Transforming Rural India Through Agricultural Innovation
Friday, February 28, 2014
With a majority of its population living in villages, rural poverty is a major problem in India. The disparity between the urban and rural incomes is also on the rise. This leads to migration to urban areas resulting in urban blight as well. Therefore addressing the problem of rural poverty assumes urgency. On my last trip to India, I witnessed an innovation experiment, National Agro Foundation (NAF), that addresses this wicked problem.
Since its inception in 2000, NAF has been involved in a range of interventions—infusion of technology, soil enrichment, efficient farm and water management, improved cattle development, functional literacy, rural sanitation and public health, human resource development, establishment of self-help groups particularly among women, self-employment opportunities and facilitating institutional credit—to address the problem of farm productivity in India. Founded by Mr. C Subramaniam on his 90th birthday as a parting gift to his country, the NAF focuses on the poor and marginal farmers, women, unemployed youth, and depressed communities. (Mr. Subramaniam is widely acclaimed as the Father of the Green Revolution in India, because in the mid-1960s, as the Minister for Food and Agriculture, he successfully handled a major food crisis).
NAF works in about 250 villages in Tamilnadu and has reached 30,000 rural families. A large part of NAF’s effort with farmers is to help break their initial emotional barriers to new technologies. This has provided the platform to launch into other initiatives. The success of these measures has had a demonstrative impact on the farmers’ willingness to adopt and internalize new technologies. This may be considered an attitudinal breakthrough.