“Your Experience Matters”: Caritas India invited Jharkhand CSOs to share Smallholder led innovative models

The agrarian economy and agriculture and allied sector are the largest employers in the country. But the majority are small and marginal farmers. Out of the total land holding, they account for 85% of the total operational landholdings in the country, with the average size of landholding of 1.42 ha and 0.39 ha respectively (Agricultural Census 2010-11, released in 2015). In terms of production, small and marginal farmers also make a larger contribution to the production of high-value crops. They contribute around 70% to the total production of vegetables, 55% to fruits against their share of 44% in land area (Birthal, 2011). The sector, however, is characterized by traditional methods of farming, low level of access to quality inputs and information, frequent weather disturbances and minimal adoption of modern farming techniques.  The agriculture sector is largely being subsistence-based and the farmers have had few opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills into market-based sustainable livelihood interventions that would help them overcome the vulnerabilities that agriculture sector is prone to.

Jharkhand state falls under the agro-climatic zone VII (Eastern Plateau and Hilly region). Undulating topographic sequences of the State and rainfed agriculture have led to massive degradation of soil, diverse agricultural practices, and low productivity. About 82% of the annual rainfall occurs within the monsoon season, which lasts from mid-June to September. Available moisture over the entire monsoon period determines the opportunity for the various cropping system practiced by the farmers. The level of technology adaptation is also poor leading to lower productivity. The State suffers from several critical gaps in agriculture and allied sectors through a number of opportunities that exist to make the state self-sufficient in agricultural production. Furthermore, farmers don’t get remunerative prices for their produce which raises many queries with regards to the advancement of the community in the income ladder. Besides, there are multiple reasons that necessitate the provisioning of extension services in the pre-production, production, post-production and harvesting and marketing of produce.

Keeping an eye on the above, a one-day consultation around smallholder farmers’ issues, challenges, and prospects with all like-minded organisations viz CSOs working in the state were organised by CARITAS INDIA. Around 35 experts from various civil societies organisations working with smallholders have participated in the consultation organised by Caritas India on 20th November 2019 in Ranchi.

The workshop was part of an important stakeholder consultation organised in the context to discuss strategies to strengthen a smallholder farmers’ network in the state by involving all important stakeholders and promote mutual learning process around smallholder’s issues. It aimed at consulting experts from various organisations involved to double small farm production and income with agro-ecological practices.

A more demand-driven agenda with long term challenges, “Your Experience Matters” Dr. Pallab De invite all CSO representatives to actively participate by sharing their learnings and experiences. Many innovative Small farm models were shared by CSO representatives followed by the smallholder led integrated farming system model of Caritas India shared by Mr. Pradipta Chand. Representatives were then invited to split into two groups to work on the need and scope of sustainable agriculture in the context of climate change and the marketing of small farm produces.