Cultivating a new generation of organic farmers

by Ipshita Sinha on Jan 10, 2017

In November 2015, a new chapter was unveiled in the history of one of India's premier agriculture universities - the Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV) - as it launched a one of a kind programme on organic farming in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

The Organic Certificate Course (OCC) is a three-month programme that aims to build a cadre of master trainers in organic farming practices. They will be trained on the technical, commercial and entrepreneurial aspects of organic cultivation. C&A Foundation is funding the first course and the state government has agreed to fund subsequent courses.

C&A Foundation aims to improve farmer livelihoods through organic cotton cultivation in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The state has the largest area under organic cultivation in India, including organic cotton. Approximately 27% of global organic cotton production comes from Madhya Pradesh. However, there are still massive barriers scaling organic farming. Limited access to good quality organic seed and a lack of know-how on organic farming are two problems C&A Foundation is helping to address through the Organic and Fairtrade Cotton Secretariat (OFCS, MP), established last year.

“It’s an exciting development for the students, for the organic farming community, and for C&A Foundation.”

Sustainable Cotton Programme Manager, Ipshita Sinha

The OFCS, MP is a working group of various actors in the organic cotton supply chain in Madhya Pradesh who are committed to building a resilient organic cotton market. Action for Social Advancement (ASA), a non-profit development organization is currently holding the secretariat of the OFCS. This course is a key achievement for the OFCS.

Dr VS Tomar, Vice Chancellor of JNKVV, emphasised the seamless integration of practical classes with theoretical and industry exposure. He promised the course has been kept deliberately tough to prepare students for all the challenges in the real world of organic cotton farming.

Ipshita Sinha, of C&A Foundation, says: “We've found a great champion in the university, which is putting in some serious effort in driving this course, as well as a great champion in the state government, which is very keen on developing organic farming in the region."

C&A Foundation will be closely following the progress of the students - seven of whom are women - over the next three months. They have been selected from 71 applications, following a thorough screening and interview process.
“One of our aims is to build leadership among women farmers," says Ipshita. “The women on the programme come from rural backgrounds and will be staying away from their families for three months during the course. This highlights their commitment to learning organic practices."

“Our hope is that the students will go back to their communities as ambassadors for organic farming and inspire others to join in."