Profits and self-respect from better farming
Akshay Ghodke’s family farm is 32 acres of rock-strewn, barren land straddling a hillside in India’s western Maharashtra state. It had never yielded enough food or income to sustain the family, and Akshay was happy to leave it behind when he departed to study mechanical engineering in Pune, some 250km away.
But when he failed his exams and was forced to return home, his confidence at rock bottom, the farm was where he ended up. After two years he had not succeeded in making ends meet from the unforgiving land, but he had developed a deep interest in agriculture.
A close friend of his had found success through Syngenta Foundation India’s (SFI) Agri-Entrepreneur programme, and he encouraged Akshay to sign up. The programme trains local people to set up shops selling high-quality agri-inputs, but also to deliver advice, links to markets, and facilitate credit to farmers who traditionally struggle to access financial services.
His training exposed him to improved agricultural practices and he saw firsthand how progressive farmers had transformed their livelihoods by adopting them.
‘In our village, we used only one pesticide for everything. We weren’t even aware of the right amount that we should use. We incurred huge losses,’ recalls Akshay.
Improbably, in an area where farmers have struggled to grow anything other than low-value millet even with quite large land holdings, Akshay turned his attention to horticulture. With the expert guidance of the SFI team, he planted bananas, oranges, and papayas, the trees rooted firmly in the rocky terrain.
Profits began to roll in, enabling Akshay to buy a tractor, which he then rented out to other farmers to enable them to prepare their challenging land efficiently. Like him, they soon began to see improved yields and profits.
‘Helping farmers in my village adopt better agronomy practices has helped the whole community,’ says Akshay. ‘It’s also given me my self-respect back.’
Work of Syngenta Foundation India In this context
Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Syngenta India Limited established Syngenta Foundation India (SFI) as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2005. From the outset, SFI’s mission was to have small and marginal farmers participate in agricultural development by improving their access to better seeds and other inputs, increasing their knowledge of agronomic practices, establishing ease of access to credit and providing systematic market linkages. The main objective has remained to educate small and marginal farmers on the latest developments suited to their local needs, and thus ultimately improve their income.