Smallholders India - Activities
Syngenta Foundation India activities
In pursuit of a viable model for development of agriculture by smallholder farmers in India, the Foundation's strategy is based on four key activities:
1. Using certified seeds
2. Introducing System of Rice Intensification (SRI)
3. Introducing hybrid vegetables
4. Education, training, and information sharing
Here is a brief explanation of each of them.
1. Using certified seeds
The life of a crop begins with the seed sown--its overall quality is important. It has to be of an improved - high yielding/quality - variety, of high purity and strong germination. Many farmers are unaware of the importance of using fresh seed of high quality, or cannot afford to buy it.
One priority of SFI was to popularize the use of "certified" seeds for cultivation of major crops such as rice, wheat, and soybean. All these seeds were sold to farmers at cost. SFI facilitated the access to these seeds - an important first step.
2. System of rice intensification
The SRI is a novel technique, developed in Madagascar, and has the potential of doubling productivity through application of a series of stages.
SRI is a step-by-step method of rice cultivation and essentially involves transplanting single seedlings less than two weeks old, 25 cm apart, and growing them under alternate wetting and drying. A rotary weeder is used to control weeds while also facilitating oxygen supply to the roots. The net result is proliferation of tillering, vigorous plants with stronger root system, early emergence of earheads, increased number of bold grains per panicle and finally, higher yields.
Recognizing the various advantages of SRI in India, it was introduced in all SFI's projects. Each year, training is provided to farmers by experts brought in from public institutions. The technique has been keenly pursued in Kalahandi where many farmers have achieved yields that are 100% higher than average in the district.
3. Hybrid vegetables
SFI provides advice about the choice of hybrids for the different seasons, and application of appropriate agronomic techniques and timely crop protection measures. These were the keys to their widespread adoption by farmers at all projects of SFI and has been a major success.
In Bankura and Kalahandi, hundreds of small farmers have made significant gains with vegetable cultivation by adopting new hybrids and improved practices.
4. Education, training and information sharing
Farmer training is carried out in all projects of the Syngenta Foundation India. The main objective is to educate farmers on the latest developments in agronomy, horticulture, crop protection, and other techniques, especially those suited to individual project areas. This includes classroom teaching as well as field demonstrations. For this purpose specialists, mainly from public institutions, are invited by SFI, apart from our own experts.
Demonstrations include trials of new varieties and techniques carried out in selected farmers' fields. When trial plots of crops like rice are harvested, other farmers are invited to witness the output and compare it with what they get by conventional method. Farmers are also taken on "exposure visits" to the farms of progressive growers in each region.
In each project, there are one or more farmers' information centers where they are encouraged to meet regularly and share their experiences. A good collection of guides and handbooks on improved agricultural practices are available and farmers are encouraged to read them. A field extension assistant is attached to each center, who serves as the initial point of contact for the farmers to discuss their problems and offer advice.