and remote sensing were used to analyze sowing dates across targeted locations in the state and accordingly classified as early or late sown. This enabled CSISA to ensure the selected sample represented the actual ground conditions and minimized variability or bias in the results.

CSISA is using geospatial technology to study in-field yield variability by using high-resolution satellite data, specifically targeting fertilizer application methods and their effect on crop yield. CSISA is also evaluating in-season adjustments of nitrogen and irrigation based on remote sensing data such as vegetation indices that show the relative density and health of vegetation and thermal band imagery that shows surface temperatures.

It is important to note, however, that much like any other science, the accuracy of GIS-based approaches depends heavily on the quality of inputs provided. For instance, satellite data plays a big role in GIS analysis. CSISA uses MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) satellite images to analyze wheat sowing dates instead of Landsat imagery. This is because Modis has a very high temporal resolution but relatively coarser spatial resolution, meaning the satellite passes over the same area every 8 days but captures limited detail (where 1 pixel = 250 meters x 250 meters). Landsat, on the other hand, captures greater detail (where 1 pixel = 30 meters x 30 meters) but only passes over an area once every 16 days.

Other factors such as staff training, equipment quality, favorable weather for remote sensing, sampling plans with sufficient ‘ground truthing’ points, and availability of spatial and non-spatial information are all important to effectively utilize GIS application.

Further, while freely available datasets may be adequate at the landscape level – since data at that scale is largely aggregated – to achieve precision at the farm level paid imagery is crucial. Other challenges are those that may be said to be true for the agricultural sector in general – limited sharing of data between agencies, as well as constraints associated with copyrights, internal policies, and limited budgets for purchasing images and equipment.

GIS and remote sensing technologies have rapidly evolved, experiencing significant advancements in recent years. With the launch of micro satellites, for example, the tradeoffs between spatial and temporal aspects are reducing. Drones are facilitating a higher-level of precision in agricultural data by creating an opportunity for real-time monitoring. At the same time there has been unprecedented growth in open source platforms, which have made these technologies accessible even to small organizations. The United States Geological Survey, in fact, made Landsat images free to use for everyone – a major breakthrough in its own right.

How CSISA Uses Geospatial Technology

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  • CSISA used MODIS satellite data from the last 14 years to evaluate the trend of wheat sowing in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. By using satellite images and vegetation indices to understand the growth curve of crops, CSISA generated an algorithm to derive sowing dates. The resultant wheat sowing map indicates that wheat is generally sown earlier in the central and northwestern parts of the study area.
  • CSISA monitored field vacating dates after kharif harvesting using the same methodology. The resulting analysis helped CSISA identify which areas had the greatest potential for early sowing of wheat. This figure indicates that fields in the southwestern and north-central study area (the districts of Ara and Buxar) is usually harvested late and becomes available later for wheat sowing. These areas thus have the greatest potential for technologies that would enable early sowing.
  • Monitoring also facilitated CSISA’s efforts to convince farmers to sow wheat early in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The encircled areas mark those targeted by CSISA, where early sowing has now been adopted.
  • CSISA also used GIS to identify kharif fallows in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. CSISA used MODIS images followed by vegetation indices and rigorous ‘ground truthing’ to define a specific threshold, below which one could identify the non-cropped areas. This data was cross-checked with previous years’ data to evaluate whether or not these were permanently fallowed lands. This figure shows that while some fallows shifted across the year, those in south-central Bihar were relatively fallowed throughout, possibly due to insufficient irrigation or other associated factors.
  • GIS and remote sensing also enabled CSISA to identify which areas in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh had topographical limitations or other adverse characteristics that would undermine interventions on certain technologies. CSISA used digital elevation models, thermal bands and vegetation indices to generate a spatial model for identifying such areas. Analysis revealed that one of the challenges for early sowing of wheat in Bihar and eastern UP was the late drainage of water from rice fields. Farmers in these areas were opting for longer duration rice crops, meaning that early wheat sowing would not be feasible. The reason behind late drainage was primarily topographic. This figure depicts areas in the southwest that are usually drained late across years. These were identified as areas that were either low lying or where clay soils were responsible for water retention.
  • In coastal Odisha, CSISA supports the dissemination of direct seeded rice (DSR) technology, which would not be successful in waterlogged areas. CSISA needed to identify coastal areas prone to flooding during the monsoon. An in-season time series analysis helped identify these areas. This figure shows that with the onset of the monsoon in July, the north central areas were most severely affected – especially between the last week of July and early August – and that the water receded only after the last week of August, thereby making it unsuitable for DSR.

This article is authored by Amit Srivastava, GIS Specialist, CIMMYT.

Zero-Till Wheat Raises Farmers’ Incomes in Eastern India, Research Shows

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 1, 2015

Farmer with wheat harvestIn a study published last month in Food Security, CIMMYT researchers reported that wheat farmers’ total annual income increased by 6% on average with the introduction of zero tillage (ZT) in Bihar. While studies done in the past in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) have shown ZT impacts in field trials or controlled environments, this research is believed to be the first that studied actual impacts in farmers’ fields.

ZT allows direct planting of wheat without plowing, sowing seeds directly into residues of the previous crop on the soil surface, thus saving irrigation water, increasing soil organic matter and suppressing weeds.

“We found that the prevailing ZT practice, without full residue retention, used by farmers in Bihar has led to an average yield gain of 498 kilogram per hectare (19%) over conventional tillage wheat, which is in contrast to the results of a recent global meta-analysis” says Alwin Keil, Senior Agricultural Economist, CIMMYT and the lead author of this study.

The global meta-analysis published last year compared crop yields in ZT and conventionally tilled production systems across 48 crops in 63 countries. It reported that ZT is only profitable in rainfed systems and when it is combined with full residue retention and crop rotation. “However, in Bihar, marginal and resource-poor farmers cannot afford to leave the full residue in the field as they use the rice straw to feed their livestock,” says Keil.

According to Keil, the divergent findings of the meta-analysis may be caused by the fact that most of the reviewed studies were conducted in moderate climatic zones (U.S., Canada, Europe, China) and results were aggregated across various crops.

Bringing a Wheat Revolution to Eastern India

Compared to the prosperous northwestern states, the eastern IGP is characterized by pervasive poverty and high population density, and its resource-poor farmers are more prone to the risks of climate change. Bihar has the lowest wheat yields in the IGP with an average of 2.14 tons per hectare.

To feed a growing wheat-consuming population, Bihar currently imports wheat largely from Punjab, where yields have stagnated over the last five years due to an over-exploitation of resources, especially water.

While ZT is widespread on the mechanized farms of Punjab and Haryana, seat of the first Green Revolution in India, farmers in the eastern IGP are yet to benefit. “There is also evidence that the positive effect of ZT is larger in areas with low agricultural productivity (generally low yields, such as Bihar) than in areas with higher productivity (such as Punjab, for instance),” remarks Keil.

Increasing Access among Smallholders

The study concludes that ZT users reap substantial benefits, and that this technology could help close the growing yield gap between production and consumption of wheat in Bihar. A 19% yield increase would translate into a production increase of 950,000 MT, which exceeds the total wheat imports into Bihar (868,000 MT in 2011).

However, with low ownership of tractors and ZT drills, large-scale adoption of ZT in eastern India hinges on an expansion of the network of service providers, who can custom-hire these kinds of services to smallholder farmers.

With public and private sector partners, the CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has supported the development of ZT service providers among tractor owners by facilitating the purchase of ZT drills and providing technical trainings and know-how since 2009. Consequently, the number of ZT service providers in Bihar increased from 17 in 2011 to 1,624 in 2014, servicing a total of approximately 44,700 acres.

“Furthermore, we found that only 32% of non-users of ZT in our sample were aware of the technology. Hence, increasing the number of service providers to enhance farmers’ access to ZT has to go hand-in-hand with large-scale information campaigns to raise their awareness of the technology,” says Keil.

This article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Public Harvesting Boosts Farmers’ Confidence in Modern Agricultural Practices in Bihar, India

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 15, 2015

Public harvestingBased on studies conducted by CSISA in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, early sowing of wheat – between 1 and 15 November – in combination with zero tillage and improved wheat varieties can help combat the negative impacts of terminal heat during the wheat maturing stage and increase yields. To demonstrate the benefits of early wheat sowing, CSISA in collaboration with the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Departments of Agriculture organized public wheat harvesting events this year in Buxar and Sant Kabir Nagar districts, respectively.

“Such demonstrations help create confidence not only among farmers but also among scientists, many of whom still hesitate to change previous recommendations and adopt new practices,” says R.K. Malik, CIMMYT Senior Agronomist and CSISA Objective 1 leader. Traditionally, farmers in this region have been planting wheat after 15 November, or even in early December, which makes the crop vulnerable to rising temperatures. CSISA studies have shown that productivity progressively declines from >5.0 to less than 2.5 t/ha when planting is shifted from the first half of November to the last half of December.

In 2013, Bihar Department of Agriculture modified its official advisory to farmers to promote early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology based on evidence-based advocacy by CSISA. “It’s important to show the profitability and advantages of early sowing at the field-level in order to accelerate its adoption rate,” Malik added. CSISA’s field survey in 2013-14 indicated that more than 120,000 ha of wheat now benefit from timely planting in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.

In Buxar, the public harvest was organized in Kanouli village, on a plot where wheat was sown on 4 November last year using zero tillage technology. The grain yield of wheat recorded from this plot was 6.25 t/ha, which participating farmers noted was the highest wheat yield they have ever seen. Similarly, the plot in Daryiabad village of Sant Kabir Nagar, sown on 13 November, also recorded a high yield of 6.12 t/ha, prompting farmers to share that average yields recorded under conventional tillage technologies have only been 4-4.5 t/ha.

Ram Awadh Chaudhary, a 50-year-old farmer and service provider from Pokharbinda village, Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh achieved yields of 6.5 t/ha last year and 6.0 t/ha this year after adopting early sowing and zero tillage. These yields are comparable to those of Punjab and Haryana and help reinforce farmers’ belief in new methods to improve productivity, according to Chaudhary.

With support from CSISA, Chaudhary has expanded his custom hire services into zero tillage, rotavating, laser land leveling, straw reaping and rice shelling. Across Bihar and EUP in 2013-14, an estimated 50,000 hectares of zero tillage wheat was sown by CSISA-supported service providers, reflecting an area increase of 42 percent over 2012-13.

Focus Group Discussions Highlight Success of Gender Program

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, June 28, 2015

FGDLast month, several rounds of focus group discussions (FGDs) and plenary exercises were carried out with various stakeholders of CSISA’s gender program in Odisha and Bihar. The participatory evaluation was aimed at providing documentary evidence of community feedback on the technologies and model of partnership, prior to any further planning and convergence.

In the town of Jashipur in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, a total of seven FGDs were conducted from 12-14 May. Six for different technology adopter/farmers groups and one for stakeholder/scaling agent groups. These covered several aspects surrounding the technologies adopted by women farmers such as selection criteria, extension methods, impact on livelihood, financial analysis, etc. The discussions highlighted a different perspective through the lens of women farmers.

Recounting her experience with direct seeded rice (DSR), one woman shared that most villagers seeing her try DSR on her field for first time cautioned, “Budhi khaibu kete, banchibu kete,” a sharp disapproval of the crop establishment method saying that she would go hungry considering the very low seed rate of rice applied. But once the crop was harvested, she said, “It was well beyond what my family and I could eat. In fact, now I can even feed those who worried I would go hungry.”

A similar three-day exercise was also organized in Bihar later in the month for a group of 110 women farmers from Muzzafarpur, Munger and Samastipur districts. According to Sugandha Munshi, Gender Specialist, IRRI, “In Bihar, the intervention with women farmers was streamlined with the inception of their identity as Kisan Sakhi, which means ‘woman farmer friend’ and works on the four pillars of identity, knowledge, leadership and economic empowerment of women in agriculture.”

A farmer from Bandra block, Sumitra, shared, “I have been working in the field since ages but, being a woman, I was never recognized as a farmer. Today, as a Kisan Sakhi, I am finally given due recognition. Participating in this workshop helped me reflect and review my financial positioning through a cost-benefit analysis. It has increased my confidence substantially. I am happy.”

From just 248 women farmers in early 2014, Kisan Sakhi has now become an identity for 2,100 women farmers across 181 self-help groups (SHGs). Through workshops and other technical capacity building programs, on and off the field, CSISA provided these women farmers direct access to modern agricultural practices and machinery to help them realize their full potential. Woman farmer Anupa shared, “This was the first workshop where Kisan Sakhi participated as a group to analyze its achievement. Thanks to CSISA, I am now able to explore new methods and techniques of farming. I am also capable of training other women and men farmers as trainers.”

Kisan Sakhi Kiran Devi, whose husband has to travel outside the village for work, added, “Earlier, my husband used to return for a month during kharif (monsoon) season to take care of the farmland because he thought as a woman I was not capable of handling the nitty-gritties of agriculture. But, this kharif season he does not have to travel back since he recognizes that I am empowered enough to manage on my own. This has also helped us increase our income.”

The discussions also served as an opportunity to plan for scaling-up in cooperation with local NGOs. A joint-report based on the evaluations carried out in both states is currently being prepared.

Locally-Designed Thresher Meets Farmers’ Needs in Bihar

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 31, 2015

Open drum thresher demonstrationIn India, farmers with large landholdings from prosperous agricultural states like Punjab can often buy expensive and sophisticated machines for their farm operations. However, resource-poor farmers from states such as Bihar and Odisha may not be able to afford the same machines or services and, given that their landholdings may be considerably smaller, may have different needs. Farmers all along the spectrum of landholdings need to be able to access differently priced appropriate machinery based on their specific requirements. Machinery for mechanized threshing is one such example.

For rice, mechanized threshing offers many advantages over manual threshing in terms of increased efficiency, reduced drudgery, cost and labor savings. Until recently, farmers in Bihar only had two options to choose from – the very large axial flow thresher that can cost up to Rs. 170,000 (US$ 2,700) after subsidy or the compact pedal-powered open drum thresher that has very low capacity and is difficult to operate for extended periods of time by women farmers, who are responsible for most threshing activities in India. The only medium-sized option was an electric motor powered open drum thresher available from other states, which was not effective as many farms in Bihar do not have reliable access to electricity.

“Farmers clearly needed a medium-sized, affordable, efficient and portable mechanical paddy thresher,” said Suryakanta Khandai, Postharvest Specialist, IRRI, who works for CSISA in Bihar. For most manufacturers and retailers in Bihar, however, importing such machines did not offer enough margin for profit. Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) approached local fabricators in Bihar to assemble and sell these threshers.

Khandai added, “We wanted to build a locally-relevant product so understanding the shortcomings of the existing options was important. The pedal-powered open drum thresher, for example, was prone to accidents with most users complaining that their clothes would often get caught in the exposed mechanism. The existing models also lacked winnowing or bagging functions, which were included in the new design. Besides giving it wheels, we also decided to use a diesel engine to power the machine to allow for threshing in the field immediately upon cutting, which would help reduce losses.”

The result was the diesel engine powered open drum thresher, which was assembled in collaboration with the local fabricator Durga Engineering Works. CSISA provided them the technical specifications and also gave advice on developing a profitable business model around it.

“It was a work in progress so we also had to make modifications along the way. For instance, we found that the 4.5 hp diesel engine was scattering the grains too far so we had to attach an additional covering plate. This not only reduces the scattering loss but also made the machine safer to operate,” informed Khandai.

In the end though, the effort was worth it as both the fabricator and farmers can now reap its benefits. “Threshing with this machine saves me time and money. Labor is both expensive and unreliable. Hiring one person for a day costs Rs. 200 (US$ 3.2) and in this time one laborer can only manage threshing 3 katha of rice,” says Pawan Kumar Singh, a smallholder farmer and user of the machine from Samastipur, Bihar. “But with this machine, one person can thresh 5 katha in an hour at just Rs. 150 per hour (US$ 2.4).” Katha is a local unit of area where 22 katha equals approximately 1 acre. This means it costs Rs. 1,500 (US$ 24) to hire one person to manually thresh 1 acre of rice in 7 days. Using the diesel engine powered open drum thresher, however, the same area could be covered in just over four hours with a total cost of Rs. 660 (US$ 10.5).

Singh also highlights the fact that mechanical threshing can prevent substantial postharvest losses. “Manual threshing of rice involves repeatedly beating the bundle to separate the grain from the chaff. This results in unnecessary losses since the grain gets scattered everywhere. Further, if the bundle is not thoroughly threshed, farmers can suffer losses of nearly 2 to 4 kg of rice. But with the machine, your output is 100 percent.”

Durga Engineering Works sells the diesel engine powered open drum thresher for Rs. 30,000 (US$ 483) at an estimated profit of Rs. 11,000 per machine (US$ 177). They have already sold 15 pieces and are looking to expand distribution into other parts of India as well. The machine was recently certified by the Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute (FMTTI) in Jharkand, which is a prerequisite for a machine to be subsidized by the government.

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.

CSISA Rolls Out a New Round of Field Studies

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 26, 2015

IFPRI Field Studies

CSISA’s research team from IFPRI are deep into the design, data collection and initial analysis phases as they start work on three major studies rolling out during the kharif (monsoon) rice season. These studies will provide new insights on how farmers perceive different CSISA-supported technologies, and how these perceptions vary across different types of farmers. This helps CSISA and, more importantly, extension agencies and NGOs, to have a better understanding of what works, where and why.

The latest study will explore farmers’ valuation of – and returns to – the use of mechanical rice transplanters (MRTs) in Bihar. Another study examines farmers’ preferences for – and uptake of – new stress-tolerant rice cultivars coupled with a weather index insurance product in Odisha. Both studies take their cues from prior IFPRI studies: the former on farmers’ willingness to pay for laser land levelers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and the latter on farmers’ preferences for a similar cultivar and insurance product in Bogra, Rajshahi division, Bangladesh.

Each study combines exercises that explore respondents’ perceptions of new agricultural products and services before actually providing them. For example, the study in Bihar uses experimental games with farmers to discern differences in male and female demand for MRTs and the potential labor savings it might offer. The studies in Bogra and Odisha use similar exercises to understand how farmers perceive the probability of a drought during kharif and the costs and benefits of somehow insuring themselves against that risk, with weather index insurance and/or drought-tolerant rice varieties.

With a better sense of farmers’ preferences, these studies will then introduce novel products and services for use during the upcoming kharif season. In Bihar, selected farmers will receive (and pay for) mechanical transplanting services. In Odisha, selected farmers will receive (and pay for) a drought-tolerant rice cultivar and/or a weather index insurance policy.

At this moment, several of these experiments – accompanied by village and household surveys followed by distribution of products and services – are underway and in the field. The team is working with local partners for these studies – Gram Unnayan Karma (GUK) in Bogra, Balasore Social Service Society in Odisha, HopUp for survey management and implementation in Bihar. And with collaborators from the University of California, Davis and the University of Georgia, these studies will provide critical insights for CSISA and its wide range of stakeholders. And with these insights, IFPRI and CSISA are better able to advise policymakers on the types of policies and investments they might make to affect evidence-based solutions that encourage inclusive technological change across South Asia’s rural economy.

This article is authored by David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI.

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.

Big Business in Mechanizing Small Farms

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, December 22, 2014

IMG_1362Barsaprasad Hembram, a maize farmer from Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, purchased a variety of modern farm machines this year by participating in a government scheme that gives farmers a 50 percent subsidy on tractors and seven auxiliary implements such as the seed drill. Today, Hembram uses his new farm equipment to provide agricultural custom-hire services to other like-minded farmers, charging $14.35 (Rs. 910) per hour for the tiller and $15.78 (Rs. 1,000) per hour for the Mould Board plow.

Not only does this service give Hembram additional income, it helps other smaller farmers who can’t afford to buy machines to reap the benefits of modern farming technologies. Hembram says, “Word got around about the success of my maize crop and more and more people became interested in using technologies such as the seed drill. Availability of labor is a huge challenge for all the farmers here so naturally they’re interested. I already have requests from five farmers to help with their fields next year.”

Hembram is a CSISA-supported service provider — or ‘change agent intermediary.’ By offering custom-hire agricultural machinery at relatively affordable rates, these service providers are bringing the benefits of modern agricultural mechanization even to the smallest farmers – in addition to serving as an important source of information on better-bet agronomic management. CSISA supports a network of more than 1,700 mechanized service providers across India.

Expanding Mechanization

With an increasing agricultural labor shortage in India, shifting to mechanical power seems like a logical response. Not only does mechanization support the optimal utilization of resources (e.g., land, labor, water) and expensive farm inputs, it also helps farmers save valuable time in completing a variety of operations. The judicious use of time, labor and resources can help facilitate sustainable intensification (e.g., multi-cropping) and the timely of planting of crops, which can give crops more time to mature and increase productivity. The use of scale-appropriate machinery can also help reduce drudgery.

The shortage of labor in Mayurbhanj is a challenge that farmer Sajit Kumar Mohanty is familiar with as well. He shares, “Most of the local labor is employed by brick kilns, making it nearly impossible for me to find the 20–30 people it would take to manually uproot and transplant rice seedlings for my field. Thanks to the machine transplanter, I can now manage the same task with just four people.” Farmer and service provider Kishore Kinkar Padiari says that in Bhadrak, Odisha, “Not only is labor expensive and hard to find, there is also no assurance that they will come exactly when you need them to, which can be of critical importance with the changing climate and shifting planting windows.”. Thanks to Padiari’s custom hire services farmers in his village now manage to plant more than 1 acre per day (0.40 hectare) with just three people using the machine transplanter for rice instead of the 20 people they previously needed at a cost of $3.47 (Rs. 220) per person. “Using this technology farmers also save nearly 10–15 kg seed per acre.”

Benefits for Smallholders

India has a large number of smallholder farmers who have landholdings of less than 2 hectares. The role of change agent intermediaries like Hembram and Padiari becomes even more significant in eastern India, where the average landholding size is decreasing and the procurement of machines individual farmers is often not economically feasible.

From this year, Padiari has also started renting out his laser land leveler and has already received requests to service more than 30 hectares. Sharing insights on the business of service provision, he adds, “I’m only charging Rs. 400–600 ($6.30–9.50) initially to build demand and in some cases I’ve only asked for the cost of the diesel. A lot of the farmers don’t know about these technologies so they are apprehensive in the beginning. But when they see results they’ll come back and even be willing to pay more.”

For technologies such as zero tillage (ZT), service providers provide crop establishment services to more than 20 households each — a core example of CSISA’s strategy for achieving sustainable intensification at scale through change agent intermediaries. Across Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, over 50,000 hectares of ZT wheat were sown by CSISA-supported service providers in 2013–14, reflecting an area increase of 42% over the previous year.

But the business of service provision is not for everyone, warns Vijay Kumar Singh from Vaishali, Bihar. “Most people with tractors don’t want to buy ZT machines because they can only make money from it once per field. The plow in comparison will be needed at least five to six times. I only bought the ZT machine because I have enough land of my own to use it on and not because I was dependent on using it as a source of income,” he explains. And perhaps rice farmer Tushar Ranjan Biswal from Bhadrak would agree.

Biswal approached CSISA to learn about technologies that could help him cultivate his 8.09 hectares of hereditary land that were lying fallow. “I’m ambitious and wanted to earn some money. I was told about the option of becoming a service provider and earning an extra income by renting out my machines to other farmers in the area. But I realized that I could make much more money by simply leasing their farms instead and am hence now cultivating a total area of nearly 80 acres (32.37 hectares).” Biswal does, however, invite farmers from neighboring villages to showcase the benefits of using more modern agricultural practices. He admits, “If it wasn’t for this technology, I could never have cultivated such a large piece of land.”

Another challenge according to Parmanand Pandey from Samastipur, Bihar is that parts for machines aren’t always readily available, which means that if a machine needs to be repaired, it will become unavailable for that entire cropping season. But why, then, did he become a service provider with the zero tillage machine for wheat, bed planter for maize and machine transplanter for rice? “You cannot always think in terms of cost and profit. Mechanization is also about risk mitigation. With a single machine I can cover 35 acres (14.16 hectares) while with a plow I cannot. More and more people are realizing this every year and so every year my business is increasing.”

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.

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.

Supporting policy change: Bihar promotes early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology

Posted on News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 19, 2013

CSISA’s efforts to promote early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology get full support from the Bihar Department of Agriculture. After three years of extensive work, CSISA has demonstrated that early wheat sowing – between November 1 and 15 – increases yields, primarily due to the crop’s ability to avoid terminal heat (35°C) during the grain-filling stage. This is a critical intervention in light of the changing climate of the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains. CSISA has also shown that a zero-till seed drill can facilitate early sowing by sowing the crop faster and with less labor. Largely due to CSISA’s policy advocacy around these two issues, the Bihar Department of Agriculture promoted early wheat sowing and zero till technology in its 2013 advisory to farmers, reversing earlier guidance that wheat only be sown in the last two weeks of November, or even in early December. In preparation for the 2013 Rabi cropping season, CSISA, the Bihar Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Technology Management Agency launched a campaign to promote early sowing, zero tillage and to discuss best management practices for wheat. Workshops were held in Darbhanga, Begusarai, Vaishali, Lakhisarai, Samastipur and Muzaffarpur during 26 October to 2 November, 2Bihar advisory on early wheat planting013. CSISA conducted lectures, shared case studies, showed relevant videos, and engaged in discussions with State Department officers and field functionaries at the grassroots level to encourage farmers to advance their wheat sowing at least by 10 days compared to last year, since most farmers would have sown their wheat in late November or early December. The State Agriculture Officers also directed their Block Agriculture Officers, agriculture coordinators, and Krishi Salhakars (farm advisors at the Panchayat level) to ensure maximum area under early wheat sowing, preferably under zero-tillage. The CSISA hub team developed extension materials (factsheets) on the advantages of ‘early sowing of wheat’ and ‘management of Phalaris minor in wheat’ with the help of BAMETI, the extension and training wing of the Bihar Department of Agriculture. These factsheets are being distributed to thousands of field level extension staff.


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