Theme 1. Soil Fertility

Declining soil fertility is one of the major constraints to agricultural production and rural livelihoods in India. The intensification of production methods has caused a decline in organic matter, soil structure and soil nutrient status with a consequent reduction in crop vigour and productivity. This has been accompanied by a growing scarcity of water resources due to increasing demand for water for domestic and industrial uses. The problem has been compounded by inefficient use of water in agriculture and the major losses from degraded irrigation systems. Farmers usually have detailed knowledge of their environment and soils based on both indigenous knowledge and empirical observations. However, there are areas where farmers’ understanding is more limited. For example, their knowledge of soil chemical processes is more limited than their knowledge of physical properties. Recent innovative research into integrated nutrient management has attempted to increase the involvement of farmers in the research process and this has led to enhanced understanding of soil fertility processes. Information materials on soil fertility from earlier projects are available and can be adapted readily for use in electronic multi-media.

Theme 2. Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

One of the key constraints to crop production for subsistence farmers, and a major threat to the livelihoods of their families, is the reduction in yields due to damage caused by pests, diseases and weeds.  Unfortunately, inappropriate chemical-based control strategies are widely promoted causing a variety of problems including environmental pollution, damage to human health and the build-up of resistant strains of pests, diseases and weeds.  Integrated pest management is an approach that offers a viable alternative strategy that integrates technical control options with an understanding of the agro-biological, sociological and economic context in which farmers operate.  The fundamental aim is to create as unfavourable an environment for noxious organisms as possible through the production of pest- and disease-resistant cultivars and through farming practices that make the field environment less attractive to pests.  Pesticides are only used as a last resort, where no other options are available, and based on clearly prescribed guidelines.

Theme 3. Post-harvest

Post-harvest activities can contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation, food security and nutrition. They are no longer regarded as just on-farm activities, but include the harvesting, handling, storage, processing, packaging, transportation and marketing of fresh produce and processed products.Thus post-harvest activities target reducing food losses, preserving the safety and quality of fresh produce and processed products, as well as adding value and hence increasing the income of farmers. The modern concept of ‘linking farmers to markets’ offers approaches to enable poor people to maximise economic benefit from agricultural production. New approaches and strategies that place emphasis on post-harvest development are vital if the agricultural sector is to increase economic returns and make a substantial contribution to the achievement of developmental goals.

Theme 4. Livestock

The majority of people living in rural India keep livestock. Thus, livestock development interventions can benefit the poor directly, provided they are targeted at those kinds of livestock most widely owned by the poor. In most of rural India, goats and/or poultry are widely owned types of livestock for many categories of the poor, whether they own land or not. They are a valuable liquid asset and source of income for the rural poor, especially women, and may also be nutritionally significant. Backyard poultry provide cheap nutritious food to the family, can be used for entertaining guests or for cultural functions; and they contribute to family income. Income is often in the hands of women.