Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture

March 2018 – Agroecological Value Chains – Last date 1st February 2018

Most agricultural research and extension efforts are focused on increasing crop and livestock production, in order to improve farm incomes and food availability. Often, however, the initial gains from improved production are negated by losses that occur during or after harvest. A March 2015 report of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)—Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET)—in Ludhiana showed that the cumulative percentage of post-harvest losses of cereals was low in the range of 4.65–5.99 per cent while that of pulses was between 6.36–8.41 per cent and oil seeds 3.08–9.96 per cent, amounting to a whopping financial loss of Rs. 92,651 crore.

Small holder farmers, who form the majority of the farming population produce both for self- consumption and for the market. They are not only threatened by climate changes more than anybody else, but also have to deal with  the other major challenge – access to reliable and remunerative markets. The many benefits that farmers accrue by practising agro ecological methods, like safe produce, less cost intensive and climate resilience etc., gets offset by lack of adequate post-harvest storage infrastructure, low cost processing and value addition options.

Food products are often processed on the farm in order to make them less susceptible to pests and unfavourable climatic conditions.  This prolongs a product’s life and also adds value. Today many efforts are being made to process products for local, national or international markets, in the hope that the processed product may fetch the farmer a better price.

In recent times, there has been a spurt in innovative value chains. New agricultural markets are emerging. There are several initiatives to connect the farmer with the consumer. There are different forms of farmer organisations and collectives to deal with the markets. This issue will look at the ways in which farmers can become more resilient in the face of price fluctuations, climate change, or hostile institutions. What strategies do farmers and their organisations employ to meet the challenges posed by the corporate domination of agricultural markets? This issue will examine the policies and institutional frameworks needed to make value systems work for poor farmers, and how the development of local markets and local value chains can improve rural livelihoods in a sustainable way. This also implies strengthening the autonomy of family farmers and enhancing multifunctionality on agro-ecological farms.

Articles for the March 2018 issue of LEISA India should be sent to the editors before 1st February 2018. Email: leisaindia@yahoo.co.in