Linking Grassroots Success to Agricultural Policy Reform
Additional partners: Institute for Social and Economic Change.
The partners explored alternative approaches to traditional, heavily-subsidized grain production and provided local farmers, educators, and policy-makers with new farming models that could ultimately ensure the future of India’s sustainable agriculture.
By examining different models of agricultural innovation and community development, the partners accumulated the knowledge needed to develop new, more relevant curricula and extension services. The partnership helped strengthen women’s self-help groups (SHGs) income generation activities, including silkworm production, finger millet malt processing, and ornamental fish rearing.
Although ornamental fish rearing was not among the partnership’s originally planned activities, it has enjoyed particular success in bolstering household incomes. During the pilot phase, five SHG households were selected and trained to raise five types of fingerling (fish stock), but the project grew to include more than 30 households. This relatively non-labor intensive activity provides an average of approximately $10 per month in supplemental income for the women, with amounts expected to increase. The ornamental fish project is now considered a model program by the government of Karnataka State, which is seeking to replicate it throughout the state and beyond.
The partners also introduced 58 biogas digesters and 56 smokeless chulas (ovens) in the villages to provide clean and efficient fuel for cooking, lighting, and other purposes—reducing firewood consumption by 50 percent and improving the health of women by reducing their exposure to smoke and decreasing the time and physical strain of firewood gathering.
Other important partnership interventions included drip irrigation, organic mulching and composting, and training in micro-financing, which has allowed SHGs to purchase cows, sheep, goats, sewing machines, and the ornamental fish. Through the various income-generating and income-saving activities introduced by the partnership, the families in the test villages have increased their income by approximately 3,000-4,000 rupees (about $60-$80) per month.
Additionally, the UAS partners hosted an “International Conference on 21st Century Challenges to Sustainable Agrifood Systems” to provide a forum for more than 400 leaders in agricultural education, research, policy, agribusiness, and development to deliberate and present papers on meeting the challenges of sustainable agriculture through more efficient management of natural resources.
At a Glance
Iowa State University; University of Agricultural Sciences
Apr 2004–Sep 2007