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Improving Agriculture and Livestock

Farmers in the region generally use traditional or indigenous methods but are adopting unsustainable practices, for example high use of chemicals and diversification to include quick cash-return crops. These and other indigenous farming methods are becoming unviable as they are leading to low productivity and increased land and water degradation. Farmers also face increasing variation in climate and weather patterns which can result in crop loss. The challenge is to make agriculture more resilient, thus sustaining food production and possibly giving farmers some income, without causing further damage to the environment.

Livestock rearing is another dominant livelihood activity practised by most families in the region. Nearly all families own small and large ruminants,

including goats. Tribal communities also rear ‘country’ chickens (desi birds). For these families, keeping animals represents a means of saving to protect against crop failure or family crisis.

Between 80 and 100% of people in the region’s rural areas, in particular the poor, are directly dependent on common lands such as forests, pastures and wastelands (i.e. non-productive land) for their livelihood and cultural practices. They depend on these commons on a daily basis for fodder to feed their livestock and other non-timber forest products (NTFP) for their own consumption and to supplement their meagre income.

Seva Mandir works with farmers to enable them to utilise their farmland in the most efficient manner with the best possible agriculture practices. To utilise existing farmland to its optimal capacity, following watershed or ridge-to-valley treatment, soil and water conservation activities are undertaken to ensure the fertility of soil and enhance moisture. Irrigation facilities are also provided through water recharge, and water pumping and distribution systems, to ensure a constant supply of water for crops.

Seva Mandir provides a community-based agri-extension service through trained agriculture workers called ‘Krishi-karyakartas,’ who act as facilitators to encourage farmers to adopt the best agricultural practices in relation to grains, pulses and vegetables, fruit trees and livestock. Using the Farmer Field School approach, regular farm demonstrations and training programmes in production enhancement techniques are conducted (including preservation of seeds through community seed banks, preparation of nurseries and organic fertilisers, sowing methods, weeding and hoeing, harvesting and storage).

To make livelihoods more resilient to climate change, farmers are encouraged to grow fruit trees. Although they take longer to bear than field crops, they ensure a steady income when other crops are failing as a result of an erratic monsoon or drought. Since livestock rearing is also a viable income source in times of crisis, we provide regular training in livestock management, feed improvement and health vaccination camps, with the assistance of the government veterinary department, to improve productivity as well as reducing mortality rates and the prevalence of disease. Night shelters for chickens and sheds for cattle are built to protect them from predation and extreme weather.


We have benefited 80,000 farmers through our integrated livelihood interventions, and we have seen that agricultural productivity has been improved by 40-60% and livestock productivity by 30-50%.

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