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.
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.