Transforming a million hectare of farmland with Climate-Smart Village approach

© J. Turner (CCAFS)
Farmers in Maharashtra, India, using thresher
ITC Limited pledges to scale out the Climate-Smart Village approach in more than a million hectares of farmland within the next three years.

Reckoned climate-linked vulnerabilities of the agriculture sector have been boosting the case for climate-resilient agriculture in today’s world. The need to sustainably use existing natural resources while achieving higher productivity has become the need of the hour. The latest research has further emphasized investments in climate-smart agriculture alongside sustainable forestry and renewable energy as critical to building resilience and creating a food secure world. To support this global call ITC Limited has decided to strengthen the current agricultural production system by scaling up the Climate-Smart Village (CSVapproach in more than a million hectares of ITC’s outreach areas across India, within the next three years.

The foundation of this initiative goes back to 2016. ITC in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) envisioned transforming agriculture in areas within ITC’s outreach across the country. It was done with the clear vision of capacitating farmers by developing a resilient agricultural production system. This culminated into the integration of CCAFS’s CSV approach with ITC’s Mission Sunehra Kal (MSK) program and the genesis of CSV-MSK integration program.

CSV-MSK integration program

ITC’s Social Investments Program addresses vulnerabilities of farming communities by strengthening rural livelihoods. The focus of the mission has been on assisting communities to collectively conserve and manage local natural resources, expand and facilitate gender-inclusive income portfolios and broaden the cropping systems to promote the growth of rural economies through community participation and partnerships. This further strengthened in collaboration with CGIAR’s CSV approach which aspired to build resilient agricultural and rural communities by targeting need-based climate-smart interventions within the local context.

Since its inception, the prime focus of the CSV-MSK program was to build resilient agricultural production systems through the promotion of a wide range of climate-smart technologies and best practices including e-Choupal, wasteland development, soil and moisture conservation, livestock development, and gender and social inclusion program of MSK. 

A participatory method to prioritize climate-smart technologies is being used to identify stakeholders’ preferences and context-specific adaptation options under six key pillars of the CSV approach (weather smart, water smart, carbon smart, nitrogen smart, energy smart, and knowledge smart). These interventions are implemented based on the Hub & Spoke Model of technology transfer.

Main activities under ITC-CCAFS Climate Smart Village program.
Main activities under ITC-CCAFS Climate-Smart Village program

Targeted workshops, training and field visits were organized for ITC personnel to share the complexity and implementation guidelines for the CSV. These built on earlier work done in three states (Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan) which ensured the solid foundation to leapfrog the scaling of CSVs to more than a million hectares. 

CSV milestones in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan

Implementation of the first phase ITC-CCAFS CSV approach was started in 73 villages across three states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. All villages were clustered into different groups based on the current level of productivity, resilience and emission indicators. Since ITC started the implementation of the CSV program in 2016 and its success in the selected villages, the program has been expanded to around 1762 villages.

The approach has encouraged participation from key institutional stakeholders of the village economy such as farmer groups, SHGs, and research institutes. This institutional support has further strengthened the scaling efforts through knowledge sharing and encouraging the adoption of participatory approaches for evidence creation.

The program has now covered 20,000+ farmers and CSA technology has reached their doorstep benefiting them in the conservation of natural resources, climate risk mitigation, improving yield and net income. With these encouraging results and three years of experience implementing CSV, ITC is now set to scale out this approach in more than a thousand villages across 15 states of India.

Shaping future food security

The conjugation of the goals of ITC Limited and the technical expertise of CCAFS has been instrumental in reinforcing the development of climate-resilient agriculture and rural livelihoods in India. The MSK-CSV program now embraces a community of thousands of villages that form the influential nuclei of change in rural localities across India. By linking knowledge and technology transfer to the creation of economic and social capacity, the program has been able to bring to fore a unique dynamic to rural development, food security and poverty alleviation.

Looking ahead, the MSK-CSV integration model aims at better conservation of land, water and forest resources, expansion of social opportunities and inclusions, and improvement in farm productivity and income leading to long-term food security and poverty alleviation in rural communities.

Vijay Vardhan is the Head of Operations, Natural Resources Management for ITC Social Investments