Improving Lives and Rice Crops in India

Improving Lives and Rice Crops in India through Farm Schools

Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the most populous state of India with population of 200 million, accounting for 17% of India’s population with a population density of 828 per square Kilometer.

UP’s 18 million hectares of arable land supports 23 million farming families with 6 - 7 members per family and an average landholding of 0.85 hectare per family. Rice is a major crop with nearly 30% of total cultivable land under rice farming. The average income level per hectare from farming operations is $800 annually due to low productivity levels. As a result, most of these families are living below subsistence levels. This leads to the younger generation shunning the agriculture sector as they are disillusioned by the lack of prospect farming offers.

Rice is a staple diet as well as source of income and sustenance. Improvement in rice crop productivity can contribute significantly to the betterment of the farming families. Rice productivity is 2.1 metric ton per hectare which is 20% lower than national average and less than half of the global average. The reasons for the low productivity are varied but include: fragmented and small size landholding, limited education and technical know-how of farmers, difficult seed distribution channels and ecological situations marked by frequent flood or drought.

In light of these challenges, DuPont Pioneer developed a complete package of Seed to Harvest program which included the right hybrids for the right hectare, appropriate agronomic practices and complemented with the right crop protection techniques to improve rice crop productivity. However, a challenge to implementation was to reach large numbers of farming families — 23 million with our limited resources of 50 field staff. To overcome the logistical limitation, the local DuPont Pioneer team conceptualized a new program called Pioneer rice farm schools and transformed this challenge into a significant opportunity.

The Pioneer rice farm school is a classroom and on-field training program where farmers are trained by fellow farmers called Pioneer Pravaktas (Spokesperson) on the right agricultural practices best suited for rice crop management. These Pioneer Pravaktas are farmers who undergo trainings from Pioneer technical representatives, after which they can train more farmers. This allows for a multiplying effect, allowing the DuPont 50 field staff to reach many thousands of farmers.

The results so far have been overwhelming. DuPont Pioneer hybrid rice seeds volume has grown by 100% in two years since implementation of the farm school program. Incremental revenue realized by the company from the farm school zones are in the range of $2.5 million, while total spend on the project is $400,000. This project has now been expanded to 6,000 more villages in 2014. Incremental revenue expected in 2015 from farm school is $4 million. Finally, the lives of countless farmers and their communities have been improved.