VULNERABLE GROUPSSMALL AND MARGINAL FARMERSSTRATEGIC INITIATIVESANDHRA PRADESH
Currently, small and marginal farmers who constitute 85% of farmer households in India are grappling with rising input costs, crippling debt, impacts of climate change and meagre yields. Distressed, they are being driven to suicide, mere subsistence, or to migrate in search of livelihoods.
We aim to address these vulnerabilities that confront small and marginal farmers through our partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh that has clearly demonstrated preparedness and an opportunity to address these alarming trends.
This partnership is in keeping with the global push for regenerative, agro-ecological farming, and replenishing soil health by avoiding chemical fertilisers/pesticides. According to scientists, boosting soil fertility and carbon content can counter the effects of climate change. This, in turn, leads to increased food and nutrition security, productivity, improved water and air quality, and human health--a “win-win-win” option for farmers.
Farming for Resilience
This special initiative is to enable 500,000 farmer households across 13 districts of the state to adopt climate-resilient, zero budget, natural farming (CRZBNF). These include the poorest of the poor, and the landless who farm leased land--the most affected by severe climatic conditions, spiralling costs, inadequate protection and low yields. The state has also put in place structures for the participation of different stakeholders-- farmer households, self-help groups and their federations, community resource persons, professionals from agricultural universities, resource and research institutes, civil society organisations, donors and the state.
The focus is on increasing small and marginal farmers’ incomes and productivity through climate-resilient, zero budget natural farming (CRZBNF). The theory of change in this farmer-centric model is to strengthen the hands of farmers as expert practitioners and leaders, using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to share their acquired knowledge, experience and expertise with farmers and their collectives.
We support Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS - Farmers’ Empowerment Corporation) set up by the Department of Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh for a 5-year period from 2017-2022, as well as selected resource NGOs for a 3-year period 2017-2020. Farmers with demonstrated expertise in natural farming are serving as community resources persons to train a vast pool of farmers in the community on natural farming principles and practices. Resource NGOs are training master farmers who in turn will train and support farmers in their communities through farmer field schools and exposure visits, strengthen farmer producer companies, and develop innovation and learning hubs in select resource villages. Resource NGOs are also invested in strengthening their own capacities to contribute to systems integration and transformation.
RySS and resource NGOs are forming farmers’ self-help groups (FSHGs) that enable savings and access to institutional credit while providing a supportive peer group for sustaining agro-ecological, natural farming practices. Shops at cluster level are providing cow dung and cow urine based decoctions, botanical extracts for sale and farm machinery on hire to support those who do not have access to these. Eventually, farmers’ producer organisations, farmers’ self-help groups, women’s self-help groups and their federations will have access to value addition investments such as processing, storage and market linkages. These efforts will lead to achieving the programme goal of enhanced income and well-being for small and marginal farmers, as well as soil health and ecological benefits.