Cooperative Climate Smart Villages as driver for climate-smart agriculture in India

Climate change poses a significant challenge to agriculture in India, with changing weather patterns, poor soil conditions, and scarce water resources leading to social and economic inequalities. To ensure sustainable development, adaptation measures to climate change in rural areas are crucial. Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) play a vital role by enabling agricultural producer groups to collectively market their products and achieve better prices. FPOs facilitate access to credit, technology, and markets, particularly for disadvantaged women.

A promising approach that reduces the impacts of climate change while promoting sustainable agriculture in India is the concept of Climate Smart Villages (CSV). CSVs are FPO-driven transformation processes that introduce sustainable agricultural practices to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure sustainable food security.

Under the DGRV project in India, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), FPOs and federations have been promoted with cooperative expertise since 2018. Through the long-standing local partner organization APMAS, contact was established with the Luxembourg-based non-profit organization Aide à l’Enfance de l’Inde et du Népal (AEIN), which has been implementing projects to empower women in India since 1967. Since 2022, AEIN, APMAS, and the DGRV have been jointly supporting women-led FPOs on their path to becoming Climate Smart Villages in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In this agriculturally dominated region, extremely dry conditions caused by climate change have led to increasing crop losses and intensified rural outmigration.

In collaboration with APMAS, DGRV provides training and coaching on topics such as corporate governance, business planning, and the rights and obligations of members to promote the cooperative development of Climate Smart Village FPOs. Over 1400 farmers have already benefited from these trainings, as well as sessions on innovative cultivation methods like soil health, crop sequencing, organic fertilizers, and pest control. This approach strengthens the FPOs as cooperatives while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Through cooperative organization and the adoption of sustainable farming practices, individual farmers have already achieved positive results. FPOs enable their members to sell their products at fair prices and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and resources. Overall, cooperative Climate Smart Villages offer a promising opportunity to reduce the impacts of climate change and improve the livelihoods of rural populations in India. The FPOs themselves become economically viable and contribute to the creation of a more sustainable and resilient future for rural communities.

Although skeptical at first, FPO members like smallholder farmer Smit Kavitha quickly showed positive results. Through training on natural farming methods in her FPO, she changed her conventional farming. She used neem oil against pests and compost instead of artificial fertilizers. The chilies, peanuts, melons, and tomatoes grown on her land thrived, and the fruits were larger and of higher quality. Pest infestations decreased, thanks to non-chemical fertilizers. Her yield increased by 15% over the previous harvest. With FPO support, she was able to sell her crop at good prices without middlemen. She plans to invest the profits in more alternative farming methods.

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