India Region

India Bets on ‘Krishi Sakhis’ to Transform Agriculture

19 June 2024, New Delhi: In a bold move to transform India’s agricultural landscape, the government is banking on an innovative program that places women at the forefront of extension services. The ‘Krishi Sakhi Convergence Program’ (KSCP), a collaborative initiative between the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare and the Ministry of Rural Development, aims to create a cadre of 3 crore ‘Lakhpati Didis’ (Women Millionaires) – a key component of which is the Krishi Sakhi.

On June 18, 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a significant step in this direction by granting certificates to over 30,000 self-help group members, officially designating them as ‘Krishi Sakhis’ – women agricultural extension workers. This marks a watershed moment in India’s efforts to empower rural women and catalyze a turnaround in the agricultural sector.

Training and Empowering Krishi Sakhis

The genesis of the Krishi Sakhi program lies in the recognition of the pivotal role women play in India’s agrarian economy. Comprising nearly 70% of the agricultural workforce, women are the backbone of the country’s food production system. Yet, they have long been underutilized and undervalued in the extension services that drive technological adoption and productivity enhancement.

“Krishi Sakhis are the ideal choice as agriculture extension workers,” explains a senior official from the Ministry of Agriculture. “They are experienced farmers themselves, with deep roots in their communities. Their grassroots understanding and rapport make them welcomed and respected advisors, trusted by their peers.”

The KSCP aims to harness this innate advantage by providing Krishi Sakhis with comprehensive training and certification as para-extension workers. The 56-day program equips them with expertise across a wide range of modules, including agro-ecological practices, integrated farming systems, soil health management, livestock care, and even basic communication skills.

Importantly, the curriculum also places a strong emphasis on natural farming and soil rejuvenation, aligning with the government’s broader vision of sustainable agriculture. “We want Krishi Sakhis to be at the forefront of promoting climate-smart, eco-friendly farming practices,” says the senior official from the Ministry of Agriculture. “Their role as change agents will be crucial in ushering in a new era of agricultural transformation.”

Earning Potential and Transformative Impact

After rigorous training and proficiency testing, the certified Krishi Sakhis will be empowered to provide a diverse range of paid services to farmers under various central schemes. Their activities will span soil sample collection, organization of Farmer Field Schools, establishment of seed banks, promotion of integrated farming systems, and even facilitation of credit and crop insurance linkages.

“The resource fees that Krishi Sakhis can earn through these activities are quite substantial,” notes an official from the Ministry of Rural Development. “On average, they can make between ₹60,000 to ₹80,000 per year, which is a life-changing opportunity for rural women.”

The program has already been rolled out in 12 states in Phase 1, including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and the North-Eastern region. As of now, 34,000 Krishi Sakhis have been certified as para-extension workers, with plans to scale up the initiative nationwide in the coming years.

A Bold Step Towards Aatmanirbhar Krishi

One such success story is that of Meena, a 35-year-old from Rajasthan’s Baran district. “I was always passionate about farming, but lacked the technical know-how to improve my yields,” she says. “The Krishi Sakhi training has been a game-changer for me. I now have the skills and confidence to not only better my own farm, but also guide my fellow villagers on sustainable agricultural practices.”

Meena is currently earning around ₹70,000 per year by providing services under schemes like the Soil Health Card program, the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm, and the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization. “The income has made me financially independent and allowed me to invest in my family’s well-being. I’m proud to be a Krishi Sakhi and want to inspire other women to follow in my footsteps.”

The impact of the Krishi Sakhi program goes beyond individual empowerment. It holds the potential to catalyze a sweeping transformation in India’s agricultural sector, which has long grappled with challenges like stagnant productivity, resource depletion, and farmer distress.

The program’s emphasis on natural farming and soil health management is especially crucial, as India strives to build a sustainable food system resilient to the impacts of climate change. “Krishi Sakhis will be at the forefront of promoting regenerative agriculture practices that rejuvenate the land and secure our food future,” the official adds.

Moreover, the initiative aligns with the government’s broader vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Krishi’ (self-reliant agriculture), which seeks to empower farmers and reduce dependency on external inputs. By equipping Krishi Sakhis with skills in integrated farming, seed sovereignty, and value-addition, the program aims to foster self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship at the grassroots level.

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