A group of farmers sit in a green field among signs.

Community-led solutions grow crop yield and capacity to mitigate risk for Indian smallholder farmers

October 09, 2020

The Krishi Jyoti project, now in its 12th year, has reached 85 Indian villages and sustainably increased crop yields for smallholder farmers, increasing their ability to weather future uncertainty.

With one-seventh of the world’s population, India’s economic stability is dependent on strong agricultural productivity. But smallholder farmers struggle to produce enough food on small parcels of land.

Of the 139 million total rural landholdings in India, 120 million are smallholder farmers with landholdings less than two hectares in size.1 Many of those in this large, critical group are food insecure, struggling to earn a living or feed their own families.

A man wearing a yellow turban stands in a field of mustard crop.
Farmer Mahendra Singh from village Sheikhpur, district Alwar, state Rajasthan, shows the impact of balanced fertiliser application on the yield of mustard crop.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s lockdown and lack of public transportation led to a labor shortage for the winter crop harvest, generating waste and stress for smallholder operations.

In addition, this particularly vulnerable group is more likely to struggle with the impacts of climate change, such as hotter temperatures, increasing frequency of extreme rain events, and increasing frequency and length of droughts, all of which may lead to a decrease in yields for India’s major food crops by as much as 10 percent by 2035.2

Without intervention, these risks — food insecurity, viral outbreaks, climate change, and more — will only escalate for a country with a population of 1.3 billion. By 2027, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populated country.3

To sustainably stave off risk and feed India’s growing population, finding methods to increase the productivity of India’s smallholder farmers is imperative.

Mitigating risk and building a sustainable future

One way to mitigate risk is through improved agronomic expertise. India ranks second worldwide in farm output, but its average yields are 50 to 70 percent lower than yields of top global producers.

In the districts of Nuh and Alwar, two of India’s most resource-challenged and isolated areas, smallholder farmers face soil degradation and water scarcity challenges that result in below-average yields.

While rural villages may lack resources, they have strong communities and motivated leaders. In 2008, Mosaic, The Mosaic Company Foundation, and S M Sehgal Foundation teamed up to create the Krishi Jyoti project, which addresses agricultural productivity through community-led solutions. 

Krishi Jyoti, or “enlightened agriculture,” equips smallholder farmers with improved agricultural inputs and practices. This initiative improves quality of life through its community-led transformation efforts focusing on three primary drivers: agriculture, water management, and education. These all-encompassing efforts hamper risks by contributing stability to the community and its farmers.

By the numbers, more than 60,000 villagers including 7,000 smallholder farmers in the last 12 years have benefited in 85 Indian villages covering over 20,000 acres, with an average crop yield increase of 18-35 percent in wheat, mustard, pearl millet and cotton. Some growers have even seen crop yields increase by 45 percent.

Imran Khan — farmer of village Kota Kalan, district Alwar, state Rajasthan — established a pomegranate orchard under crop diversification using a drip irrigation system.
A man rides a tractor in front of a large group of people.
Demonstration of Hydraulic Reversible Plough, during Kisan Mela (Farmers’ fair) in village Gadhi Ghaneta, Block Ramgarh, District Alwar, State Rajasthan.

Farmer income has increased, ranging $63 to $360 per hectare due to increased productivity. Over 50 percent of farmers continue to use the best practices and knowledge gained from the program.

Krishi Jyoti has also made possible the renovation of 28 schools. On the water management side, 12 check-dams have been constructed, with a total storage capacity of 47.67 million gallons, which support ground water recharge that communities use for irrigation. Irrigation techniques and equipment improvement has occurred on 350 acres

While Krishi Jyoti is reaching a relatively small group of farmers, compared to the total number of farmers in India, by investing deeply in a targeted group of communities, the Sehgal Foundation and Mosaic are investing in the sustainability and resilience of the villages for generations to come.

There’s more to come yet: In 2021, the Krishi Jyoti program will expand to reach more farmers and communities in India.

A check dam sits nestled in the hills.
A check dam is constructed to address the issue of depleting groundwater, which is the only source of water for agriculture for farmers in village Pathkhori, block Firozpur Jhirka, district, Nuh, State Haryana.
Students of Government Senior Secondary School, village Doli, District Alwar, state Rajasthan, are all excited and taking pride in their school after it got transformed into a beautiful, welcoming place to study.
Logo for Mosaic.

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