Gleaming fields, luminous in the afternoon sun- the kind of stuff that makes Bollywood backdrops in which the hero and heroine dance in gay abandon. These days, it’s not just the actors who are dancing in the fields, but also rejoicing farmers in Uttar Pradesh. ‘Public sector agricultural extension services’ is a heavy term to denote various (formerly) government programmes to enhance economic, structural, technological and other conditions for Indian farmers. I say ‘formerly’ because these services have now been ‘extended’ (no pun intended!) to include additional players, such as the private sector, non-profits, and civil communities in general- a concept referred to as ‘Pluralism,’ which has given farmers much reason to rejoice.
As I mentioned, extension services have typically been provided by government agencies, specifically state departments in India through their field functionaries. State educational institutes have provided training and skill enhancement to these functionaries, who in turn pass on this vital knowledge to members of the farming community. While this model was providing a basic level of support, it was not covering the length and breadth of requirements of the community, and needed a colossal boost. Through pluralism, there has been a dramatic shift in modus operandi and in the results that are being reaped.
In one such initiative, Coca-Cola has partnered with DCM Shri Ram (DSCL) along with Solidaridad and International Finance Corporation to enhance the yield of sugarcane in Uttar Pradesh and help farmers multiply output. Aptly titled ‘Meetha Sona Unnati,’ the programme aims at imparting invaluable best practices in agriculture to around 48,000 farmers in four sugar mills of DCM Shriram’s command area over a period of 3 years. This would include 8,000 lead sugarcane farmers, 40,000 sub lead farmers getting trained on implementation of modern agricultural technology, Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and efficient water usage and Implement farmer practices to improve demand side water efficiency.
“It is a sustainable supply project, in addition to improving farmers’ income. We have come together to increase sugarcane farmers’ yield and to bring in sustainable agricultural practices,” Coca-Cola India and South West Asia President Venkatesh Kini told PTI.
“We have seen positive impact on sugarcane farmers’ yield in the areas we have worked on. We have been training farmers on best international agricultural practices and adopting modern techniques,” DCM Shriram Executive Director Roshan Lal Tamak said.
The benefits of pluralistic extensions are numerous- from the provision of more customized services to varied strata of the farming community, to enhanced production, sustainability and better yield. The ultimate goal is the enhancement of livelihood for farmers and more robust local economic development. Enough reasons to make a song and dance!