S M Sehgal Foundation’s Agriculture Development Program is promoting improved access to sustainable agriculture for smallholder farmers in India. The Foundation developed the Package of Practice (PoP) approach to increase farm-level productivity, improve profitability, and promote better stewardship of the environment. The program provides farmers training and access to a suite of complementary productivity-enhancing
tools that promote soil health and resource conservation. The PoP approach provides farmers information on valuable practices such as soil management, small-farm mechanization, water-efficient irrigation techniques, livestock management, and information and communication technologies.
The S M Sehgal Foundation (Sehgal Foundation) is currently present in 12 states of India promoting the Agriculture Development Program (ADP), which aims to improve smallholder livelihoods through the adoption and adaptation of innovative technologies. Sehgal Foundation’s goal is to increase crop productivity through the improvement of soil fertility, increased adoption of irrigation, and encouraged use of small-scale machinery.
Increasing knowledge of proven practices and tools to implement sustainable farming practices can lead to improved crop yields, increased profitability, and better stewardship of the environment. Practices such as soil testing to make informed decisions about the use of essential micronutrients, technologies such as mini sprinklers for enhancing water use efficiency, and mini reapers for labor efficiency have demonstrated impact in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Through the ADP, the Sehgal Foundation deploys its Package of Practice (PoP) approach, which involves promoting multiple science-based farming techniques and technologies that farmers use alongside traditional production methods. By implementing a comprehensive PoP, farmers enhance their crop yields through improved efficiency from field preparation to harvesting.
The PoP approach also increases information on and access to productivity-enhancing tools by providing small and marginalized farmers with farm equipment at subsidized rates and training on how to use the equipment. Farmers bear a portion of the machinery’s costs to foster a sense of ownership. Ajay Kumar, a farmer from Undi village, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, for example, is the recipient of a multi-crop reaper.
“I heard about the benefits of a multi-crop reaper machine and I went ahead to contribute a portion for getting the machine at a subsidized price,” Kumar said. “Within five days I got back my invested amount of INR 22,000 (264 USD), and by April 12, 2022, I had harvested 23 hectares of wheat. For this, I charged INR 1,400 (43 USD) per hectare, and my gross earning was INR 81,200 (975 USD).”
Mini sprinkler irrigation equipment is another type of technology available for subsidized purchase through the PoP approach. Farmer Harun, from the village of Buraka, used the equipment to irrigate his crop.
“The mini sprinkler irrigation method has had a prominent effect and has not only changed the farming landscape of the village,” he said, “but is also conserving water as it uses only 40 to 50 percent of water compared to the flood irrigation method.”
By 2023, the Sehgal Foundation has conducted 1,504 farmer engagement activities, drip irrigated 644 acres of land, and conducted a total of 14,219 demonstrations on various crops through the ADP program. Among farmers implementing the PoP approach in India, there has been a 10-18 percent increase in output, an 88 percent reduced labor input due to the use of machines such as zero tillage and potato planters, an INR 5,000/ha (USD 60) reduction in production costs, and 59 percent and 22 percent increased water savings through sprinklers and laser levelers, respectively.
Implementation of complementary productivity-enhancing solutions has clear potential to improve sustainable productivity growth in smallholder agriculture in India. The PoP approach could be replicated in other regions to gain similar wins in productivity.