The FINANCIAL — Bayer and the S M Sehgal Foundation (SMSF) – a non-profit organization supporting smallholder farmers in India – have announced the “Sustainability of Agriculture and Smallholder Development” project. Aim of the project is to improve farmers’ incomes by introducing them to easy-to-learn-and-adopt best agronomic practices.
The project in 25 villages in Rajasthan, a state of northwestern India, aims to conserve water through efficient irrigation practices and rainwater harvesting and improve productivity of pearl millet crop through promotion of better agronomic practices in farms between 4 and 8 hectares. This will help farmers achieve better incomes and higher productivity and to make their farms more resilient in times of water scarcity. The project will work with farm families, directly benefitting 1,000 farmers and indirectly impacting about 5,000 villagers. Bayer will support the project with 100,000 Euros.
Most Indian farmers lack knowledge on improving the micronutrient balance of the soil. Agriculture extension activities in the region are virtually non-existent, and farmers do not have any access to agricultural information and know-how. The average rainfall in the region is very low. Water is scarce and every drop counts.
To address the existing challenges of the farmers and help them have better farm yield; the project aims at improving water infrastructure through rejuvenation of ponds, building an anicut which enables rain water to penetrate into the ground and to refill groundwater reservoirs. SMSF’s experts will train and showcase bunding techniques which reduce erosion and run-off.
Pearl millet is a very valuable choice for small farmers in difficult agro ecological areas. It grows in adverse conditions, on arid and poor soils, it needs very little inputs and it is very nutritious. The crop is grown for a dual purpose – as food for human consumption and feed for livestock. The grain is converted into flour and used for making bread while the stems are used as feed for cattle. The project will plant demonstration plots to showcase the efficiency of improved practices and appropriate inputs and will train farmers in good agricultural practices.
Bayer India has a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality seeds and crop protection products for pearl millet farmers in the country, including varieties which deliver higher yields, are more drought tolerant and are more resistant to downy mildew, a highly destructive plant disease.
During the first year of the project, the progress will be tracked by both partners. Key success factors will include productivity gains in pearl millet, availability of surface water for irrigation purpose and in the use of micro irrigation systems.