Farmer Field Day: CGIAR–Transforming Agrifood Systems in South Asia (TAFSSA)
Farmers in Karnal on field day. Photo credit: Deepak/CIMMYT
The CGIAR–TAFSSA (Transforming Agrifood Systems in South Asia) initiative is transforming agriculture in the region. TAFSSA is leading a coordinated effort that brings together various stakeholders, with a focus on equitable access to healthy diets, farmer livelihood improvement, and environmental conservation. This blog highlights TAFSSA’s recent Farmer Field Day in Karnal District, Haryana, India, in February 2023.
The groups that TAFSSA works with are both male and female farmer groups, state and central government agencies, research institutions like the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (CCSHAU), and the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) researchers, farmer groups, and many more. This multifaceted collaboration is critical to achieving the initiative’s objectives.
2023 is International Millet Year, in celebration of which the Government of India is taking significant steps to prioritize millet through crop diversification. This strategic move aims to strengthen farming systems by providing access to nutritious diets and alternative livestock fodder.
On-farm trials: the value of diversity
TAFSSA understands the importance of crop diversification and has begun on-farm trials as a participatory approach to introducing farmers to the benefits of cultivating new crops. These trials include millets, oil seeds, pulses and vegetables, with the goal of demonstrating the advantages of alternative cropping systems.
A closer look at Farmer Field Days
In February 2023, TAFSSA organized four Farmer Field Days in the villages of Kalwehri, Beernarayana, Nadana and Sandhir, in Karnal District, Haryana, India. These events drew nearly 200 female and male farmers from small, medium and large landholdings.
Field Day goals
Co-learning for sustainable intensification – encouraging farmer participation, to inform them about the potential for sustainable intensification in their current cropping patterns. The emphasis was on increasing farm productivity, nutritional yield, resource utilization, and profits.
Enhancing crop knowledge – providing farmers with information about various crops and cropping systems, and how these affect nutritional quality under various management scenarios.
Creating diversification packages – using existing regional knowledge to put together practice combinations of crops that reflect local realities and provide smallholder farming families with alternative cropping systems.
Crop diversification benefits
From a farmer’s perspective, an intensified and diversified cropping system, with new potential dry (winter) season crops like mustard, potato, carrot, and garden pea, and pearl millet, soybean, and maize in the monsoon season, offers a plethora of benefits. These include sustainability, nutritional security at the household level, and a solution to the region’s problem of rice residue burning.
Government support and local recognition
The local government in Haryana has assured farmers of its support with procuring inputs for some of these new crops, if the farmers agree to adopt them to replace rice. Also, the local governments are becoming more aware of the potential of diversified cropping systems to conserve natural resources, increase farmer profits, and improve soil health.
Support for alternative cropping systems from local government
The Government of Haryana has also taken proactive steps to promote crop diversification in the region by establishing a portal registration system (https://fasal.haryana.gov.in/). This initiative offers farmers a cash incentive of INR 4000 (ca. US$ 50) per acre to encourage them to replace rice, and ensures procurement of alternative crops such as maize and direct-seeded rice.
TAFSSA’s Farmer Field Days in Karnal District demonstrate the power of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and sustainable agricultural practices. These initiatives, which coincide with 2023 having being declared by the United Nations the International Year of Millets, pave the way for a more resilient and sustainable agricultural future in South Asia. TAFSSA’s work to improve agrifood systems by encouraging diverse cropping systems is continuing to contribute to a brighter, more food-secure and environmentally friendly future for the region.
TAFSSA (Transforming Agrifood Systems in South Asia) is a CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiative to support actions that improve equitable access to sustainable healthy diets, improve farmers’ livelihoods and resilience, and conserve land, air, and water resources in South Asia.