Fostering Rural Entrepreneurs Big Business in Mechanizing Small Farms

By empowering service providers with technologies that have a strong business case at every step along the value chain, CSISA works to facilitate the uptake of sustainable technologies that would otherwise be beyond the reach of most smallholder farmers.

Barsaprasad Hembram, a maize farmer from Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, purchased a variety of modern farm machines last year through a government scheme that gives farmers a 50 percent subsidy on tractors and auxiliary implements such as the seed drill. Today, Hembram uses his new farm equipment to provide agricultural custom-hire services to other farmers, charging US$ 14.35 per hour for the tiller. Not only does this service give Hembram additional income, it helps other smallholder farmers who cannot afford to buy machines on their own to reap the benefits of modern farming technologies.

India has a large number of smallholder farmers with less than 2 hectares, especially across eastern India, where the average landholding size is decreasing and ownership of machines by smallholder farmers is often not economically viable. To help bridge the gap between the demand for new technologies and the supply of those services, CSISA focuses on strengthening networks of service providers (SPs).

The concept of custom-hire service began evolving as farmers purchased conservation agriculture machines including zero-till seed drills, laser land levelers, rice transplanters, bed planters and threshing machines.

During the last three years, CSISA has facilitated more than 1,900 progressive farmers in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Odisha to become SPs and has been building their capacities through trainings on relevant knowledge and skills, such as conservation agriculture, small-scale machinery, business development services and financial management to help them track their income, expenditures and hectares serviced. After creating a network of SPs, CSISA links them with the State Department of Agriculture and a variety of important private sector actors.

When you ask Parmanand Pandey, a progressive farmer and service provider from Khairi village in Bihar’s Samastipur district, why he left conventional agricultural practices; why he bought a mechanical transplanter for rice, bed planter for maize and zero tillage machine for wheat; and why he listened to CSISA in the first place, he simply answers, “With a single machine I can cover 35 acres; with a plow I cannot.”

CSISA’s survey of service providers in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh found that subsidy-based interventions helped farmers acquire new machines, but often farmers’ lack of knowledge on how to use the machines forced many to abandon them. In this scenario, a strong network of SPs, enables farmers to adopt mechanization not only to intensify their cropping systems but also to improve their productivity by undertaking the timely sowing and harvesting of crops.

The survey also showed that SPs are well-positioned to deliver new technologies in part because they represent the same communities they are serving and because they can reduce the transaction costs associated with adopting new technologies.

Impact in Numbers

CSISA supports a network of more than 1,900 mechanized service providers across India.

Across Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh hub districts, over 50,000 hectares of ZT wheat were sown by CSISA-supported service providers in 2013-14, reflecting an area increase of 42 percent over the previous year.

Written and edited by: Anuradha Dhar, Ashwamegh Banerjee and Cynthia Mathys. Photo credits: Ashwamegh Banerjee, Srikanth Kolari, Vinaynath Reddy, Satish Kumar, Suryakanta Khandai and Wasim Iftikar. Copyright © the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), 2015. All rights reserved. Any opinions, boundaries and names stated herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily representative of or endorsed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) or its partner organizations. Fair use of this material is encouraged. Proper citation is requested.

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