Launching the Bhoochetana Timeline
In May 2009, farmers in the state of Karnataka were facing declining crop yields and stagnating agricultural production. It was at this time that ICRISAT, working with the Government of Karnataka, conceived, developed and implemented a project called Bhoochetana (Revival of the Soil). Starting with six districts and 200,000 farmers, the project reached over 26,000 villages and 4.2 million farmers over the next nine years. With the use of science-backed innovations, millions of farmers experienced 20-66% higher crop yields and obtained a net benefit of US$ 453 million.
Bhoochetana was a mission to increase crop productivity, enhance farmers’ incomes and improve nutrition and livelihoods in the target regions. It was extraordinary in that it was successfully scaled up to include all the districts in Karnataka and also to other states in the country.
To capture a snapshot of the evolution of this project, the Bhoochetana Timeline has been launched; it details the major milestones and impacts of this project.
Bhoochetana’s initial phase was focused on building farmer awareness on soil nutrient status and soil mapping; daily monitoring of seasonal rainfall; and crop planning. Slowly, other interventions such as soil and water management; seeds/inputs management; supplying of farmer-preferred improved varieties; crop diversification; integrated pest management; and development/dissemination of agricultural machinery were also employed.
ICRISAT scientists applied the ‘Four Cs Approach’ to the project: Consortium, Convergence, Collective action and Capacity building. Other organizations came together to deliver knowledge solutions, technological inputs and a holistic program where multiple government projects could work together to synergize their capacities. Select farmers were trained as ‘facilitators’ so that they could support other farmers in their villages. Awareness programs, farmers’ field days and training sessions to familiarize farmers with technology, machinery and techniques were conducted. Mobile phones, videos, social media groups and voice messages were all used to create and disseminate farming-related information to remote villages.
The cooperative model of working with farmers and government organizations, with the use of technology for knowledge sharing was very successful and subsequent seasons showed double-digit increases in crop yields for various crops. As part of Phase-I of Bhoochetana, about 3.1 million farmers and 7.4 million ha in rainfed regions had been covered by 2012-13. Based on this success, the Government of Karnataka extended the initiative to cover irrigated crops in the state in Phase II of the project.
Apart from the Karnataka State Department of Agriculture, other major partners in this project were the State Agricultural Universities at Bengaluru, Raichur and Dharwad, which provided technical and logistical support.
Bhoochetana, an example of successful scale-up, is now extended to three more states (Undivided Andhra Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha) in India, in partnership with the respective state governments.