Krishi Sakhis: Farm Women as Nextgen Extension Professionals

Dr. Parveen Kumar

While taking over the reins of the country for the third time, the first major farmer centric event of PM was the PM Kisan, a flagship central sector scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, Government of India. PMKISAN which refers to Pradhanmantri Kisan Samman Nidhi is a financial support programme for the farming community of the country which entails an annual financial support of rupees 6000 in three installments of rupees 2, 000 each. On June 18th this year, Primeminister credited an amount of rupees over 20,000 crore into the accounts of 9.26 crore farmers through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. On this occasion Prime Minister also distributed certificates to 30 Krishi Sakhis out of 34,000 Krishi Sakhis who have been certified as Para-extension workers after a training and examination. Krishi Sakhi as the name denotes is the name given to a female who works in fields. As these have considerable experience of working in the farms and are well aware of different cultivation practices; these also enjoy the trust of the farming community and are largely perceived as most reliable source of agriculture related information. Farm women also are invisible and silent partners in Indian agriculture performing almost all the farm operations right from ploughing to sowing to harvesting to storage and processing of the farm produce. Seldom have been they recognized and their voice heard in decision making process. Realizing the significant role and contribution of women in agriculture and to further empower them by enhancing the skills of rural women, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and the Ministry of Rural Development has come up with Krishi Sakhi convergence program (KSCP). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at enhancing the skills and empowerment of rural women engaged in agriculture across India has also been signed between the two ministries to give it a legal framework. This government wants to update the skills of farm women in different farming practices by providing them appropriate trainings in different aspects related to agriculture and allied sectors. After acquiring training how their potential can be used in dissemination and transfer of technologies and in promoting agri based entrepreneurship. The present government in its previous term has started the ‘Lakhpati Didi’ programme, the aim of which is to create 3 crore ‘Lakhpati Didis’, one dimension of which is Krishi Sakhi. Krishi Sakhi Convergence Programme aims to transform rural India through the empowerment of rural women as Krishi Sakhi, by imparting training and certification of Krishi Sakhis as Para-extension Workers. This certification course aligns with the objectives of the ‘Lakhpati Didi’ programme. Krishi Sakhis are chosen as agriculture Para-extension workers because they are trusted community resource persons and experienced farmers themselves. Their deep roots in farming communities ensure they are welcomed and respected. Krishi Sakhis get training on various modules. The various modules include Agro ecological practices from land preparation to harvest, Organizing Farmer Field Schools (FFS), establishment and management of Seed banks, management of soil health, conservation of natural resources, organic and natural farming, Livestock Management, Integrated Farming systems, Basics of livestock management, Preparation and use of bio inputs and establishment of bio inputs shops, Basic communication skills, Following the training, Krishi Sakhis have to take a proficiency test. Those who qualify are certified as Para-extension Workers, As on June 18, as many as 34,000 Krishi Sakhis have been certified as Para-extension Workers. At present, Krishi Sakhi training programme has been rolled out in 12 states in phase 1. These states are: Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya. The Krishi Sakhis certified as Para-extension workers are also providing their services in different schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on a fixed resource fees. The different schemes in which these Krishi Sakhis are already providing their services are Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) in which they collect soil sample, work towards formation of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and are getting a per year resource fee of rupees 54,000.
In Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana PMFBY, these Para extension workers are engaged in mobilizing non loan farmers and loss assessment; they earn up to rupees 20,000 per Krishi Sakhi per year; in Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), these Para extension workers are engaged in awareness and are earning rupees 40,000 per year. In Natural Resource Management NRM Division, they create awareness among the masses on various conservation practices and earn as much as rupees 12,000 per Krishi Sakhi per year. While working with the Agri-Infrastructure Fund (AIF), as an outreach agent, they are getting rupees 5000 per year.
In the scheme of Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region, (MOVCDNER) 30 Krishi Sakhis are working as Local resource person (LRP) visiting each farm once in every month to monitor farm activities and understand challenges faced by the farmers. They also conduct Farmer Interest Group (FIG) level meetings every week to train farmers, interact and understand challenges faced by farmers, FPO functioning and marketing activities and maintain farmer diary.
The resource fee they are getting INR 4500 per month for the mentioned activities. On an average these Krishi Sakhis can earn rupees 60,000-80,000 in a year. This much amount has the potential to make them financially independent ultimately paving the way for their economic empowerment too. Besides this, the certification of Krishi Sakhis as Para extension workers will also help close the information and communication gap between the farming community and the research/extension institutes that prevails due to the lack of trained men power and extension functionaries. These Nextgen extension professionals will bridge the gap and will ensure that the technology reaches from Lab. to Land so that the end users can be benefitted. Krishi Sakhis aren’t just agricultural guides; they’re farmers, friends of farmers, community resource persons, and awareness creators, connecting research institutions with the grassroots for technology dissemination. From a skilful communicator in agriculture to an innovative problem solver, Krishi Sakhis will emerge as extraordinary individuals. Equipped with knowledge of sustainable farming practices, they will definitely be the backbone of sustainable farming in their villages.
( The author writes on agriculture and social issues)

Editorial editorial article 1