Crop Technologies for Marginalized Smallholders
Source: Flickr, CIMMYT

In a new book edited by Franz W. Gatzweiler and Joachim von Braun entitled Technological and Institutional Innovations for Marginalized Smallholders in Agricultural Development, researchers analyze possibilities and opportunities for the improvement of the livelihoods of the rural poor.  The book focuses on the joint challenges of the increasing need for better diets for a growing population as well as climate change and environmental sustainability. Marginalized are not only need better diets but are suffering from lack of resources to improve production. Eighty percent of the small farmers of the world are located in Asia, and in this case, they represent the most important source of employment among the poor. However, smallholders remain marginalized due to limited access to inputs, markets and the quality of the value chain as a whole. In India, even if major improvements have been seen in the past three decades, poverty, hunger and malnutrition still are heavily present in the rural areas, with income inequality when comparable to their urban counterparts.

In particular, the third part of the book provides examples of sustainable intensification on different crops. In Chapter 18, IFPRI authors PK Joshi, Devesh Roy, Vinay Sonkar, and Gurav Tripathi present the “Technologies for Maize, Wheat, Rice, and Pulses in Marginal Districts of Bihar and Odisha”.  The authors analyze the possibilities for the application of new technologies for these crops, the reasons behind slow or poor adoption, and the complementary inputs that can affect the success of the technologies.  Marginal areas of the two states were considered crop-specific and represented districts that lagged behind other districts in the state in terms of productivity for these crops.  The authors give an overview of the technologies available for each of the crops in these areas (such as hybrid maize, varietal substitution, mechanized direct-seeded rice, zero tillage wheat, laser land leveling, and intercropping of pulses).  The authors discuss in detail the benefits of each type of technology as well as the constraints to adoption in these regions. 

The authors find that significant progress on adoption could be made if there were gains in marketing and storage infrastructure.  Both market access and storage options lag behind other states for Bihar and Odisha.  Addressing this need will be important for bargaining power as the central government does not procure grains here and the farm gate prices are below the minimum support price (MSP); with low prices, investments in production-enhancing technology are often not possible.  Almost all technologies were found to be hindered by limited extension services and missing complementary inputs.  In particular, there was a significant lack of knowledge on agricultural technology, and this was especially the case in Odisha. 

Not surprisingly then, the authors also found a dissonance between the experts’ perceived potential and valuation from the farmers for the adoption of different technologies. Thus, a clear need for further technology promotion that take into account the aspirations of the farmers, taking a more holistic approach that includes the entire process from information to adoption support.

The book is free to download and is available here.

Photo credit:Flickr, CIMMYT