Gleaming fields, luminous in the afternoon sun- the sugarcane farmers of Uttar Pradesh are rejoicing this sight which offers many promises for a glistening future ahead. However, life wasn’t always as picturesque.

Although India is one of the largest sugarcane cultivators in the world, the process has been less than sweet for farmers.  Yield, production, distribution and pricing are just some of the challenges that the farmers face.. In India, the per-hectare yield of sugarcane has historically been lower compared to that of other countries. Higher production costs, outdated techniques and technology, and inconsistent pricing have added to troubles.

’Public sector agricultural extension services’ is a heavy term to denote various (formerly) government programs to enhance economic, structural, technological and other conditions for Indian farmers. ‘Formerly’ because these services have now been extended 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.    

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 three 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. 

The benefits of pluralistic extensions are numerous- from the provision of more customised 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.  Meetha Sona Unnati has offered sugarcane farmers a new beginning- a hope for a better, brighter future ahead with better yield and increased revenue.