The Rockefeller Foundation and The/Nudge Institute have jointly released a comprehensive report titled "Smallholder Farmers and Climate Change – Voices from the Field," shedding light on the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in India and identifying opportunities to build climate resilience. The study focuses on six states -- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh - and aims to understand the impact of climate-related challenges on farming practices, chemical usage, and the perspectives of farming families.
The report highlights key findings that provide insights into the experiences of smallholder farmers. Variability in rainfall and the rise of pests and diseases emerged as the top challenges for these farmers.
A staggering 74% of smallholder farmers reported an increase in pests and diseases, while 77% noted a rise in weed infestation. The report also revealed a significant surge in the usage of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, with 76% of farmers reporting more frequent pesticide spraying and 54% noting an increase in the usage of chemical fertilizers.
Despite these challenges, the report uncovered encouraging trends among smallholder farmers. Over 60% of them are already implementing climate-resilient practices such as crop rotation and using farm manure to improve soil health. Additionally, three out of five farmers actively seek and utilize weather information to plan their farming activities.
The impact of technological advancements was also evident, as farming technology has enabled smallholder farmers to spend less time on labor-intensive tasks. The study said that women spend less time on back-breaking weeding work due to the use of weedicide, and men are spending less time thanks to the use of tractors, allowing them to pursue additional ventures such as dairy farming and wage labor.
The report underscores the significance of supporting smallholder farmers, who form a substantial part of India's agricultural landscape. "Smallholder farmers form a significant part of India's agricultural landscape; however, climate change, along with limited access to opportunities, are threatening their livelihoods," stated Ashish Karamchandani, President of The/Nudge Institute. "We are actioning research towards innovative solutions and scaling up our efforts, ensuring that small farmers have access to the resources, knowledge, and tools they need to thrive."
The findings of the report have caught the attention of The Rockefeller Foundation, which aims to integrate the intelligence from the report into its work on testing and scaling regenerative and nourishing food systems in India. "The findings of this report are a clarion call to create newer avenues to support smallholder farmers in India. By illuminating the climate-related challenges they encounter, we can develop targeted solutions and interventions that enable them to adapt and thrive," emphasized Deepali Khanna, Vice President of the Asia Regional Office at The Rockefeller Foundation.
The report's insights will guide efforts to prototype interventions, develop business models, and scale solutions for smallholder farmers. It also aims to elevate the experiences of smallholder farmers to policymakers and leaders in farming, business, and science-based organizations.
The key findings from the report include :
– Smallholder farmers cite variability in rainfall and the rise of pests and diseases as their top challenges in farming.
– 74% of smallholder farmers said pests and disease have increased and 77% said weeds have increased.
– The incidence of spraying pesticides and using chemical fertilizers has more than doubled for 76% and 54% of small farmers, respectively.
– Over 60% of smallholder farmers are aware of and are already implementing practices such as crop rotation and farm manure to improve soil health. Three out of five smallholder farmers are actively seeking and utilizing weather information to plan their farming activities.
– Farmers are now spending less time on farming thanks to advances in farming technology: 55% of women are doing less back-breaking weeding work due to the use of weedicide and men are spending less time due to the use of tractors. They engage in other income-generating activities such as dairy farming and wage labor.
This report uses language from the context of the people that the Foundation serves through India, which defines small holder farmers – who total 22 million individuals – as those who possess 1-2 acres of irrigated land or 3-7 acres of rain-fed land, making agriculture their primary occupation.
Importance of the Report:
The report defines smallholder farmers as individuals with 1-2 acres of irrigated land or 3-7 acres of rain-fed land, making agriculture their primary occupation. The findings emphasize the challenges faced by this group and highlight the contributions of spouses who work extensively on the farm but are not legally considered smallholder farmers. The report aims to bridge the gap in support for smallholder farmers, as formal sector and agri-tech companies typically focus on mid and large-scale farmers.