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Transformative Agroecology-Based Alternatives for a Sustainable and Biodiverse Future

verfasst von : Ravi Prabhu, Shiv Kumar Dhyani, Devashree Nayak, Javed Rizvi

Erschienen in: Indian Agriculture Towards 2030

Verlag: Springer Nature Singapore


Globally food systems are at a crossroads and new directions are needed. At the first UN Food Systems Summit, Secretary General Guterres stipulated that a transformation of food systems is necessary so that they support the health and well-being of all people and at the same time protect our planet. Nearly 300 commitments from civil society, farmers, youth and indigenous peoples and member states highlights Summit’s inclusive process to accelerate action (UN Food Systems Summit, 2021).

1 Background: The Imperative for a Transformative Shift in Indian Agriculture

Globally food systems are at a crossroads and new directions are needed. At the first UN Food Systems Summit, Secretary General Guterres stipulated that a transformation of food systems is necessary so that they support the health and well-being of all people and at the same time protect our planet (UNFSS, 2021). The High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE, 2019) showed that a profound transformation is required in agriculture and food systems at all scales. Such a transformation must ensure sufficient food production while also safeguarding human and environmental health as well as socio-economic standards (Caron et al., 2018). It must be a systemic transformation—from paradigm through to practices.
Against this global backdrop we have a proud tradition of Indian agriculture that over six decades turned a country that was a net importer of food grains into a net exporter, removing the spectre of famine that appeared to hang over the country at independence (Nelson et al., 2019; Pingali, 2012). This massive increase in productivity has come at a price though, one that India is no longer willing to bear: increasing farmer indebtedness (NSO, 2021), groundwater depletion (Dangar et al., 2021), losses of soil fertility (Sharda et al., 2017), water and air pollution (Abdurrahman et al., 2020; CWC, 2019; Ghosh et al., 2010), adverse impacts of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, a focus on calories to the detriment of nutrition, are just a few of the now unacceptable costs (Brainerd & Menon, 2014, Sekhri & Shastri, 2020). The litany of problems affecting Indian agriculture is long and getting longer. Any call for a transformation of Indian agriculture that hopes to be successful, must distinguish between the types of agriculture we are dealing with, because Indian agriculture is not a homogenous entity. For our purposes here we will distinguish two broad clusters of practices: High External Input Agriculture (HEIA) and Low External Input Agriculture (LEIA).
  • HEIA: Characterised by high and often excessive consumption and dependence on external inputs; the national average of 133 kg/ha of fertiliser does not reveal the extent to which it leaches into hydrological systems or causes damages to soil biota and soil organic carbon accumulation (DES, 2020). According to DES (2020) over 75% of cropped area has synthetic fertiliser applied to it (ranging from about 78% of small and marginal farmers to about 63% of large land holdings) and about 43% of cropped area is treated with pesticides. Overuse of synthetic inputs in such systems, especially in irrigated systems, is a major contributor to driving land and water degradation, health impacts, farmer indebtedness and a number of other deleterious impacts, as explained above. While annual statistics are available for consumption and production of synthetic external inputs, no such statistics are available on impacts of overuse—a lacuna that needs to be filled. But at the same time these practices provide the bulk of India’s food production, especially staples, oil seeds and certain horticultural crops. There is a growing consensus that these systems need to be made much less dependent on external inputs, much more efficient in their use of inputs. Two pathways are proposed for such transformation: a more capital intensive, external knowledge driven transformation for which terms such as precision agriculture, sustainable intensification etc. are used. This we see as an incremental change to an already relatively capital-intensive system that expects to deliver transformative results based on external injection of knowledge and more built-capital, we will not deal with this type of change here. The second pathway we see as being a more transformative change based on adherence to agroecological principles and knowledge, in order to radically reduce external inputs while sustaining productivity and reducing adverse impacts on the whole system. It relies on restoring or sustaining natural capital, especially contributions from biological diversity, while building on human and social capital at multiple scales and forms. As a result, this second pathway is much less built-capital dependent, as such it seeks to transform a HEIA into a LEIA. In between these lie approaches such as conservation agriculture and regenerative agriculture, which may take either pathway, depending on how they are interpreted.
  • LEIA: These include systems that traditionally depended less on external inputs of any kinds, as well as more ‘modern’ LEIA systems such as organic farming, natural farming, agroforestry etc., which may incorporate external inputs at low intensities. Between LEIA and HEIA we have various forms of regenerative agriculture, permaculture and integrated agricultural systems, although based on their intentions of building on natural capital and minimising external inputs they are also classified as LEIA. Sustainable improvements to LEIA systems would involve improving access and uptake of evidence-based agroecological knowledge, organisation, policy and institutional support, to support better use and delivery of ecosystem services, access to markets and price stability. In other words, the transformation pathway here focuses on strengthening human and social capital, without reducing the important contribution of natural capital, with much less emphasis on built-capital. Although changes proposed would be incremental as the systems remain LEIA, the impacts would, however, be transformational with respect to profitability, productivity, sustainability and resilience of these systems.
The transformative imperative in all cases requires acknowledgement that the full cost of farming must be internalised in some way, and this is a challenge that must be dealt with at nested scales from the field or stand of trees through farm, forest and landscape (and beyond). This means that we are not just dealing with proximate and directly visible challenges and opportunities but also with distant and often cryptic ones, including the sustainability of input-sources, such as for fertilisers or farm energy and waste-sinks, such as for greenhouse gas emissions or pesticide residues. In this context, understanding the impacts of the interactions of current and proposed policy is vitally important. These interactions can often have surprising and often countervailing impacts, for instance the Indian Forest Act (IFA) of 1865 which was amended twice, once in 1878 and then in 1927 forbade the cutting of indigenous timber species with the result that farmers lost interest in growing them, a situation that has begun to be rectified recently with the national agroforestry policy and recent amendment (2017) in Section 2(7) of IFA, 1927, bamboo is no longer a tree, this enables the livelihoods of forest communities as well as private grower. We use the term ‘productive resilience’ as the aspirational goal for the kinds of transformation we seek—lowering unsustainable inputs, rebalancing knowledge so that it is framed within agroecological principles, incorporating diversity, strengthening capacities for adaptation and innovation while at the same time not jeopardising food, nutrition and ecosystem sustainability.
Two further sets of challenges bear mentioning at this stage: women and youth empowerment.
Women are the backbone of Indian agriculture, but their role is seldom appreciated when it comes to benefits and ownership. While the longer term trend has seen a feminisation and ageing of the farming community, as men have migrated to cities in search of paid work, during the COVID-19 pandemic this migration was reversed because agriculture remains the safety net for the vast majority of the Indian population. However, we believe that agriculture, suitably transformed can be more than that, offering decent livelihoods and jobs for all, including women and youth. The average age of Indian farmers stands at about 50 years today according to the Input Survey 2011–12 (released in 2016) by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
India has 600 million young people and about half of the population is under 25 years old (Census of India, 2011; UNFPA, 2014). India also follows the global trend where nearly 67% of rural youth (defined as the age group between 15 and 24 years and about 20% of the population (Youth in India, 2017)) live in agricultural high potential areas (Rural Development Report, 2019). But, despite the large numbers of youth, few are choosing agriculture as their livelihoods. Hence, transforming agriculture, upgrading and strengthening value chains and being extremely judicious in the deployment of built-capital versus human and social capital, it should be possible to offer young people an economically viable and satisfying future in farming and associated value chains. However, the ultimate test of success for any transformation of agricultural systems in India must be in terms of their emergent outcomes for the country. The challenge, therefore, will be to identify the kinds of metrics and performance evaluation system that gives true insight and guides sound policy and investment.

2 Paths to More Sustainable Agricultural Systems

2.1 Current Status of Transformative Agricultural Policies Across India

About 54.6% of India’s total workforce is engaged in agricultural and allied sector activities (Census of India, 2011) and this accounted for 17.8% of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA) for the year 2019–20 (at current prices). Given the importance of the agriculture sector, Government of India has taken several steps for its development in a sustainable manner, foremost among them pertains to the steps taken to improve the income of farmers. Here, we highlight relevant parts and aspects of the vision statements, acts, plans, ‘missions’ and schemes of the Government that can help to accelerate agroecology-based transformative changes, the main ones of which are described in the next section. In Annexure 1, we identify the key initiatives that can be harnessed for an agroecology-based transformation.

2.2 Working with Nature and Ecology: Transformation Based on Agroecology

2.2.1 Agroecology as the Framing Paradigm for Transformation: Opportunities and Challenges

Agroecology embraces ecological principles, a set of practices and a social movement and has evolved over recent decades to expand in scope from a focus on fields and farms to encompass whole agriculture and food systems (HLPE, 2019). It now represents a transdisciplinary field that includes all the ecological, sociocultural, technological, economic and political dimensions of food systems, from production to consumption. It combines different scientific disciplines to seek solutions to real world problems, working in partnership with multiple stakeholders, considering their local knowledge and cultural values, in a reflective and iterative way that fosters co-learning, as well as the horizontal spread of knowledge from farmer to farmer or among other actors along the food chain. Agroecological principles and practices (Wezel et al., 2020) harness, maintain and enhance biological and ecological processes in agricultural production, in order to—reduce the use of purchased inputs that include fossil fuels and agrochemicals and to create more diverse, resilient and productive agroecosystems. Agroecological farming systems value, inter alia: diversification; mixed cultivation; intercropping; cultivar mixtures; habitat management techniques for crop-associated biodiversity; biological pest control; improvement of soil structure and health; biological nitrogen fixation; and recycling of nutrients, energy and waste.
According to HLPE 2019, there is no definitive set of practices that could be labelled as agroecological, nor clear, consensual boundaries between what is agroecological and what is not. On the contrary, agricultural practices can be classified along a spectrum and qualified as more or less agroecological, depending on the extent to which agroecological principles are locally applied (Sinclair et al., 2019).
Kerr et al. (2021) noted that agroecology has increasingly gained scientific and policy recognition as having potential to address environmental and social issues within food production, although concerns have been raised about its implications for food security and nutrition, particularly in low-income countries. A majority of studies (78%) in over 2,700 articles they screened, found evidence of positive outcomes in the use of agroecological practices on food security and nutrition of households in low and middle-income countries. Such agroecological practices included crop diversification, intercropping, agroforestry, integrating crop and livestock and soil management measures. They noted that, more complex agroecological systems, that included multiple components (e.g. crop diversification, mixed crop-livestock systems and farmer-to-farmer networks) were more likely to have positive food security and nutrition outcomes, a finding earlier reported by Asbjornsen et al. (2012).
From this we can return to the HLPE report and reaffirm the need to base transformative efforts around practices that:
rely on ecological processes as opposed to purchased inputs;
are equitable, environmentally friendly, locally adapted and controlled; and
adopt a systems approach embracing management of interactions among components, rather than focusing only on specific technologies.
Given the diversity of practices and contexts and the need for inclusive and adaptive innovation the challenges to agroecology arise from the diversity of practices, claims about its effectiveness and the impacts on natural systems and consumer preferences and confidence. It seems likely that clearly identifiable sets of practices will need to be evidenced and supported for agroecology to receive the kinds of policy and investment support it deserves.
At the same time, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has recommended that
States (and regional and local authorities, as appropriate) in consultation with inter-governmental organizations, producer organizations, the private sector (including small and medium sized enterprises) and civil society… [in] the need for context-appropriate pathways to move towards sustainable agriculture and food systems… encourage the adoption of agroecological and other innovative approaches (CFS, 2021).

2.2.2 Natural Farming

NITI Aayog (2020) sees agroecology and natural farming as having potential to accelerate economic growth in India. Current estimates by NITI Aayog suggest that about 3.657 lakh ha across eight states in India are being cultivated using natural farming principles. About 5.09 lakh ha are under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojna (PKVY) scheme, of which some 72% are under Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) or natural farming (see Annexure 1 for brief descriptions of these schemes). Here we will focus mainly on natural farming in Andhra Pradesh because it is the largest and most structured such transformative effort. Here, Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS), a not-for-profit entity set up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh and financially supported by the Government of India and others, is engaged in scaling up a form of regenerative agriculture known as Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF). Based originally on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) developed by Mr Subhash Palekar, APCNF has evolved as it has been adopted by innovative farmers who have adapted it to their needs and contexts across the state. This scaling effort started in 131 village clusters in 2016 and has since expanded to include over 7,00,000 farmers across the state in late 2021.
The origins of APCNF lie in the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), registered as a Society in the year 2000 in the state of Andhra Pradesh. As part of the objective to eradicate poverty and to improve livelihoods of the poor, Government of Andhra Pradesh set up SERP to facilitate poverty reduction through social mobilisation and improvement of livelihoods of rural poor in Andhra Pradesh. Naturally, SERP had identified agriculture as an important area of intervention because the majority of the poor were dependent on agriculture. Since SERP was involved with women’s savings groups (Self-Help Groups), all the interventions were focussed on women while farming decisions were predominantly taken by men. At this time, one of the critical problems that was identified in agriculture was use of fertilisers and pesticides.
RySS aims by 2024–25 to cover 4000 g Panchayats (40% villages) and around 1.4 million farmers and farm workers (24% of all farmers and farm workers) in Andhra Pradesh. The major sources of financing are centrally sponsored Schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP). In addition, in 202021 the State Government took a loan from Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) Development Bank, Government of Germany, to expand the coverage of the programme. The programme outlay until 2024–25, from all these sources will amount to about INR 2000 crore.
APCNF is based on agroecological principles. It is ‘farming in harmony with nature’ and on the principle of ‘do good, prevent harm’. APCNF seeks to improve soil health and plant productivity by mimicking and catalysing natural processes, and leverages animal manure and natural remedies to completely replace chemical inputs. At the heart of this initiative are agroecological practices that minimise the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, building instead on biological nitrogen fixation coupled with nutrient and biomass recycling from livestock and biodiverse plant associations in and around farmers’ fields, to improve or maintain soil organic carbon, functional microbial diversity, water holding capacity and balanced pest-predator populations.
APCNF promotes the following principles in farmers’ fields.
Covering the soil with live crops to ensure the activity of living roots
Diverse crops/trees (around 15–20 species)
Minimal disturbance of soils
Integrate animals into farming
Bio-stimulants as necessary catalysts
Increase organic residues in soils
Preferably use indigenous seed
Pest management through botanical extracts
No usage of synthetic fertilisers or pesticides.
The APCNF protocols are primarily based on farmers’ practices that were developed using their traditional wisdom in using natural resources and natural processes, enhanced by ZBNF practices and other innovations of various organisations engaged in agricultural improvement, especially in the non-governmental sector. The APCNF team along with the State Agricultural University - Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), NGOs in the field of natural farming and progressive farmers practising Natural Farming had jointly prepared the initial set of protocols on Natural Farming in 2016. Recognising the importance of continued innovation and learning, APCNF has an established procedure to refine and revise crop wise protocols regularly after studying best farmers’ cases across all crops and situations.
It may be noted that these natural farming principles and practices have many features, which are drawn from the integrated nutrient management and integrated pest management protocols of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the State Agricultural University. At the same time there are differences in terms of the non-use of synthetic chemicals. APCNF’s principles, practices and the implementation are in line with the 10 elements of agroecology (FAO, 2018): diversity, co-creation of knowledge, synergies, efficiency, recycling, resilience, human and social values, culture and food traditions, responsible governance and circular and solidarity environment. Initial results (Table 1) from APCNF indicated the need for higher labour inputs and therefore employment. This is potential good news particularly if such labour is attractively compensated.
Table 1
Results of Crop Cutting Experiments comparing APCNF and Non-APCNF farms in 2019. Particularly remarkable is the net improvement in farmers’ income (IDSAP, 2021)
Difference between APCNF and non-APCNF (per cent)
Gross revenue
Net revenue
Bengal gram
Black gram
Red gram
Green gram
Rosenstock et al. (2021) concluded that
APCNF drastically reduces emissions even as yields largely remain the same. As a result, the GHG intensity of APCNF is an average of 47% lower than that of conventional practices across all the crops, with four of the six crops demonstrating a nearly 60% reduction in GHG intensity.
A life cycle analysis of APCNF suggested that the processes employed required 50–60% less water and consequently less electricity (than non-APCNF) for all the selected crops in that study (CSTEP, 2019). For irrigated crops, APCNF required 45–70% less input energy (12–50 GJ per acre) and resulted in 55%–85% less emissions (1.4–6.6 Mt CO2eq) than non-APCNF. It also has the potential to avoid residue burning by practising mulching. In a projection carried out by RySS for the decade 2021–31 the conclusion reached was that for each INR invested in conversion to APCNF, roughly INR 1.8 would be saved in electricity subsidies for irrigation and INR 3.7 in subsidies for synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. This 1:5.5 ratio is for financial subsidies only and does not count benefits that accrue due to lower greenhouse gas emissions, greater availability of surface and groundwater, lower pollution of air and water and improved biodiversity outcomes.
RySS has identified three important components to its theory of change in implementing the APCNF programme:
Transformation should happen in a democratic way wherein women collectives (SHGs and their federations) and other farmer institutions are involved in programme planning, implementation and monitoring;
Knowledge dissemination and handholding support is constantly provided through farmer-driven extension architecture led by resource persons embedded in the community;
Saturation of entire village, cluster, Mandal and the state (in that order) involves converting all villages, all farmers, all farms and all practices leading to a total transformation.
Essentially, these key pillars define the contours of the strategy, activities and the associated costs of implementation of APCNF model.
It is early days yet for Natural Farming in India, but there are some encouraging results—for yield, better income and better management of natural resources—to be had from across the country, with data being sparse. Recently the National Coalition for Natural Farming has framed its ambitions for the programme in terms of an integrated landscape-based systems approach, which promises to speak to the restoration of a holistic approach to agriculture in India (Fig. 1).
It is clear that despite promising results more evidence is required on how natural farming works, for whom it works best, where and with what impacts. To this end the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) have agreed to develop a research programme that will contribute to ICAR’s overall programme of research on the efficacy of natural farming in India.

2.2.3 Agroforestry

During FAO’s first conference on agroecology, the following definition of agroforestry was offered (Prabhu et al., 2015): a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production. Agroforestry is the practice and science of the interface and interactions between agriculture and forestry, involving farmers, livestock, trees and forests at multiple scales. It is an effective land use system, which contributes to food, nutritional and environmental security. The term agroforestry emerged in the late 1970s and in the five decades since, agroforestry has been understood and defined in multiple ways, often referring to a specific system scale of interest. However, though agroforestry as a science is a recent but the practice of combining crops, forest and fruit trees and domestic animals on the same unit of land in sequential or temporal dimension has existed in India for thousands of years. The socio-religious fabric of the people of the Indian subcontinent is interwoven to a very great extent with raising, caring for and respecting trees. Many examples of agroforestry practices are available. For example, the Taungya system, a method with its roots in Burma, aims to establish forest species in temporary combination with field crops. It was introduced into mainland India in 1856 and has been in regular cultivation since 1911.
There are many programmes recently initiated by Government of India focusing on agroforestry mainly to meet the growing demands and safeguarding natural resources. About 20 common agroforestry systems have been identified as being practised in different agroecological regions of India (Dhyani et al., 2009).
Although there is a sizable area occupied by agroforestry in the country, clearly more can be done. The total agroforestry area in India (if defined as more than 10% tree cover on agricultural area) was found to be around 28 million ha that is approximately 17% of the total agriculture land area. This is much less than the global average of 43%. The analysis further revealed that the agriculture land potential in India towards the agroforestry suitability category (S1: High Suitability) is alone 75.6 million ha that are 2.7 times of total existing agroforestry extent. This has been recognised in India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets for 2030. Where agroforestry is seen to play an important role in lowering the emission intensity of GDP by 33–35% below 2005 levels and to create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5–3 GtCO2(UNFCC, undated). The assumption on which these targets are based is an anticipated increase in tree cover, which can only be achieved through adoption of agroforestry in a big way.
This is possible as the Task Force on Greening India (Planning Commission, 2001) had projected that an additional 28 million ha area of tree plantation through agroforestry can be achieved to meet the national goal of increasing forest cover on one-third of the total geographical area. For this purpose, 10 million ha of irrigated lands which are suffering from water logging, salinity and water erosion and another 18 million ha of rainfed lands have been earmarked for agroforestry development. A sizeable area will also be contributed from barren and uncultivable land, permanent pastures and other grazing land, culturable waste land and fallow land.
Anticipating this, in September 2019, India committed to restore 26 million ha of degraded land by 2030 to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), as part of its global commitments during the 14th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
As Prabhu et al. (2015) have pointed out and in summary:
Optimising the contribution of trees to agricultural systems at nested scales will deliver multiple benefits to people and the planet
Fine scale variation and diversity of species, systems, life-forms, contexts and options are assets rather than hurdles
It is possible to go to scale in time because we have the tools, evidence and an understanding of the kinds of partnerships that will succeed, but challenges remain.
However, despite the significant development in the agroforestry sector in India, there are some constraints which slow down the growth and development of agroforestry to its full potential.
These are long gestation period and market uncertainties; insufficient support by financial institutions and extension services; unavailable improved planting material; no regulated price mechanism; unfavourable export and import policies; competition of trees on farm with crops for space, sunlight, moisture and nutrient; allelopathic effect by trees on crops; requirement of intensive labour, etc. The challenge in agroforestry, is therefore to support or induce productive resilience and support decent livelihoods in agricultural landscapes while countering rapid, pervasive change that is threatening to undermine the agroecological basis of the farming systems involved. This it holds promise of doing.
Case Study from Odisha
To illustrate what a transformation to alternative, agroecology-based farming looks like we offer the following case study. The project entitled, “Enabling smallholders to produce and consume more nutritious food through agroforestry system” is operational in Bolangir and Nuapada districts of Odisha. The two districts in western Odisha, are dominated by resource poor farmers, who are technologically deprived and often migrate within and outside the state for their livelihoods, particularly during rabi and summer. The project aims to introduce and accelerate adoption of suitable agroforestry systems to enhance availability of nutritive food; generate employment and income to support the efforts of Odisha Government to reduce in-country migration; and create awareness about benefits of consuming diversified nutritious farm produce and build capacity of all stakeholders. The summary of the achievements to date are given below and in Table 2.
Table 2
Increases in yield and income with project varieties (World Agroforestry, 2021)
Project intervention
Yield (kg/ha)
Per ha increase in income (INR)
Farmer’s variety
Project variety
5017 (CR310)
67,228 @ INR 18.15/kg*
Grass pea
16,950 @ INR30/kg#
90,000 @ INR18/kg#
1,60,000 @ INR32/kg#
6,54,000 @ INR218/kg#
1,20,000 @ INR30/kg#
* Rice Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Odisha for 2019–2020 # https://​agmarknet.​gov.​in, June 2020 wholesale price for Bolangir
  • More than 9,000 farmers have benefited [5,582 in Bolangir and 3,459 in Nuapada] in three years to date operating in 5,305 ha area in the 30 g panchayats of the two districts, covering 149 villages [108 in Belpada and 41 in Nuapada].
  • The project is being implemented through a “System Farming Approach”—including bund plantation, intercropping [crop demonstration with agroforestry], boundary and backyard plantation, nutri-gardens and nursery establishment with adequate capacity development-interventions.
  • More than 125,000 multipurpose plants such as teak, gamhar, bamboo, jackfruit and drumstick var. PKM-1, fruit plants- mango var. Amrapali, guava var. VNR-Bihi, Apple ber, custard apple var. Balanagar, aonla var. NA7, lemon -Konkan lemon, papaya (Pusa Dwarf, Pusa Nanha) etc. were planted by farmers.
  • Out of the above, about 90,000 saplings planted with Pusa Hydrogel and SNF to help plants to sustain better during hard summer and to reduce the water requirement.
  • Bund plantation in 4534 ha [2948 ha in Belpada and 1,586 in Nuapada].
  • 6523 ha covered under crop demonstration intercropped with fruit plants.
  • 7691 backyard farmers and around 7,000 migratory farmers provided with various inputs and encouraged to adopt agroforestry system to improve livelihood.
  • Five biofortified seed production Farmer Producer Organisations established, which produced 64.30 tonne seed in 2020, and farmers are successfully linked with Odisha State Seeds Corporation (OSSC).
  • More than 18,650 farmers were trained under capacity development programmes and 21 officers under exposure visits and training programmes.
  • Fifteen (15) nutrition gardens, 36 village nurseries and 2 district nurseries for high quality planting material established to supply quality planting material of agroforestry species locally.
  • In Paddy, Belpada project farmers could get additional income over the district average of INR 12,931 during 2019–20 and INR 8,439 during 2020–21, while in the Nuapada part of the project farmers could get additional gain over district average INR 9172 during 2019–20 and INR 6,163 during 2020–21. Besides this Bio-fortified varieties CR 310 and 311 contributed more than 10.3% protein in the diet. Thus, increasing per hectare availability of 515 Q of protein, 150 g zinc, 150 g iron enriching the nutrient profile.
  • In rice -fallows, with grass pea introduction, a total of 752 ha was covered in two years with an average yield of 4.06 q/ha. In total, 1880 farmers covered in two years with 33.18% farmers as migratory farmers.
  • Under backyard plantation, average income after consuming 30% produce of vegetables and 50% produce of fruits from first year plants is around INR 4,682 (INR 3,000 from vegetable and INR 1682 from fruit production, viz. papaya and Apple ber) per household.
  • Hydrogel was introduced in plants and crops, on an average, in paddy (Ankit variety), yield increased by 14% over control.
  • Water infiltration and NRM based Agroforestry: An area of about 200 acres at two sites identified and developed with NRM interventions in a participatory mode at Boirbhadi in Nuapada and Tara in Belpada—for increasing water infiltration and recharge of sub-surface irrigation water to have second crop during rabi.
  • Mobile phone based monitoring: About 9,000 farmers project activities geotagged and uploaded.
  • Under drought situation, farmers are becoming more dependent and eager to grow fruit plants as seen in the ongoing season.
  • Agroforestry Assistant, a smartphone-based application (AFA)—The App provides comprehensive information on agroforestry systems, trees, crops, nursery and helpful in locating availability of planting material in nurseries. App beta version is uploaded on Google Play store and will be shortly released.
  • Improving production and consumption of nutritive food.
As an illustration (Fig. 2) of the landscape approach of the project, consider how it addressed the availability of nutrients across the landscape in pursuing the following model:
Here, fruit trees—such as guava, apple ber and moringa—have started bearing fruit with 100 g of edible portions, which have enriched the food quality of farmers with 996 μg of vitamin A, 214 μg of vitamin C from guava; 46 mg of calcium and 62 μg of vitamin B complex from apple ber; and 358 μg of vitamin K, 350 μg of vitamin A, 0.73 mg of iron and 419 mg of potassium from drumstick fruit; all of which are essential for growth and building a strong immune system as well as reducing stunting in children. Selection of fruits and vegetables is done in a way to provide year-round nutritious food to participating farmers, as shown in the graph of agroforestry nutrient profile from the package of practices established through the Odisha Agroforestry Project.
The project is observing an early trend in reduction of migration, as the planted fruit trees have started fruiting, some of which was in sellable quantity, like papaya and Apple ber. In addition, with the introduction of fallow crop, now the migratory farmers are able to take crop in the winter, which in turn means source of regular income. With the issues faced by the migratory farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the trends and demand of farmers in the two districts are encouraging and create an avenue of transformation in their traditional agricultural practice by shifting to system-based farming approach, inclusive of agroforestry at a large landscape level.

2.2.4 Organic Farming and Other Approaches

Faced with degradation of soil and water resources, increase in pollution hazards and threats to environment because of the over-use of finite arable lands for agriculture and excessive chemical inputs a range of alternative approaches, including organic farming have been mooted. Besides, organic farming, some of the most promising practices in sustainable agriculture in India include the System of Rice Intensification, alternative wetting and drying regimes in rice production, conservation agriculture, integrated farming systems and forms of permaculture. Practices such as crop rotation and intercropping, cover crops and mulching, integrated pest management, vermicomposting, contour farming, rainwater harvesting and assisted recharge of groundwater can be found across many of them.
Under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), Government of India is implementing Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana to promote organic farming practices. It is also encouraging the conversion of waste to compost by linking it with the sale of fertilisers and providing market development assistance. According to FAO (1999)
Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agroecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system.
Government of India has elucidated its recommendations on how to implement organic farming (NHM, undated).
According to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (as of 7 December 2021), 3,809,589 ha is under organic farming in the country.
Though the area under organic farming in country is still small, it is increasing but there remains challenges. The most important challenge in the development of organic farming is the lack of awareness (Das et al., 2020) among farmers about it and its potential benefits. Markets tend not to reward organic produce with a price premium unless certified. But there are inadequate numbers of certifying agencies and input costs to grow organic products remain high. There is also an insufficient quantity of biomass of the required quality and inadequate infrastructure support for organic products in the country.

2.3 Designing Transformation Processes

In considering how to design a transformation process we turn to Charles Vlek (2009), who in his seminal paper on the precautionary principle, concludes with a quote from Roel Pieterman: “fear is a bad counsellor, and optimism is often necessary to maintain or restore self-confidence. Would hope be a better counsellor?”. He calls for a “precautionary principled approach to uncertain risks”. In other words, caution with the avoidance of paralysis. This is precisely the approach we propose here: Driving transformation of agriculture and food systems within a landscape-level, nested scale “structured learning” or “adaptive management” approach that considers whole systems, while seeking productive, resilient and equitable outcomes.
The goal is clear, but what is still missing are the milestones and signposts to monitor progress and minimise serious risks. We need safeguards as we deal with uncertainty. The poor treatment of uncertainty in current public policy and development and the widespread avoidance of the precautionary principle Vlek advocates are precisely what has brought us to the present situation, which is more similar to mining than to sustainable land use. Like miners, agriculture today tends to exploit soil resources and, when they are exhausted beyond use, lands are declared as ‘waste-lands’ and we move on or begin very expensive restoration campaigns. We produce food at the cost of the environment and future generations. This must of course change—but we still lack agreement on the safeguards that will ensure that risks are managed in an acceptable manner.
Research has and must continue to deliver the safeguards we need for transformative policies and development. Safeguards and metrics by which to judge performance are needed to protect public and private policies and investments from the overly optimistic proponents of ‘magic bullet’ thinking and the pessimists who charge that all modern tools only lead to adverse outcomes.
We offer the mnemonic RENEWAL to capture the four key principles we think should drive the changes to publicly funded agricultural transformation agendas in food systems:
Refocus and repurpose: Agronomic efficiency considerations must be nested within broader LEIA perspectives. This particularly applies to international and national public investments and funding, since private sector investments are more focused on agronomic efficiency than transformation. An approach focused on “productive resilience” based on agroecology will require the achievement of multiple objectives at multiple temporal scales to ensure the system can continuously adapt to multiple drivers of change, especially those related to the climate crisis. As Table 2 illustrates, present research and education investments do not align well with an agroecological transformation. Three examples from research investments serve to illustrate what we mean:
  • Conventional (and now biotechnology-enabled) breeding programmes focus on bridging yield gaps in monocrop fields. In the hot, dry conditions of arid zones of the Sahel, there is overwhelming evidence that cereal crops like maize, millet and sorghum grow better under the shade of trees like Faidherbia albida than they do under the open sun. In arid Rajasthan, increases in the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus and other macro-and micro-nutrients are reported under Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) as compared to sites bare of vegetation (Shankarnarayan, 1984), and forage species produce higher biomass under khejri tree canopy due to a high fertility status (Singh & Lal, 1969). And yet breeding programmes simply ignore the opportunities of breeding for ecological synergy, despite the obvious adaptation benefits.
  • Although it is clear that soil biota play an enormous role in determining the fertility and indeed sustainability of farmers’ fields, instead almost all the research on improvement of fertility is focused on fertiliser inputs.
  • With respect to the relation of agriculture with food systems, applied research about agricultural, or global, value chains would pay particular attention to governance, in helping to elucidate the balance of power, decision-making and access to information among the different actors in food systems, from producers/farmers to consumers, as well as to efficiency in terms of identifying market opportunities (Béné et al., 2019).
Nest and includeWidely: The interdependence of species and knowledge systems must be included within agricultural and food system boundaries, not batted away as components to be added later. Whole landscape perspective investments in food systems transformation and research must include and nest landscapes, watersheds settlements, farms, fields and other land-uses. For instance, a study of improvement of one crop must include consideration of other varieties and crops planted within that landscape, and biological, social and economic interactions that result, the impacts of change on the whole system, especially with respect to the productive resilience of the system and its ability to adapt to changing climate and demographics. This suggests that a landscape perspective is essential to properly inform decision pathways.
StrengthenAdaptive Learning: Current agricultural transformation approaches are predicated on the identification and development of breakthrough technologies but ignore the fact that any intervention in a system is likely to generate unexpected ripple effects. Adoption of a systems perspective and a more structured learning approach promoting adaptive innovation practices and learning loops would prevent potentially useful technologies being treated as ‘silver bullets’. The metrics and frameworks for this are currently underdeveloped: Land Equivalent Ratios, Total Factor Productivity, Full Cost Accounting and many more approaches and (sustainability) metrics have been proposed, but no new national and widely structured learning system for policy and development adaptation has emerged so far.
Level playing fields: Differentials in power and investment capabilities in power structures and political economy support the status quo and prevent a change in paradigm (Kramer et al., 2020). Recent literature, e.g. the study on financial flows in food system research that go to sub-Saharan Africa by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) (Biovision & IPES-Food, 2020), has begun to bring to the surface the perverse impacts of this political economy on flows of resources to publicly funded research. While private sector investment will continue to support the agronomic efficiency paradigm, as it supports most directly their profit motives, it is important that the public sector focuses on public goods aspects such as promoting nutrition through diversity or integrated pest management, benefits of and systems for multispecies agriculture, permanent canopy systems like agroecology, agroforestry, permaculture, natural farming and mixed and integrated energy efficient systems, circular bioeconomy and nature-based solutions. The bias towards a few crops and commodities and a ‘production paradigm’ is obvious in India’s premier publicly funded agricultural research system (Table 3), this can be seen as indicative of an under-investment in systems research.
Table 3
Focus of agricultural researchers at ICAR and in Higher Education by major thematic area
Thematic research focus
Higher education
Share of FTE researchers (%)
Crop genetic improvement
Crop production (agronomy, fertiliser)
Crop protection
Other crop-related themes
Genetic improvement of livestock
Livestock health
Livestock management
Pastures, forages and animal nutrition
Other livestock-related themes
Fisheries-related themes
Agricultural engineering
Biodiversity, germplasm conservation
Farming systems
Food safety
Emerging areas (biotechnology, nanotechnology)
On farm postharvest research
Socioeconomic and policy research
Other themes
FTE full time equivalent (Stads et al. 2016)
The World Bank’s Harvesting Prosperity report, recommending establishing the institutional autonomy of research institutions, ensuring stable and diversified funding and promoting publicprivate partnerships as well as regional and international links to align R&D efforts. UNEP’s TEEB for Agriculture & Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations recommends a new way of assessing, valuing and—where appropriate—monetising all capitals (produced, natural, social and human) involved in eco-agri-food systems will provide the true costs of our food (TEEB, 2018).

3 What India Needs to Achieve by 2030

Agriculture is the backbone of the country with about 54.6% of India’s total workforce engaged in agricultural and allied sector activities (Census of India, 2011) and more than 65% of the citizens living in rural India. It is the source of food, feed, fibre, fuel and the livelihood of Indian people. The Green Revolution in India introduced of high yielding varieties of some key crops (rice and wheat, for example), led to an expansion of irrigation facilities, heavier dependence on fertilisers and pesticides, farm mechanisation, credit facilities and buttressed by price support, and other rural infrastructure facilities ushered in higher farm incomes in some parts of the country. The results were not even and higher dependence on expensive external inputs has also led to higher farm indebtedness, in many cases cripplingly so (Nelson et al., 2019). The Green Revolution’s almost singular focus on increasing agricultural productivity is proving to be a poverty trap, especially for smallholder farmers, evidenced by rising indebtedness as explained earlier. In the two decades between the year 2000 and 2020 the proportion of the undernourished in the population barely decreased from 18.6 to 14%, and some indicators, such as under-5 child wasting actually increased according to the Global Hunger Index.1 So clearly production and productivity increases, while necessary, are not sufficient to tackle poverty and malnutrition, even if we ignore the massive environmental impacts listed earlier.
In the foreseeable future, agri-food systems will be under an unprecedented confluence of pressures, not only to meet nutrition, poverty and environmental expectations such as reversing the rapidly depleting availability of water, soil degradation, deforestation, land degradation and threats to agrobiodiversity, as explained earlier. But because rising income, demographic changes, changing dietary patterns and increased demand for a more varied, high quality diet will exert further pressure on the food systems. Climate change, with rising temperatures, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, shifts in precipitation regimes and hydrology will have uneven and varied impacts across the country, exacerbating the situation further (see PSA, 2019, for example).
In addition to these effects of the COVID-19 pandemic- a global health crisis that is already having devastating impacts on the world economy, are also being felt by the food and agriculture sector in short term and will certainly have long term implications. Such ‘shocks’ to our agricultural systems—regardless of their origin—are predicted to rise as global systems enter states of increased fragility, this calls for agricultural and food systems designed to be much more resilient than at present.
In our view solutions to these challenges require multi-scaled and nested responses, involving harnessing of agroecological science and context specific innovation and adaptation throughout agriculture and the food system. Producers such as farmers, especially small and marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, fishers and pastoralists must be at the heart of this human and social capital focused transformation, because without them any hope of productive resilience based on context specific adaptation will be lost. It is important also to focus on strengthening capabilities across the entire value chain, so that net incomes rise but not at the cost of the environment. Therefore, addressing the needs and aspirations of all value chain actors, starting with the primary producers is a matter of national priority.
India’s agriculture, which is currently growing at 2.9% per annum, must grow faster, but improved productivity is just one target among many. We suggest the following principles are required in any search for an alternative, summarised further in Table 3:
  • Ensuring that the welfare and advancement of farmers and food system actors meets expectations: Even using the rather limited indicator of cash income, it is apparent that income earned by a farmer from agriculture is crucial to address agrarian distress (Chand et al., 2015; Chand, 2016) and so any transformation of the system must promote farmers’ welfare and at least meet expectations of parity between income of farmers and those working in non-agricultural professions.
  • Better access to quality seeds and planting material, along with improvements to supply chains for these. It is estimated that the direct contribution of quality seed alone to the total production is about 20–25% (http://​seednet.​gov.​in) depending upon the crop and it can be further raised up to 45% with efficient management of other inputs. This includes judicious exploitation of hybrid technology, because managed well and in the appropriate circumstances, hybrids are a powerful ally for transformation of food systems, especially if the benefits are extended to so-called orphan crops. In this context biotechnology too has a great potential in improving efficiency and profitability of agriculture through identification of promising varieties of under-invested crops, disease resistant planting material, hybrid seed production, rapid and accurate diagnosis of diseases, rapid breeding of new varieties, etc. Recently 35 crop varieties developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to address the twin challenges of climate change and malnutrition were released. These climate-resilient crops include a drought tolerant variety of chickpea, wilt and sterility mosaic resistant pigeon pea, early maturing variety of soybean, disease resistant varieties of rice and biofortified varieties of wheat, pearl millet, maize and chickpea.
  • Capacity and capability strengthening: This is especially true in research, rural advisory services and outreach for hitherto neglected crops and farming systems that are more climate resilient and benefit farmers and consumers. The paradigm for education, training and research must shift from being top-down and productivity driven to being inclusive also of farmer innovation and systems resilience driven. Indeed a salient feature of any sustainable agriculture system of the future will be its ability to support innovation that drives context specific adaptation in the face of drivers of global change that are only picking up momentum.
  • Shifting to better adapted species and practices: The development and identification of disease resistant and climate resilient crops and crop varieties, with enhanced tolerance to fungal/insect attack, heat, drought, flooding, chilling and salinity stresses are essential in order to sustain and improve crop yields to cope with the challenges of biotic/abiotic stresses. Similarly, as biofertilisers are emerging as means for reducing chemical footprints in agriculture, the biopesticides have huge role to play in sustainable management of crop pests and pathogens. ICAR developed 41 validated biofertilisers and 31 microbial formulations were made available to farmers of the country in recent years.
  • Shifting to more resilient forms of agriculture that still meet productivity thresholds: such as agroforestry, horticulture, permaculture, natural farming and other agroecological approaches. An expansion of horticultural crops, for example, allows for resilient growth that takes advantage of India’s long growing-season, diverse soil and climatic conditions comprising several agroecological regions, and can be particularly impactful in farming systems that build on diversity, such as agroforestry and permaculture. The potential contribution of horticulture has been recognised in the report of the committee on doubling farmers income (DACFW, 2018). Between 2000 and 2016, horticulture growth rates of 5.8% occurred owing to technological back-up, investment and policy environment. Past trend shows that target of production of 316.41 million tonnes envisaged for 2020–21 is easily achievable, as production of 314.67 million tonnes has already been achieved in 2018–19.
  • Managing agricultural landscapes for more than food production: This will require developing new metrics for evaluation of impacts and effects, valuing and supporting diversity in farming systems, protecting soil fertility and its regeneration through the farming system, promoting cyclical agriculture and bioeconomy and reforming agriculture research and education (Table 4).
    Table 4
    The major targets for change and notional difficulties in achieving them depending on starting conditions
    Target for change
    Relative degree of difficulty
    Shifting to farming systems that are better adapted and adaptive to climate change, based on agroecological principles
    Low to medium
    Diversification including towards higher value and higher nutrition content crops
    Low to medium
    Improving tree cover, biomass and soil-organic carbon and fertility across Indian agriculture
    Medium to High
    Low to medium
    Concomitant improvement in productivity
    Resource use efficiency especially with respect to water
    Medium to High
    Low to medium
    Increase in cropping intensity
    Landscape approach that factors in contributions from forests, common lands and waste-lands in the provision of ecosystem services
    Medium to High
    Medium to high
    Shifting cultivators from farm to non-farm occupations, and
    Improvement in terms of trade for farmers or real prices received by farmers
    Basing policies and investments on a full or true-cost accounting approach

4 Policy Changes/recommendations

The Government of India is aware of the agrarian crisis and the need for a transformation of the agricultural systems that determine India’s food security and condition the well-being of almost half its population. If we are to change the paradigm within which Indian agriculture takes place, one where productivity gains are framed within a ‘duty of care’ towards achieving resilient outcomes for ecosystem services as well as commodity production, then we follow FAO and HLPE (2019) in identifying principles, as they have done for agroecology, rather than attempting any list of specific policies.
The first principle to be followed for any transformation of Indian agriculture in a densely populated and highly interconnected country like India is to embrace the concept of stewardship—which embodies the ‘duty of care’, a duty that recognises that care must extend to our relationships towards nature and society as a whole, in more ways than our agricultural systems presently recognise—as the paradigm within which change can take place.
The second principle is to recognise that farmers must be viewed and rewarded as stewards of the land and all of its ecosystem services, not be rewarded as just producers of food. In other words there needs to be a recognition that farmers who practice agriculture while conserving water, biodiversity or reducing pollution or greenhouse gases are providing a valuable service—at present this is taken for granted and they are only ‘rewarded’ for the commodities they produce.
The third principle to be adopted is to recognise the need for constant, context specific adaptation. This will call for encouragement of innovation at all scales and reducing barriers for the dissemination and adoption of innovations that can drive context specific adaptations.
Application of these three principles will facilitate the shift from HEIA types of production systems to LEIA or to an improvement of existing LEIA systems. Without drastically reducing or optimising inputs, transformation processes will likely find themselves on a slippery slope—with productive resilience and sustainability remaining elusive. Transformation challenges must be framed around systems, not technologies. Only through adopting a whole systems approach at landscape and nested scales, can we ensure that we work with nature and people, not against them. Prabhu et al. (2021) have suggested that agricultural transformations must seek to approximate a stewardship economy. In other words, farmers who are successful in sustainably delivering ecosystem services must be rewarded for those services, along with any rewards they receive from markets for the commodities they produce. This recognises that markets have so far failed to adequately reward the delivery of ecosystem services and attempts to commodify such services have hitherto proved inadequate to act as incentives for a more balanced stewardship of the land. Repurposing subsidies that currently have perverse outcomes is only one way to approach this market failure.
A prerequisite for achieving such transformation is the revision of the metrics we use to evaluate performance. Metrics that are blind to system performance must be discarded in favour of those that are not. We need comprehensive performance metrics, covering all the impacts of agriculture and food systems as the basis for rational decision-making. The performance of particular practices needs to be measured in relation to their purposes within a whole systems framing, not against narrow objectives. This may involve measuring quantities like crop yield, soil organic carbon content, or income from sale of products with consideration of the variability of performance across contexts. Practices are integrated within farms or livelihood systems, making the total factor productivity of farm enterprises or smallholder livelihoods a key integrated metric at household level. At landscape scale, the concept of land equivalent ratio can be applied to ecosystem services to derive a multifunctionality metric that sums the effects of agriculture on all provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services weighted by their relative societal value, in the place they are provided. For whole food systems, an ecological footprint represents an integrated metric that accounts for what people consume and how it is produced, processed, transported and used.
Finally, it will require an omnibus policy review to ensure that the ‘sustainable whole’ we so desire for Indian agriculture is much more than the sum of its existing and proposed parts. To guide the review and transformation process we offered RENEWAL and some key targets (Table 3). Based on this review, and understanding the need for context specific innovations, we should be able to develop transformation plans and approaches that are inclusive and likely to deliver productive and resilient outcomes. Many of the elements of these plans have already been identified in previous sections. What remains now is to take up the work before the crisis is further exacerbated. A transformation of farming and food systems that builds in the hopes and aspirations of India’s youth and women is the beacon that any reform must follow, even as it seeks to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.


Parts of this paper were developed with inputs and insights from Alexander Mueller, Vijay Kumar Thallam, Sunil Londhe, Patrick Worms, Fergus Sinclair and Thomas Zschocke to whom the authors owe a debt of gratitude.
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Annexure 1

Key initiatives of the Government of India relevant to agricultural transformation:
Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan(ABA) (self-reliant India) is the vision of new India announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on May 12, 2020. In agriculture, ABA aims to strengthen Infrastructure, Logistics, Capacity Building, Governance and Administrative Reforms. The components of the ABA- Agriculture are:
Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF)—From the year 2020–21 until 2029–30 the fund will aim to create infrastructure at the farm gate.
The National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM)—INR 500 crore from 2020–2021 to 2022–2023 is allocated for three mini missions that will promote and develop scientific beekeeping in the country
Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO): Farmer-Producers’ Organisations can now be incorporated/ registered either under Part IXA of Companies Act or under Co-operative Societies Act of the concerned States and formed for the purpose of leveraging collectives through economies of scale in production and marketing of agricultural and allied sector.
Forecasting Agricultural Output using Space, Agro-Meteorology and Land Based Observations (FASAL): The objective of the Scheme is to provide multiple-in-season forecast based on Agromet, Econometric and Remote Sensing based methodology. Multiple forecasts of 11 major crops are envisaged at National/ State/District level depending on status of technology available.
National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGPA)—Its aim is to achieve rapid development in India through use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for timely access to agriculture related information for farmers. In agriculture, availability of real time information at the correct time is a continuous challenge. National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGPA) was initially launched in seven selected States namely, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in the last quarter of 2010–11. This Scheme has subsequently been extended in the 2nd Phase to cover all the States and 7 UTs from 2014 to 15.
MKisan-Use of basic mobile telephony: The Department has developed a portal—mKisan (, where around 5.2 crore farmers are registered and experts/ scientists of different departments like India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), State Governments, State Agriculture Universities send information to farmers in 12 local languages on a regular basis. More than 2,462 crore SMSs have been sent through mKisan since its inception in 2013.
Farmers’ portal (www.​farmer.​gov.​in): Farmers’ Portal is a one stop shop for farmers where a farmer can get relevant information on a range of topics including seeds, fertiliser, pesticides, credit, good practices, dealer network, availability of inputs, agromet advisory etc. This centralised repository is the backbone of all mobile apps and SMS advisories. This portal provides information across all stages of crop management right from sowing of seeds till post harvesting. There is now a dedicated TV Kisan channel to provide round the clock information on agriculture to all stakeholders.
Development of Mobile Apps: Various mobile apps have been developed for farmers. Such as Kisan Suvidha that provides information on critical parameters—weather, input dealers, market price, plant protection, expert advisories, Soil Health Card, cold stores and godowns, crop insurance, government schemes, etc.
Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH): This mission supports the holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root & tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew and cocoa. MIDH consists of 5 schemes on Horticulture:
National Horticulture Mission (NHM),
Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan States (HMNEH),
National Horticulture Board (NHB),
Coconut Development Board (CDB),
Central Institute of Horticulture (CIH), Nagaland.
National Food Security Mission (NFSM): Currently, NFSM is being implemented in identified districts of 28 states and 2 Union Territories (UTs) viz. Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in the country. It focuses on Rice (also with a special action plan and linked to the Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India scheme for rice-based systems), Wheat, Pulses, Coarse Cereals (including maize and barley), Nutri-Cereals (including jowar, bajra, ragi and other millets—also with a special action plan), Oilseeds and Oilpalm and last but far from least: Tree Borne Oilseeds
National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) &Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana(PMKSY)with some key centrally sponsored schemes:
  • Rainfed Area Development (RAD): This adopts an area-based approach for development and conservation of natural resources through promoting Integrated Farming Systems (IFS).
  • Sub Mission on Agro-Forestry (SMAF): The Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) has been launched in 2016–17 to encourage and expand tree plantation on farmland, with the motto of “Har Medh Par Ped”, along with crops/cropping system. At present, the scheme is being implemented in 20 States.
  • National Bamboo Mission (NBM): 14 Ministries/Departments are associated in various aspects as per their allocation of business. The scheme is being implemented in 23 States.
  • Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) and Organic Farming: Soil Health Management (SHM): SHM aims at promoting Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) through judicious use of chemical fertilisers
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana(PKVY): The PKVY Scheme facilitates marketing of organic produce is implemented in a cluster mode with min. 20 ha size but more ideally in cluster sizes of 1,000 ha in plains areas and 500 ha in hilly areas.
    The following sector-based initiatives are worth mentioning here additionally:
  • Soil and Land Use Survey of India (SLUSI)
  • National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA)
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER): The scheme aims at development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of the value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification and creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiatives in eight states. It incorporates the National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) and the Central Fertilizer Quality Control and Training Institute (CFQC&TI).
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maandhan Yojana(PM-KMY): PM-KMY is an old-age pension scheme for all Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs) in who hold land in the country, aiming to provide an assured monthly pension of INR 3,000/- irrespective of gender, on attaining the age of 60 years.
National Crop Insurance Programme (NCIP) The insurance schemes currently under implementation are the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS).
Coverage of Women Farmers under PMFBY: out of the total coverage under the scheme approximately 15–16% women farmers were enrolled under the scheme every year. There has been 0.7% increase in the enrolment of Loanee women farmers and a significant increase in the enrolment of Non-Loanee women farmers amounting to approximately 56% increase from kharif 18 to kharif 19 demonstrating favourable attitude among women farmers towards PMFBY.
Coconut Palm Insurance Scheme (CPIS): The Coconut Palm Insurance Scheme (CPIS) has been implemented since the year 2009–10 in selected areas of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
Gobardhanscheme: Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBAR-DHAN) scheme is under the Ministry of Jal Shakti. The scheme is implemented under the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin-Phase 2, by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation under the Jal Shakti ministry. The scheme aims to augment income of farmers by converting biodegradable waste into compressed biogas (CBG).
Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana(RKVY): RKVY scheme was initiated in 2007 as an umbrella scheme for ensuring holistic development of agriculture and allied sectors. The scheme incentivises States to increase public investment in Agriculture and allied sectors.
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Transformative Agroecology-Based Alternatives for a Sustainable and Biodiverse Future
verfasst von
Ravi Prabhu
Shiv Kumar Dhyani
Devashree Nayak
Javed Rizvi
Springer Nature Singapore

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