Agriculture often comes with complex, interrelated social, environmental and economic challenges and farmers find it difficult to tackle these challenges. Hence to address these issues, ITC Limited in partnership with several knowledge partner has conceptualized first of its kind Sustainable Agricultural Practices (SAP) Farmer Certification Training Programme in India. The concept of SAP Certification aims at embedding sustainability in all the practices the farmer undertake. The certified training program is a two day workshop cum knowledge gaining program which aims at bringing out Sustainable Green Certified Farmers with skills and capabilities to produce a quality crop while protecting and sustaining the natural resources like soil, water and biodiversity. At the end of the programme the farmers leave with Certificate in Sustainable Farming recognized by Gov. Institutions, Universities, NGOs, Research & Development Institutions and ITC Limited – Agri Business Division.
Agri Business Division - ILTD - IndiaLead applicant
Extension Service and Sustainable Agriculture
research & development - IndiaInitiative partner
Research and Development in Agriculture, Introduction of High Yielding Varieties
Mycaps - IndiaInitiative partner
Biodiversity Protection & Sustainable Agriculture
BAIF - IndiaInitiative partner
Watershed Management and Agro Forestry
Certifying sustainable GREEN FARMERS IN INDIA
It is a well-known fact that agricultural extension including training, guidance and education, go a long way in capability building amongst farmers, enabling them to improve the agricultural productivity and address agricultural sustainability issues in an efficient manner. Today, increasing attention is focused upon the impact farming practices are having on the environment and there is an increasing emphasis on more sustainable methods of crop production. Systems need to be adopted that are more sensitive to environmental issues, genetic diversity, wildlife and their habitats and in some cases the social structures of rural communities. Hence, a holistic and structured certification programme named SAP (Sustainable Agricultural Practices) Training Program for improving farm productivity and Quality through provision of agricultural extension services in the key production landscapes of agriculture in India is being implemented by ITC limited.
Farmer training is achieved by various methods around the world and a multitude of training tools and techniques are utilized specific to region. Training to farmers has been proven to yield variety of results over the years. ITC Limited has been engaged in various agricultural extension initiatives on farm productivity and quality improvement for various crops like Chilli, Maize, Tobacco, Coriander, wheat etc for several years through training programs at ITC campus, Village meetings, on field agri extension services, street plays, wall posters, distribution of education kits etc. In order to streamline the process a structured centralized farmer training cum certification program has been proposed. This training program mainly aims at developing certified trained farmers or centre of excellence growers in the growing villages, who will in turn propagate and transfer the knowledge attained during the training program to the other farmers in the villages.
The training program provided continuous training and education in all the elements of Sustainable Agriculture to ensure that everyone involved in the crop is aware of its importance. The training program has created a huge impact among the farming community and the following initiatives were propagated which has attained in the following benefits to ecosystem.
1. Novel Seedling Production Technologies – 50% Reduction in Water consumption and 60% reduction in pesticide application.
2. Site Specific Nutrient Management – Reduction in Inorganic fertilizer consumption by 40% (ie 100 Kg/Ha)
3. Soil compaction management – Increase in soil moisture conservation by 40%.
4. Biodiversity Parks – Increase in conservation of local native species – 32445 native plants protected.
More than 300,000 Ha of land and 280,000 farm families are engaged in the cultivation of commercial crops - tobacco and chilli in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In a scenario of depleting soil fertility levels, reduced groundwater, increasing risks on biodiversity, pressure on energy resources at the farm level, it is imperative for solutions for holistically addressing farm sustainability. Hence SAP Training program including training, education and guidance of farmers is critical to enable the percolation of know-how & agricultural technologies for improvement of the current scenario. The objective of this agricultural extension project being undertaken is to improve the technical know-how of tobacco and chilli farmers, increase access to best practices & agricultural technologies, with an end goal of improving the overall sustainability of crop production, natural resource management and increase the livelihood of farmers.
The Sustainability team of ITC Limited with managers, field executives, field officers and farm extension workers are deployed across all the operating locations of the company, with rich experience on agri extension, crop production practices & dissemination of agricultural technologies. The table below indicates the team strength who will be implementing the extension activities.
1. Managers – Crop Development – 25 Numbers. ( Specialist in agriculture on Agronomy)
2. Agricultural Engineers – 10 Numbers. ( Engineers on Water Management, Soil Management and Agricultural Engineeing )
3. Field Officers – 20 Numbers ( Specialist in Agriculture Extension)
4. Field Extension Workers – 80 Numbers. ( Specialist in dissemination of technology)
The farmers in India are very small in size with an average landholding of only 2 acres and majority of the farmers are not educated. Training these small farmers on sustainable agriculture is a very difficult task. In order to embed sustainability in all the practices the farmer undertake, the training program should be more attractive and should be more activity based rather than audio visuals.
Hence the SAP training program was made more interactive and provided hands on experience to the farmers on sustainable and recommended farming practices. The farmers were divided into four different groups and competition was conducted for the groups where the winning team was awarded with gifts. The farmers were given 5 different case studies how to grow a crop in a sustainable way and were asked to solve them in groups which helped the un educated farmers to actively understand and incorporate sustainable practices.
This training program has helped in farmers joining a group and community based projects were deployed in close collaboration with the farmers. The Biodiversity related outcomes of the training not only improve the sustainability of our Agri-related businesses, but also creates a balance between the business and ecosystem services. In the year around 1630 hectares was brought under soil and moisture conservation and 2 large water tanks were rehabilitated. Over 620 Lakh litres of rainwater harvesting was created and more than 5,000 marginal households have been benefitted from the projects. Setting up of biodiversity parks is one of the key activities undertaken in close collaboration with the local community and regional NGO’s. More than 7000 native species are protected in 6 parks which covers a land area of 10 acres in Mysore region alone.
Embedding sustainability among the farming community is the ultimate objective of the SAP training program. The bottom-up participatory method employed and rural farming community contribution have ensured high levels of ownership leading to community-monitoring of the watershed works is an evidence of the long lasting results of the programme towards natural resource conservation. The water shed management initiative and renovation of water bodies have ensured an additional storage capacity of 62 million litres of water, which will be directly used for agriculture and other purposes. The application of 58000 Cu.m of tank silt on 1630 ha of agriculture lands has not only improved soil texture but also improved its NPK content which has impacted positively on crop production. The application of tank silt has improved quality of soils resulting in 25% reduction in the use of inorganic chemical fertilizers in the areas of intervention.
The concept of SAP Certification has ultimately embedded sustainability in all the practices the farmer undertake. Initiatives pertaining to soil health management, water conservation, energy conservation and biodiversity protection has been given maximum priority. An impact assessment study was undertaken among the farming community for all the farmers who have undertaken training program and the following is the outcome of the study.
1. No of farmers covered by various programmes of sustainability – 10000 Farmers
2. Farmer Adoption levels – 90%
3. Improvement in Farm Productivity by 25%.
4. Water conservation by 40% in agricultural
5. Soil health management – Almost 30% reduction in inorganic fertilizer consumption.
6. Energy Conservation – 30% reduction in energy use in agriculture