Lessons from an initiative to increase farm productivity by promoting a community-based model of agricultural advisory services.
Smallholder farmers constitute nearly 80 percent of the total farm households and make up one of the largest constituencies among India’s poor. The productivity of many of their on-farm and off-farm activities is lower than average and there are substantial gaps in yields generated on the farmers’ fields, versus what is seen as research stations.
The food, nutritional security, and poverty alleviation of these smallholder farmers pose great challenges. To improve their lives, we need to increase agricultural productivity and promote off-farm rural employment. This requires access to appropriate technology that will equip them with modern practices, in both farming and off-farm activities. New models have to be developed to ensure that these families have access to the right information, as well as knowledge and skills to optimise the productivity of their livelihood activities.
Neither the public extension system nor the market has been able to reach the smallholders in the remote areas of our country, in spite of the several initiatives that have been introduced since Independence. These include the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) or Farm Science Centres launched by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in the 1970s, the Agricultural Technology Information Centres (ATIC) introduced in 2000 to disseminate technologies developed in universities and institutes, and the Agri-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres (ACABC) scheme that provided unemployed farm graduates with training and gave them access to credit to start their own ventures.