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Thanks to be part of this wonderful forum, I will like to give my own contribution to question four stated What interventions do you think are needed to increase the agriculture sector resilience to environmental stressors, especially among smallholder farmers?
Climate change is a significant and growing threat to Food and Nutrition security affecting vulnerable populations in many countries. Farmers in many agricultural regions, especially in rainfed belts already appear to have experienced to declines in farm production because of climate change. Climate change affects food production, availability, prices, impacting overall calorie consumption as well as consumption of healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and animal-source foods.
There is increasing interest in leveraging the climate smart interventions to mitigate risks. These includes a range of practices and technologies suitable for local sustainable agricultural system and community’s need. These include water smart practices (rainwater harvesting, laser land levelling, micro-irrigation, raised bed planting, change in crop establishment methods), weather smart activities (ICT-based agro-advisories, index-based insurance, stress tolerant crop varieties), nutrient smart practices (site specific nutrient management, precision fertilizers, residue management, legume catch-cropping), carbon and energy smart practices (agroforestry, conservation tillage, residue management, legumes, livestock management) and knowledge smart activities (crop diversification, farmer-farmer learning, capacity enhancement on climate-smart agriculture, community seed banks and cooperatives, market information and off-farm risk management).
They have considerable potential for increasing agricultural production for food and nutrition security, helping farmers adapt to a changing climate, and providing mitigation benefits. These interventions need to be focused to sustainable farming systems for Food and Nutrition Security.
Putting pulses into the farming system for household food and nutrition security
In spite of impressive growth of Indian agriculture, ensuring household food and nutrition security is still a challenge due to imbalanced growth in agriculture. Food and nutrition security is said to be achieved when adequate and nutritious food is available and accessible to all individuals at all times to live a healthy and active life.
Though production of pulses has increased in India in recent decades it has not kept pace with the increase in population. Given that Pulses are a major source of protein in Indian diet and are climate resilient crops suited to rainfed farming conditions, increase in pulse production can be a remedy for addressing undernutrition.
Half of the pregnant women in India are anemic while in the case of children under the age of five years, 74 percent are reported to be anemic and 43 percent underweight (World Bank, 2012). Promotion of Pulses (Red gram Green gram and Chickpea) form an important of the core crop interventions under an ongoing Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) study in Wardha district of Maharashtra, India as part of a research programme on Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA). The focus of the intervention is to bring about change consumption pattern of food items over time in smallholder farm families leading to greater dietary diversity and improved nutrient intake in terms of energy, protein and fat; from my experience, the availability of quality seeds of acceptable pulse varieties is a challenge in the region. Specific varieties are often available only through the state governments research institutes and are not very accessible to small holder farmers. Research and extension department’s efforts should focus on farmer selection of appropriate varieties and their promotion to increase cultivation and consumption.
Also, considering the fact that there is widespread malnutrition in India, especially among children and women, there is need to increase production and availability of pulses by adopting various innovative measures like institutional and policy support, development and wider adoption of High Yielding Varieties (HYV) and low cost technologies, proper extension services for processing and marketing of pulses. In my view, a major innovation that can facilitate movement of pulses from the field to the cooking pot will be introduction of low cost pulse processing machines in villages and greater nutrition awareness on the benefits of consuming pulses. Also including pulses in social protection programmes like the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) and the PDS will help promote their consumption for better nutrition.
Promoting Agricultural technology for Drudgery reduction in Farm Women
Women are the backbone of agricultural workforce and a vital part of Indian economy. Studies have shown that Indian women work up to 14 hours a day to carry out the most arduous activities on farm and at home. Rural women perform field operations like preparatory work for sowing, transplanting, weeding, inter-culture, harvesting and threshing and primary processing of agro produce. All these tasks are time consuming and drudgery ridden.
Cotton picking is one of the laborious tasks performed by farm women in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Cotton picking is a tedious job and it is done manually and women’s deft hands are required for quick collection. On an average, a woman spends approximately 6-8 hours daily collecting 30-35 Kg of cotton in a ‘Jholi’, a traditional ‘conventional bag’ made out of their own garments and soft clothing which is tied in the form of a bag across their shoulders and back. The whole process is very time consuming and back breaking.
After observing the problems of farm workers while picking cotton in the fields, a cotton picking bag was designed for farm women by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) Nagpur, keeping ergonomics’ in mind. Ergonomics is a discipline that aims at improving efficiency at work and minimizes health hazards. The cotton picking bag was then tested in the field and found to be user friendly and better than existing method of cotton picking. The cotton picking bag is designed as per anthropometric measurements of female farm workers. Shaped pockets are provided in front and below waist level to hold things. The straps on the shoulders make it comfortable to carry the weight of cotton. This innovation promotes workers’ comfort and safety and helps improve efficiency.
These cotton picking bags were introduced on pilot basis in all villages under the Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) study of LANSA in Wardha district of Vidarbha in 2015-16 following field demonstration and discussions with the women farmers. Feedback from women farmers who tried them out was positive: reduction in pain in wrist, upper back and shoulders; the bags are more amenable for tying, picking, emptying, load carrying and more efficient compared to other back and front loaded traditional bags; they were able to harvest more cotton per day and cover more area/hour than under the traditional system. The bag is more efficient in cotton picking with higher output of cotton harvested and cotton harvest area covered among all cotton pickings.
There is now demand from more women for these bags. More innovations of this type that can help reduce the burden and drudgery of women farmers are urgently required.