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Top CSR Initiatives Aimed at Improving Farmers’ Incomes in India

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In 2016, PM Narendra Modi announced the goal of ‘doubling the farmers’ income’ in the country by 2022 as compared to the base year 2015-16. The idea was to improve the lives of the farmers by the 75th year anniversary celebrations of India’s Independence fondly called as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic backlash caused because of it, India has not been able to meet the target.
While the incomes of the farmers have not doubled as yet, there have been efforts made across the countries by various entities to ensure that they are faring better. In this effort, India Incorporated has also played a significant role.

CSR Initiatives Improving Farmers’ Incomes in India

Apple Unnati Project by Coca-Cola India Private Limited (CCIPL)

A key pillar of Coca-Cola’s ESG priorities is the Company’s Fruit Circular Economy initiative in India, which aims to aid the Indian agri-ecosystem by enhancing farming efficiency, strengthening forward linkages, and building food-processing capacity in the country, addressing challenges of low farm productivity, poor technology adoption and fruit wastage in the horticulture sector. Coca-Cola recognizes farmers to be its true suppliers for key ingredients and values the partnership by focusing on their overall well-being.
Along with partner organizations, Coca-Cola India has been working with fruit farmers since 2011, under the Company’s flagship project – Unnati, which currently covers 5 fruits – Mango, Apple, Orange, Grapes and Litchi and priority commodities like sugarcane. The project has been successfully extended to 11 states, spread across nearly 1,00,000 acres, and 2000+ demo farms while benefiting 350,000+ farmers so far. Coca-Cola India’s plan for the next three years is to cumulatively benefit 500,000+ farmers through training and capacity building.
The state of Uttarakhand has appropriate climatic conditions for cultivation of apples. Despite this, the productivity in the state was abysmal. CCIPL teamed with Indo Dutch Horticulture Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (IDHT) as its Implementation Partner of Project Apple- Unnati in Uttarakhand to promote the well-being of farmer communities, boost yields, and propagate sensible use of natural resources.
The Project Apple Unnati aimed to increase apple productivity in India, particularly in Uttarakhand, by introducing global best practices, primarily focusing on ultra-high-density plantation (UHDP), resulting in a significant increase in quality, productivity, and profitability per unit of land, and thus significantly increasing farmers’ income. This in turn was also expected to serve as a stimulus for India’s apple production to become self-sufficient.
In the traditional method, apple trees are planted at a distance of 5-7 metres, whereas in the HDP method it is done at every one metre. In traditional methods, it is difficult to get a crop for harvesting even after six years but in UHDP method it was possible to get the crop from second year onwards with yields expected to go up to 50 kg per tree from fifth year, which is unimaginable, he added. Due to early maturity and better returns, many farmers in Uttarakhand are taking up this new method of apple cultivation.
About 700-odd acres of apple orchards have already been developed since the launch of the Unnati apple project in 2018 in the state, Coca-Cola INSWA, CSR and Sustainability Senior Manager Aditya Panda said.
Thanks to this project, the income among the farming community has increased to 8-10 lakh per year. After almost ten years of extensive research, by implementing the learnings from visiting countries like France, Italy and the Netherlands the project has catapulted the farming community’s future into an aspirational one, far away from despair, as perceived by many.
Ms. Poonam Gaur
Ms. Poonam Gaur
Ms. Poonam Gaur, a farmer from Sunali village in Purola, Uttarakhand was a cancer survivor. Prior to joining Unnati Apple, she tended to traditional field crop. Along with training her for our Unnati apple plantation, we provided her with an 80% subsidy to establish her farm. Our trainers regularly visited and set up an apple orchard on her farmland. With the profuse amount of flowering, in the first year of the plantation, she was excited to take it forward. Poonam shares, that working in the orchard and seeing the flowers, fruit set, and the visible progress of her work gave her the optimism to fight cancer and keep her spirits high. In the first year of harvest, she was able to achieve a yield of 10 tons/acre which is more than the national average for peak production of 8 tons/acre which comes in the 8th to 10th year of plantation in case of a traditional setup. This is more than the 5X returns, that is an average achieved by the FCE initiative. She was appreciated by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand for her dedication and hard work and for the miracle she created, which will set an example for other farmers in the region. She shared: “This year I have sold apples worth Rs 2.5 lakhs. I also received felicitation from Chief-Minister Shri Pushkar Singh as well. I request all farmers to adopt these new technologies as it this will help double apple production in the region.”
Mr. Vijendra Rana
Mr. Vijendra Rana
Mr. Vijendra Rana, a farmer from Purola, Uttarakhand, shared “I was one of the earliest Unnati Apple farmer. I set up this orchard in May 2019 and by August 2020 I have been able to recover my initial investment. I have earned about 1.69 lakhs in one year. I am very happy with this initiative and want to thank Coca-Cola India and Indo Dutch for their encouragement and guidance. It is due to their efforts that our entire area is now adopting these new technologies. It’s my belief this will help address the challenge of youth migration as well.”

Project Utthan by Coal India Limited

Poverty and the vicious cycle of debt had wreaked havoc on 27,000 farmer families in the coal mining districts of Angul, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur and Sundargarh. But things began to change in 2019 with ‘Utthan’, a community development programme initiated by Mahanadi Coalfields, a subsidiary of Coal India Limited (CIL).
In 40 villages, the Rs 20.3 crore CSR project has assisted in the conversion of barren lands into high-yielding assets and the creation of sustainable farm livelihoods, benefiting roughly 25,000 people. The project has not only improved the economic situation of 6,200 disadvantaged SC/ ST/ OBC families, but it has also established a model for agriculture sector development that is being copied by the state’s larger population. “The interventions made by Utthan are bearing positive results in terms of livelihood,” says B. Sairam, executive director (CSR), CIL.
Wadi cultivation, a new farming strategy that involves intercropping with seasonal vegetables and horticulture, has been embraced under this project (mango, lemon and custard apple, etc). Utthan has benefited 6,500 farmer households. The goal of the CSR programme, according to CIL, was to improve the socioeconomic status of 27,000 SC/ ST/ OBC people living in the project region. Utthan, which is being phased in by the Pune-based non-profit BAIF (formerly Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation), aims to create sustainable livelihoods through a variety of innovative farm-sector interventions in agriculture, dairy, goatery, mushroom cultivation, backyard poultry, fodder development, and other areas.
By boosting sanitation, education, and menstrual hygiene, Utthan also hopes to build capacity and improve overall quality of life. In the long run, the project hopes to demonstrate a self-sufficient and inclusive development model that can be replicated by the rest of the world.
Apart from farming, Utthan is also assisting in the development of water storage facilities. To contain runoff water and prevent seepage, ponds are dug and the base coated with polythene sheets. Utthan has installed solar pumps in villages to assist lower the cost of farming. A self-help group of farmers who benefited from the project runs these.
Farmers pay 10% of the cost of components (fertiliser, plants, fencing material, etc.) and 40% of the cost of labour for Wadi development. Farmers contribute a bigger percentage of labour costs to encourage households to provide free labour and reduce man-day losses.
Utthan had already established 244 wadis, transforming 122 acres of barren ground into thriving crops. A total of 935 paddy farmers saw a 15-20% increase in production. Over the following five years, Utthan hopes to expand coverage to 2,500 paddy growers.
Because vegetable growing is such an important part of Utthan’s economy, farmers are being trained to use innovative techniques, such as trellis cultivation, to increase productivity. This effort alone has benefited more than 500 families. Water collection, surface storage (50 new ponds storing 4 million litres), and the installation of eight solar pumps have boosted irrigation potential on at least 50 acres. Additionally, nearly 800 families are benefiting from animals through dairy, goatery, and poultry operations, while 600 families have established kitchen gardens to raise nutritious vegetables.

Project UANAT by UAIL

Aditya Birla Group’s Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL) project “UANAT (Utkal’s Action for Agricultural Transformation)” launched in collaboration with Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF), is making a transformative change to the lives of more than 15,000 rural households of Kashipur Block in Rayagada district and Thuamul Rampur Block of Kalahandi district in Odisha through farm-based livelihood interventions.
Launched in 2021, UANAT has so far impacted 5000 households of small and marginal farmers through farm intensive interventions. In Kashipur and Thuamul Rampur blocks, 44 Producer Groups (PGs) have been formed with 5,257 farmers as members. This helps forge community ownership.
UANAT programme converges with potential Government programmes like MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), Odisha Livelihood Mission, ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency), National Horticulture Mission, Watershed Development Programs, OLIC (Odisha Lift Irrigation Corporation) and OAIC(Odisha Agro-Industry Corporation).These are in sync with the UNSDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals). No poverty, zero hunger and self-reliance are the final goals.
Briefing on its economic benefits, Mazhar Beig, the Unit Head of Utkal Alumina shares that, “Since its implementation, UANAT has enabled generate an average additional annual income of Rs.31,700 per farmer. The earnings from potato cultivation is recorded at Rs.16000 for every farmer for every season while that of mushroom is Rs.3000 every month. In the last year itself Rs.324.50 lakh have been garnered from various Government schemes and programs at both these blocks. These encouraging results have instilled confidence among the stakeholders.
“As many as 33 Agri-entrepreneurs have been identified from the operational villages and their grooming and capacity building is under progress. These agri-entrepreneurs will become the catalyst of change and serve the community in various fields like Custom Hiring Centres, one-stop solution for Livestock (vaccine, feed, and equipment), aggregation of agri-produce and its marketing”, avers Mr Beig.
Adds Kuldeep Singh, COO, BRLF, “To execute the program at ground level, Centre for Youth and Social Development CYSD is working in Kashipur and Janasahajya in Thuamul Rampur as partners to BRLF. Under this project till date, 15 CRLP (Cluster River Lift Point), 7 DBIs (Diversion based irrigations), 7 Canals, 14 Farm Ponds are being converged from Government departments to provide access to irrigation to the farmers to take up multi-crop farming. Poultry, Potato and Mushroom have been promoted as Agri-cluster at Kashipur whereas Onion, Vegetables, Sunflower are emerging as potential agri-production clusters at Thuamul Rampur area. 314 households have been covered under NTFP (Non-Timber Forest Produce) interventions. Siali Leaf cluster development, marketing and value addition of Tamarind are taken as the potential crop for interventions under NTFP. Backyard poultry farming, vaccination of goats are taken as potential interventions under Livestock initiative of project UANAT and as on date 731 families are covered under this initiative”.

Introduction of Food Cropping by Ambuja Cement Foundation and Indusind Bank

As many as 35 farmers from Farakka in West Bengal have each made over Rs.1 lakh in profits by switching to strawberry cultivation. The crop was introduced to the agrarians by Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), the corporate social responsibility arm of Ambuja Cements Ltd., in partnership with IndusInd Bank, as part of a pilot project in 2020-21.
The foundation helped set up the necessary infrastructure for the crop and imparted the training to farmers to grow the fruit. The objective behind the intervention was to raise farmers’ income.
Marketing was an important item on the agenda, so the foundation initiated a market survey. At first, they visited local retail fruit shops and markets and contacted shopping malls in peripheral areas. It later initiated discussions across locations to explore the market.
Considering that strawberry is a perishable product, the foundation scouted for a more tolerable variety that lasts long and offers improved yields. The farmers, it was observed, had become adept at growing strawberries. A year ago, some farmers were urged to take up strawberry cultivation and the learnings from it was that it could help them earn a lump sum within 2-3 months. As a result, ACF decided to scale up strawberry production. An order of 40,000 plants was placed for 35 farmers, with the number of plants ordered being four times last year.
Mr. Neeraj Akhoury, CEO India Holcim and Managing Director & CEO of Ambuja Cements Ltd., said, “We observed that the people living in rural areas need greater access to economic development. This is more so in the case of our agrarians—a majority of who are fragmented and landless. Economic development of our farmers can end poverty in India’s hinterland. Our focus was to target farmers with assured irrigation and other facilities so that they can earn their livelihood.”
Laxmipur village fulfils the criteria of assured irrigation, where a plantation in a two-acre area tended by six farmers was started. Prior to this, the farmers were trained on soil preparation and management. The farmers planted up to 12,000 plants per acre. Plant spacing, use of polyethene mulching and application of liquid fertilizer, vitamins through spray were ensured through intensive day to day monitoring.
After nurturing for over one month, the plants—and the fruit—in the plot matured, to which farmers expressed their surprise. In a week, strawberry production reached one quintal.
Initially farmers earned Rs.350 per kg from their produce. The farmers promoted and started sale of strawberry in the local market and in the adjacent district markets of Malda and Raiganj on a daily basis. Production hit a peak of 50 kg per day during January and mid-February.
As temperatures increased in the summer months, production gradually declined. The farmers are currently producing 450 kg of strawberry per 0.33 acre on average, with each famer making a profit of around Rs.1 lakh. In total, 158 quintals of the fruit was grown that netted a profit of Rs.39.62 lakh. The bulk of the profits were made during November to February.
The farmers are now demanding additional plants and ACF has assured to supply them 1 lakh plants for the upcoming season.