By Robin Gomes
Caritas India, the social arm of the Catholic Church in India has launched an agricultural project to help improve the food and nutritional security of small farmers across South Asia.
Called the Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network or SAFBIN, the initiative is being backed by Caritas Austria and Caritas Switzerland.
Mutual sharing and learning
Presented at a ceremony in New Delhi on July 31, SAFBIN is based on research carried out by smallholder farmers themselves, helping them adapt their methods to increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions.
Farmers in SAFBIN first study the local environment and agrarian economy to pin-point specific problems caused by climate change. They identify locally acceptable solutions and test them to arrive at the best option. Mutual sharing, learning and pro-active problem solving between farmers, agricultural scientists and governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are at the core of the Caritas project.
SAFBIN, that will run from 2018-2022, aims to benefit 10,000 farmers in India and almost 40,000 across South Asia.
Farmers' associations and collectives
An invited guest at the launch, Dr. T Haque, former chairman of land policy in Niti Aayog and former commissioner of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), pointed out that the whole of South Asia depends on small farmers, whose annual income is less than $1,000 per head. At the same time, South Korean or Japanese farmers easily earn five figure incomes annually because these two countries have established numerous farmer associations that share their know-how. “This is something SAFBIN incorporates into its strategy,” Haque said.
Father Paul Moonjely, Executive Director of Caritas India said Indian smallholder farmers are crucial in achieving the nation's food and nutritional security goals. Through SAFBIN, Caritas India aims to create a safety net for smallholder farmers, by creating farmers collectives and securing their assets.
Fr. Moonjely also suggested that by generating demand in the marketplace for small-farm products and directly linking urban consumers to rural producers, SAFBIN will help in both promoting agro-biodiversity and preserving the environment.
At the end of the launch ceremony, a basketful of seeds was presented to those present as a token of the SAFBIN project. (Source: Caritas India)