Farmer Training in Bihar

Cross-posted from the FSP India website written by Jaspreet Aulakh

Jaspreet Aulakh, IFPRI
Jaspreet Aulakh, IFPRI

In May 2016, a conference was organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Rajendara Agricultural University (RAU) to discuss how to best promote large-scale agricultural mechanization in the state of Bihar. The challenges to mechanization in the state include small landholdings; the high cost of renting farm equipment, particularly for smallholder farmers; low agricultural output and subsequent low incomes; and lack of access to credit and financing.

One recommendation that came out of the dialogue was the improvement of Custom Hiring Centers in the state. As highlighted during the discussions, Custom Hiring Centers can play a key role in increasing smallholders’ access to affordable, quality rental equipment. However, these centers are relatively new to Bihar and are not widely available. The dialogue participants agreed that Custom Hiring Centers need to be well-planned and promoted and should include roles for individuals, self-help groups (SHGs), and the corporate sector.

A second recommendation regarded the need to better train Bihar’s farmers to use rented farm equipment to improve their productivity. RAU and IFPRI agreed to train local farmers and service providers from Bihar on how to manage rental farms, in collaboration with Zamindara Farm Solutions. Twenty farming households from Bihar, as well as two households from Nepal, participated and were introduced to Zamindara’s custom hiring model.

The training was conducted from June 13-17 in Punjab and focused on the mechanization of sowing operations in paddy, pulses, and maize crops, which form the bulk of agriculture in Bihar state. Participants were introduced to the use of rental operations as business models and to the use of machines such as cultivators, disc-harrows, sub-soilers, ridge planters and pneumatic planter for maize, and irrigation technology such as water guns and drip irrigation.  Farmers were also trained on direct rice seeding practices, manual sowing, and paddy transplanters. There was also session on high-tech farm implements and the use of pneumatic planters in pulses.

Amar Singh, Agriculture Development Officer (ADO) of the Department of Agriculture Punjab, discussed best practices to use for higher production, highlighting the fact that machines and other farming inputs must be used under specific guidelines to be effective; for example, rotavators should not be used for soils, as it breaks the soil particles. He also emphasized that the use of machinery and other inputs, particularly pesticides and fertilizers, must be tailored to each state’s unique agro-ecological conditions. He cautioned farmers against simply copying preventive and curative practices from other regions, as this could lead to ineffective practices, soil degradation, and further loss of productivity and income.

The training included several female farmers who own 1-2 acres of land and conduct most of the farm management activities. These women stated that they are currently using only manual labor for all farm operations, and that this training was the first time they were made aware of the many machines available for farm labor.

In addition to the more formal training, participants had the opportunity to visit Biomass Plant in the village of Channo; this is the largest biomass plant in Punjab, with the capacity to generate 14.5 MW electricity. The plant sells the electricity it generates to the government of Punjab and uses a wide range of sources of biomass to feed its broiler. Paddy straw acts as major source of fuel, and local farmers who sell their paddy straw to the plant rather than burning it themselves make 1250 Rs (20 USD) per ton of straw. This use of paddy straw was introduced to the participants as a way to increase their incomes through mechanization, even if they do not own or rent the machines themselves.

On the final day of the training, farmers had the opportunity to discuss their farm-specific challenges one-on-one with Vikram Ahuja, Director of Zamindara Farm Solutions. Ahuja assured the farmers that his organization will help them create the reports needed to apply to banks for credit for farm rental equipment. Farmers were provided with print-outs of all the government schemes available through the Bihar government that they can use to help them gain access to machinery and inputs and improve their farms’ productivity.

Future steps include setting up four or more rental centers with used machines; the aim is for each center to have two tractors, two laser levelers, two rotavators, and two harvesters. The farmers also requested that experts be sent to Bihar to help them better understand the state’s agro-ecological conditions.

Undernutrition Garners Little Attention in Indian Media

Undernutrition is an emergency in India, where almost half of all children under the age of three are underweight. However, even in the face of such a crisis, this issue garners little attention in Indian media.

POSHAN Media Fellows
POSHAN Media Fellows

To address the lack of nutrition reporting in India, POSHAN and OneWorld Foundation implemented the six-month OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition from May–December 2013. Six journalists from various media outlets such as The New York Times, Dainik Jagran, The Hindu, Chapte Chapte, The Hindustan Times, and participated in the program.

On March 19th, POSHAN and OneWorld organized a workshop with the six media fellows to share their learnings from their reporting from the field. The workshop focused on their experiences and observations during the course of their travels to various parts of the country collectively preparing over 30 pieces on mother and child undernutrition.

Many fellows spoke about the huge problems they saw in the field with nutrition services for the poor. For example, Mukesh Kejriwal of Dainik Jagran presented photos exposing flaws with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. One photo showed a broken-down Anganwadi centre without a roof. He spoke about the lack of commitment of officials at the centres that he visited, and how in one centre, the officials had locked up the materials that were meant to be used for the welfare of children.

Malavika Vyawahare from The New York Times spoke about how there is no proper compilation of nutrition data on which the government can actually base its work. She also spoke of an instance in which she saw a modern, electric weighing machine in an Anganwadi centre in a tribal district in Maharashtra, which was useless because that part of the country is not connected to the electricity grid.

Neha Dikshit, who wrote her articles for, focused on the fact that some of the government schemes meant to improve the plight of rural women and children have in fact been detrimental for them. She mentioned how a Haryana government scheme providing cash assistance to marriageable women led to teen marriages, deaths of pregnant girls, and parents started forced schools to give under-age certificates.

Pankaj Jaiswal, from The Hindustan Times, spoke about the existence of undernutrition in the so-called 'well fed' urban population. Thanking the fellowship program for raising his awareness on the issues, he said that he is likely to keep writing on the issue.

Freelance journalist Saadia Azim spoke about how migrants are facing the brunt of nutrition problems. During her travels to villages in Bengal, she found that poor diet haunted all migrants, regardless of caste, religion, or even region. For her, a huge issue was that nobody was even talking about malnutrition as an election issue.

The fellows concluded the meeting with a consensus on how much more the media needs to do in terms of reporting on nutrition. They stressed that the issue of undernutrition has an impact on national security and wellbeing of the country and thus needs to be taken up much more in the media and addressed by the government.

Learn more by visiting the OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition site to read all the news articles.

Food Security: Climate Change and Trade

IFPRI-CUTS Workshop in New Delhi
IFPRI-CUTS Workshop in New Delhi

Over the years, food and nutritional security has been a major concern in the development agenda. The multidimensional food security stands on food availability, its access and absorption and has been interlinked with rising effects of climate change, trade movements, prices, policies etc.

IFPRI-CUTS organized a one day workshop on Food Security in India: The Interaction of Climate Change, Economic Politics and Trade (FOODSEC) on March 11, New Delhi. The major objective of the workshop was to discuss and explore possible effects of climate change on agricultural production in India and to understand effects of changes in food entitlements on household food security.

The signs of climate changes are visible through drought and floods in the Indian agriculture. Between 1876 and 2009 India experienced a total of 40 droughts of which 24 occurred until the mid-1960s, and 16 occurred between 1965 and 2009. In the latter period, five droughts were of severe droughts. Research estimates climate change will reduce yields in many regions by 5-25 percent and may increase yields in some by 2050. P S Birthal, NCAP suggests the introduction of technologies such as laser land levelling, Zero tillage, SRI, directed seeding are other options to improve water use efficiency. He also underlined the need to increase the scope of information to farmers on crops, inputs and technologies. Siwa Msangi, IFPRI stresses the need to explore the recharge possibilities and reduce overdraft of the ground water, and also capture the effect of climate change on livestock.

Income and stable food prices plays a significant role in food security. Expanding markets via exports, improved supply chain and safety net program can help to improve food security at national and household level. A Ganesh-Kumar, IGIDR points that ensuring open and stable trade policy, technological support to boost productivity, safety nets for consumers and producers and insurance for handling risks are few parameters to achieve broad base food security.

With food security in the top policy agenda India’s National Food Security Act that aims to secure two-thirds of the 1.2 billion Indians with subsidized food to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban dwellers through the Public Distribution System (PDS) is debated time and again on its implementation strategy. Experts stress the gaps in program through distribution channels, corruption, lack of effectiveness in targeting the poor, and wastages etc. that could derail the program in long run. Examples from successful state run program can help in streamlining the program in long run.

The project is supported by The Research Council of Norway. The workshop was well participated by researchers, donors, private sector and government. Dr. Vijay S Vyas, Member, Prime Minister Economic Advisory Council presented the key note address. Havård Hugås, Counsellor, Royal Norwegian Embassy presented the importance of India-Norway Collaboration. Abhijit Sen, Member, Planning Commission chaired a session.

Related blog: Food Security, Climate Change and Trade: Indo-Norwegian research project



New Abstract Digest on Maternal and Child Nutrition Research – Issue 7

We are pleased to release Issue 7 of our bi-monthly Abstract Digest on maternal and child nutrition. This issue features interesting publications examining nutrition from both a biological and political lens, in India and beyond. Highlights include:

Abstract Digest-Issue 07
Abstract Digest-Issue 07
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Abstract Digest-Issue 07

  • A special open-access issue of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences on integrating nutrition and early childhood development interventions
  • Two articles from Advances in Nutrition discussing 1) how nutrition research can become more useful in informing global nutrition guidelines (Stoltzfus 2014), and 2) arguing for the need to develop implementation science to enable stronger delivery of adequate nutrition to those in need (Habicht and Pelto 2014).
  • One study in Bio Medical Education identifying gaps in South Asian postgraduate nutrition programs to build capacity to address the current public health nutrition challenges (Khandelwal et al. 2014).
  • Two reviews, one providing an overview of the evidence-base for nutritional deficits in early life and greater risk for non-communicable diseases in later life (Langley-Evans 2014) and the other recommending investments in improving maternal autonomy to improve child nutritional status (Carlson et al. 2014).
  • Several articles focusing specifically on malnutrition in India, including on determinants of anemia (Anand 2013), vitamin A programming in India and its reach (Aguayo 2014), and management of severe acute malnutrition (Singh et al. 2014; Kumar et al. 2013).


IFPRI Hosts Policy Seminar on “Social Protection, Food Security and Nutrition” in New Delhi

Written by Suman Chakrabarti, Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, New Delhi

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), organized a policy seminar on “Social Protection & Safety Net

Source: Pallavi Rajkhowa/IFPRI
Source: Pallavi Rajkhowa/IFPRI

Interventions” in the month of February in New Delhi. The seminar touched on the role of food and cash transfers in improving poverty, food security and nutrition, in global and regional contexts. All speakers were well received by the audience and the seminar was lively with an array of wide ranging questions and discussions.

The first speaker, John Hoddinott, Deputy Director at the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division – IFPRI , Washington,  DC, pooled insights from recent studies in Ecuador, Niger, Uganda and Yemen, on social protection programs and their nutrition outcomes. He highlighted the relative advantages and drawbacks of cash, voucher and food transfers in terms of cost effectiveness, achievement of caloric intake increase and impact sufficiency to reduce chronic under-nutrition in young children. In addition, he shared very recent findings on the impact of combining behavioural change interventions with cash transfers in Bangladesh.

The second speaker, Avinash Kishore, Associate Research Fellow, IFPRI, New Delhi, shared insights from a working paper that investigates the impact of reforms in the Public Distribution System (PDS) of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, on the offtake of rice from fair price shops as well as on the reallocation of savings towards other food groups.  These findings are central in the context of India’s National Food Security Act (NFSA) which was enacted in 2013.  The NFSA lays out very similar PDS reforms in terms of price reductions for key cereals and increase in the population covered, accompanied with supply side corrections, as were enforced in the aforementioned states.

The third and final speaker, Reetika Khera, Assistant Professor, Economics, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, discussed her research on shifts in India’s PDS. She discussed various facets of interest within the PDS including coverage, leakage, implicit subsidies, exclusion errors, and nutritional impacts, among others.  The findings indicate an overall revival of the PDS in India albeit with high interstate variations. She concluded that there was a long way to go for improvements in the PDS, and emphasized that key reforms should focus on an expansion in the implicit subsidy given to households, incentives, computerization, and decentralization.

Issues and questions raised in the discussion period included:
- What is better in India’s context, cash or food? A balanced approach would be a contextualized response, where cash could be better for some regions and food for others.
- What might be the possible measures to control leakages in the PDS? Mechanisms to check leakages might be easier to enforce under a cash transfer paradigm with the use of IT.
-Targeting versus universalization of the PDS: Given the large targeting errors for AAYs, BPLs, and APLs, would a universalized PDS prove to be more effective?
- What is the role of the private sector in grain management? Can the private sector distribute grains more efficiently and cost effectively?
- What are the effects of transfers on households? How do they re-allocate savings from subsidies? What are the effects on women’s empowerment?

Presentation 1-Social safety nets, food security and nutrition

Presenation 2-Revival of the PDS Evidence and Explanations

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