A voice for emerging Indian farmers

Posted on by on November 9th, 2012 | 0 Comments »

The Global Harvest Initiative believes it is important to share the voice of developing country farmers, learn from their experience, and understand what they need to improve productivity. This post profiles Rajesh Kumar, a farmer and entrepreneur from India who participated in GHI’s panel discussion following the release of its 2012 Global Agricultural Productivity® Report.

Chris Delgado and Rajesh Kumar at the Global Harvest Initiative GAP Report® release, October 17, 2012

Recognizing the potential of farming in India, Rajesh Kumar, an entrepreneur from Salem, India, chose to invest in a 5-acre farm growing sweet corn, a food crop not widely consumed in India. Rajesh also earned a degree in business management and is continuing his family business.

“People who stay on the farm have much greater potential to grow [their business] because food prices have been going up now. And this, again, has been pulling [people who moved to cities] back to the farm … because they are getting good prices and productivity has gone up.” Rajesh said at the 2012 Global Agricultural Productivity® Report (GAP Report ®) announcement.

From a single kiosk, Rajesh sold fresh, grilled, and steamed sweet corn directly to consumers, which expanded in five years to 450 kiosks. Now, he farms 120 acres in two regions of India, using drip and flood irrigation to grow brinjal (eggplant), sweet corn, baby corn, tomatoes and other vegetables; he also runs a food processing unit for canning vegetables and engages in contract farming among 350 other farmers.

Rajesh spoke at numerous events during the 2012 Borlaug Dialogue, including the Global Harvest Initiative’s release of its 2012 Global Agricultural Productivity® Report (GAP Report®). At the 2012 GAP Report announcement, Rajesh said that smallholder farmers can be integrated into effective systems of production and markets. But helping them connect to larger markets can be a challenge. Increasingly smallholders are working with larger producers in contract farming agreements to participate in urban based retail opportunities. With access to information about market conditions made possible with cellphone technologies, and with guaranteed buyers and increasing demand for food in Indian urban markets, smallholders have an opportunity to increase their incomes.

Rajesh Kumar on a panel, Waste Not, Want Not: Solutions for Reducing Post Harvest Loss, at The World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue

Rajesh first came to Iowa in 2009 to attend the Global Farmers Roundtable, held by Truth about Trade & Technology, in conjunction with the World Food Prize Foundation Borlaug Dialogue. He talked to farmers from Iowa, Australia, Honduras, South Africa, and elsewhere, who understood his challenges and helped him see his opportunities. That visit to Iowa changed his life and his farm.

There, Rajesh met farmers using the latest technology to increase yields and decrease inputs, including pesticides. Embracing science-based technology and learning about best practices allowed him to expand his own operation and open a sweet corn processing plant with a group of local farmers.

In 2012, Rajesh was invited back to Iowa, this time to be honored with the 2012 Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award by Truth about Trade & Technology and CropLife International. The award recognizes one person each year for advancing farmers’ access to science-based around the world.

Dr. Margaret Zeigler, GHI executive director, with Rajesh Kumar in Iowa

Meeting growing food demand in India and throughout the South and Southeast Asia regions will take investment, creativity, collaboration, and real commitment to science-based knowledge and practice. Innovation from every level – farmers and pastoralists, national governments, the private sector, civil society organizations – is required to continue the accelerated productivity growth needed every year through 2050 to close the global agricultural productivity gap.

Learn more about Rajesh by reading his op-ed in the Des Moines Register and Truth about Trade & Technology blog post, and watching the GHI GAP Report event:

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