The Challenge

Indian agriculture has come a long way in recent decades, but productivity remains a challenge. Nearly half of the country’s people depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but poverty and malnutrition in rural areas remain high as water shortages, a changing climate, and fragmented land holdings make it difficult for millions of smallholder farmers to feed their families, much less earn a profit from their labor.

The Opportunity

With better production and agricultural management methods and technologies, improved veterinary care, better seed varieties, links to markets, and access to financial services (such as loans, savings, remittance, and insurance), the fortunes of smallholder farming families in India could improve significantly.

Our Strategy

We invest in research on India’s important crops (including staples such as rice, wheat, maize, and legumes) and livestock (including dairy cattle, small ruminants, and poultry), and we work to strengthen programs that improve smallholder farmers’ access to knowledge, tools, and markets.

Issues related to women farmers are an important foundation priority because women play an increasingly important role in India’s agriculture. We also work on issues related to food systems and the links between agriculture and nutrition.

Case Studies

Stress-Tolerant Rice

In India and throughout South Asia, rural poverty is widespread in areas with a shortage of groundwater for irrigation. Rain-fed rice is often the only viable crop, but rice yields are constrained by flooding, soil salinity, and drought.

We invest in a research project called Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), which develops strains of rice that are resistant to these environmental stresses.

To date, STRASA has developed and released nine high-yield stress-tolerant rice varieties in India, reaching more than 11 million farmers across South Asia by 2013. India’s Ministry of Agriculture and all of the state governments in Eastern India have provided strong support for disseminating these rice varieties.

Women's Empowerment

To ensure that women farmers have greater access to resources and opportunities—as well as more decision-making power on the farm and within the family—we launched the Partnership for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (PoWER) project with the Indian government. The project works with more than 350,000 women farmers and their families in seven states.

Through self-help groups supported by Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), a pioneering organization that works to empower poor women in India, women farmers exchange knowledge and gain access to credit, improved seeds and fertilizers, links to markets, and government programs. We also support PRADAN’s work to provide technical assistance to more than 1 million farmers through the government’s National Rural Livelihood Mission, which includes helping women to improve their families’ nutrition, health, and general well-being.

Sharing Agricultural Knowledge

We support Digital Green, an organization that works to improve agriculture, health, and nutrition by tapping the power of technology and social organizations. Digital Green’s innovative and cost-effective approach to sharing information is strengthening national agricultural extension services and increasing agricultural productivity across seven states in India.

Digital Green uses community-created videos to disseminate information to smallholder farmers about new and improved production techniques, links to markets, and government programs. It works in partnership with India’s National Rural Livelihood Mission and with the private sector and research institutions to engage 1 million farmers in 10,000 villages.