Enhanced capacities of farmers in Climate-Smart Villages have enabled them to take constructive measures to better respond to COVID-19 induced lockdown.

On 25 March 2020, the Government of India announced a nation-wide lockdown, closing down all routine operations in the country. With no access to labor for harvesting, vehicles for transportation, and food markets for trading, many small farmers have been finding it difficult to sell their produce in the market. As a result, some farmers plowed their fields under, dumped their milk, and got rid of their poultry. However, farmers in Climate-Smart Villages (CSV) have found alternative, productive ways to deal with the COVID-19 induced lockdown.

These CSVs are part of a USAID funded project titled ‘Scaling-Out Climate-Smart Village Program in the Vulnerable Areas of Indo-Gangetic Plains of India’. Together with the BAIF Development Research Foundation (BAIF), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has been working to enhance the adaptive capacities of the farmers against climate risks. The adaptation strategies that have resulted have enabled farmers to better respond to the lockdown in India, as illustrated by the examples below.

Mathura, Uttar Pradesh

In Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, the farmers in the CSV were enrolled in Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), a Central Sector Scheme of Government of India. During the lockdown, the Government of India announced the immediate disbursal of the first installment of the income support provided as part of the scheme, in order to support the farmers. The farmers received around 26.42 USD (INR 2000/-), which assisted them to adapt to this stressful situation. Around 100 farmers were supported by the project team, through remote coordination with government officials and accessing internet banking services, to access the first installment. This would otherwise have been a strenuous task for the farmers.

Nalanda, Bihar

In Nalanda, Bihar, Custom Hiring Centres (CHC) were established as part of the project to house various equipment like harvesting machines, solar pumps, and tractors, among others. These CHCs provide smallholders with low investment capacity access to the latest technology. During the lockdown, in the absence of required labor for harvesting, these CHCs have been instrumental for farmers when harvesting crops for small field areas. Additionally, the member of the Village Climate Management Committee (a community group established as part of the project) and CHC, contacted the vendors that had supplied the machinery for the CHCs. These vendors further connected VCMC members to vendors with large size harvester machines, who provided the required support to farmers for harvesting crops in the lockdown situation.

 In the absence of labor for harvesting, I was really worried about losing my crops. Thanks to the members of the CHC and women self-help group, we could contact the vendors with large size vending machines. Our crops were harvested and sold in the market, in a timely manner.”                     

Shishupal Kumar, Nalanda, Bihar

Betul, Madhya Pradesh

For farmers in Betul, accessing Mung dal seeds (Petite Yellow Lentils) was emerging as a major challenge during the lockdown. The fear of missing the sowing time-frame was increasing. In order to prevent this, the VCMC facilitated farmers’ access to the seeds and supported the sale of their harvest. The VCMC, with the support of the project team, contacted the District Agriculture Department officials who agreed to support the farmers by providing them seeds and access to the market for selling their produce.

In addition, VCMC members have also taken action to sell their produce within the village community through door-to-door selling to avoid wastage of the produce. They are also coordinating with a few local traders to sell their produce during the lockdown period. 

During the lockdown, I was unable to sell freshly harvested tomatoes from my field. I then contacted the district officials of the Agriculture Department, from the list provided by the project team. The officials were very supportive and informed us that we can sell our harvest at designated areas from sunrise till 10:00 am. The project team has given us the confidence to talk to the government officials.”

Sangeeta Rajesh, Farmer, Betul, Madhya Pradesh

As the examples above illustrate, CSV farmers' enhanced awareness and knowledge, repeated exposure to government agencies and interaction with government officials, and access to human and non-human resources have encouraged them to take constructive measures and respond to the situation in a proactive manner.

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Sakshi Saini is the Communications Specialist for CCAFS South Asia, Rajashree Joshi is Chief Thematic Program Executive, BAIF Research Development Foundation, Nitya Chanana is a Research Consultant on Gender and Social Inclusion for CCAFS South Asia.