Scientists, Experts Securing the Future of Sustainability in Agriculture

Scientists and Agriculture experts in India under the banner of Solidaridad are working on securing the sustainability in agricultural sector, working on multiple commodities starting from Tea, Sugarcane, Cotton, Soyabean etc. The idea behind the initiative is to benefit the farmers adopting sustainable practices, so that the cost of production goes down and productivity enhancement can be raised.

Acclaimed international civil society organization, Solidaridad, along with its consortium of partners, brought together multiple stakeholders in a policy consultation event on Friday to deliberate on the moot issues and the way forward for sustainability in sugarcane farming in India. The diverse cross-sectoral participation led to a milieu of strategic discussions on creating an enabling environment for resource-efficient supply chains in the sugarcane industry.

India is the world’s largest consumer of sugar. The country’s sugarcane industry, second only to cotton in size, relies on more than six million smallholder farmers and countless labourers to produce its sugar. However, sugarcane farming is highly water-intensive, and recent years have witnessed significant depletion of ground water resources—threatening food security, economic growth and livelihoods of the farmers. 

Speaking to News Sense, Prashant Pastore, Head of Water and Sustainable Agriculture, Solidaridad, said, “We are working as a national organization and we work in a way so that farm can be grown sustainably in India. We work in different countries across the world, but our aim is to align with the national goals, so that the sustainability can help the country and its farming community.

The virtual advocacy event was designed to facilitate exchange of thoughts and ideas amongst sustainability practitioners, sugar companies, sugar mills, local and state governments, financial institutions and civil society organisations from India, Netherlands and across different parts of the world, working on a wide range of issues related to sustainable development, agriculture, water efficiency and business responsibility in the sugarcane sector. The event centred around influencing, advocating and exploring business and policy action strategies for sustainable and inclusive development in India’s agriculture sector. The emphasis was on taking learnings from current sustainable initiatives in India to develop recommendations on various thematic challenges, such as:

  • Income and food security of farmers in the context of water and climate change
  • Use of inclusive technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture
  • Access to finance for farmers to adopt mechanisation and water-efficient practices
  • Issues and opportunities with sustainable certification in India

The shared experience of implementing an FDW Sugarcane programme in India with a consortium of partners over the past years has led Solidaridad to take this step forward in building a platform to share the experiences and achievements from the programme. Supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), Solidaridad launched the water-efficient sugarcane production programme during 2014-2015 in the states of Karnataka and Telangana in India. The FDW Sugarcane programme on increasing water-use efficiency in sugarcane farming in India was one of the first public-private partnership (PPP) programmes. It is currently running in its sixth year of implementation on the ground. 

Implemented by Solidaridad, the PPP programme comprises of sugarcane companies, such as NSL Sugars Limited and Natems Sugar Private Limited and their respective sugar mills; knowledge partners Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) and Osmania University; and technological partner eLEAF, which facilitates satellite mapping of the sugarcane plots for information on water, crop, crop-water productivity through robust monitoring systems.

The programme aims to address over-exploitation of groundwater resources and alternatively focus on water-efficient practices. The objective of the FDW Sugarcane programme is to create a comprehensive and powerful impact at the ground level to support 35,000 farmers in sustainable agricultural practices by providing regular agriculture and financial literacy trainings, exposure visits to different sugarcane growing states, support in the uptake of latest technologies, development of local entrepreneurs and building robust infrastructures. The programme has so far been able to increase sugarcane productivity, reduce production cost and raise the farmers’ income from sugarcane production in the two states.