July 27, 2012

By E. Niven

Vidarbha, located in Maharashtra region in central India, is famous for producing cotton, oranges and soybeans. Crops are predominantly rain fed. And when the region endures frequent droughts, the crop yields and farmers’ incomes drop. Lack of alternative sources of income coupled with increasing family expenses and failed farmer investments results in poverty among the agrarian population.

Most farmers in Vidarbha are multi-generational family farmers and the farms are often subdivided among inheriting children. This practice leads to fragmentation and many small and marginal farms.

Monsanto launched Project V-Care into this environment to improve crop management practices, primarily through education and training in eight cotton districts.

Project V-Care has a three-pronged approach: it helps farmers establish better crop management with Bollgard II; it offers customized recommendations on fertilization; and it demonstrates the economic benefits of new and improved farming practices.

“We help farmers make customized adjustments in planting, like with seed density and spacing,” said B. Yogesh, business development lead for Monsanto in India. “And, we help them access the information to determine timing of fertilizer application. With a good harvest, farmers can make appropriate on-farm investments, like irrigation equipment and technologies.”

Investment in irrigation equipment means that farmers are looking at their farms with renewed commitment and long-term plans. Project V-Care literally wants to plant the seeds for farmers to see the path to prosperity.

Project V-Care brought together 300 dealers and 50 cotton-seed distributors as well as scientists from Maharashtra’s agricultural universities. The Monsanto team in the Vidarbha region met with the farmers regularly during the growing season. They provided recommendations based on the crop’s stage and condition in the field and contributions and inputs from the dealers, distributors, scientists.

“Farmers are witnessing the change brought by technology. It has started changing their mentality of acceptance and it will contribute a lot in their overall development,” said Dr. PR Zaver, associate research scientist at the Cotton Research Station at Marathwada Agriculture University. “This project should be taken to the next level and resourced for better reach to fellow farmers of Vidarbha,”

In its first year, Project V-care produced outstanding results for the 1,200 participating farmers: a 42 percent increase in cotton production and a 15 percent increase in earnings per acre. Farmers were elated.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” said Dadarao Ganaptrao Dhale, a cotton farmer from Golegaon Village. “Our harvest for cotton was better than it has ever been. As a result, we will be able to install an irrigation system for part of our farm. With good results next year, we will have a complete system.”

In addition, the Monsanto team has committed to Project V-Care growth by naming 250 of the most influential “Farmer’s Friends,” and having each one contact at least 50 more farmers to spread the knowledge to more than 12,500 additional cotton farmers.

These Farmer’s Friends were selected based on their credibility in their villages, ability to influence, and progressiveness and willingness to help their fellow farmers. They also committed time to training and sharing knowledge.

Project V-Care instills a sense of self reliance through improved farming practices. The Monsanto team is helping farmers move forward on a path of successful farming, reinvesting in their farms and sharing their knowledge. In this way, farmers can take better care of their families and their communities.

Originally published July 11, 2012 by Monsantoco