“In the beginning, when I started in farming myself, I thought farming was one of the toughest things;” Ajay Sahebrao Thakre explains.
Samruddhi: a farmer training program in India helps raising productivity in soybeans
Ajay is a young soybean farmer in a small town called Amravati in the state of Maharashtra in India. He grew up in a farming family and learned everything from his father – like many young farmers in India. Still, the farming practices he learned were just not productive enough. “I didn’t have the knowledge how to increase productivity, which technologies were required and how I could best apply them,” Ajay tells me.
The problem highlighted by this young farmer is a challenge for many other Indian farmers. India is the fifth largest producer of soybeans in the world. But, at the same time, the country requires almost twice as much of the area to grow the same amount of soybeans as its peers. The reason is a relatively low productivity per hectare. Various explanations for this situation have been made over the past few years: from the (agricultural) policy inconstancy to the national policy on land consolidation and even including the knowledge gap among growers about best farming practices.
The knowledge gap was also the biggest hurdle for Ajay. But his challenges have become lighter since Ajay and BASF crossed paths. Ajay became part of the Samruddhi program, an initiative developed for those farmers who want to increase their productivity and their agricultural knowledge while learning good farming practices.
BASF introduced this program in 2007 and since then, the BASF Samruddhi agronomists have been visiting different villages and giving information about farming to all interested growers. Besides the presentations, farmers also receive verbal advice as well as practical demonstrations right on their fields. Other farmers can join the demonstrations and experience first-hand and see the improvements of the quality and productivity of the crops, not to mention their working conditions.
“The program brought different interventions to me, right from seed treatment over the right planting methods and conditions to safe crop protection use,” Ajay explains. Using these new approaches he could see an increase in productivity on his soybean fields over the last year. He concludes: “I see a difference of on quintal per acre – which is about 500 kg per hectare.”
Within the Samruddhi program Ajay even was nominated from BASF as a ‘Margdarshak’. ‘Margdarshaks’ are farmers who get additional training so they can be leading farmers in their villages. The Margdarshaks are expected to share their experiences and knowledge about their agricultural practices with the other growers in the larger farming community. “When I go to the surrounding villages or to the neighbors or my friends’ villages, then I try to share my knowledge and my best experiences so that they improve their productivity and farming practices as well,” Ajay smiles.
Farmers participating in the Samruddhi project receive personal support and training for two years. After that time, the farmers, who by then have developed the good practices - such as Ajay, are connected to a call center where they can receive future support.
Ajay plans to buy more land from the extra money he earns out of the increased productivity. “Now farming is profitable for me. It has become a real good business,” he concludes proudly.