Harvesting Opportunities: Improving Small and Marginal Farmer Livelihoods

Building Institutions | Mar, 2014

60% of Indians make their living from the agriculture sector. Yet 86% of Indian farm households earn less than USD 1 per day per capita, which means making ends meet becomes a daily struggle. Dasra’s report, Harvesting Opportunities, explores the problem of failing agriculture in India.

The contribution of agriculture growth has fallen from 30% in 1990-91 to 15% in 2011-12, when the rest of India’s economy stood at a growth rate of 7.6%. This has created a growing group of small and marginal farmers, who own 86% of landholdings but whose average size is less than 2 hectares per holding, live in abject poverty. Nearly 50% of India’s farmers are indebted to formal or informal lenders, while 51% of them lack access to formal lending. This has contributed to pushing over 270,000 farmers to commit suicide, between 2005 and 2011.

The report recommends improving market linkages and making the market more efficient in order to ensure competitive prices for both farmers and end consumers. This requires addressing insufficient infrastructure, unnecessary intermediaries, and high transaction costs for farmers. It is also important to boost productivity by improving soil quality, water supply, providing modern equipment and irrigation facilities that suit Indian conditions, and providing more support for farmers in terms of access to information, credit, and new techniques that would improve their experiences. 

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