Caritas India, in collaboration with Caritas Austria & Caritas Switzerland launched the SAFBIN project on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network or SAFBIN aims to improve the food and nutritional security of small farmers across South Asia. It lays stress on research led by smallholder farmers themselves; helping them adapt farming methods to increasingly erratic climatic conditions.
Farmers in SAFBIN first understand the local environment & agrarian economy & pin-point specific problems caused by climate change. They identify locally acceptable solutions & test them, to arrive at the best option. Mutual sharing, learning & pro-active problem solving between farmers, agricultural scientists and governmental & non-governmental organizations is at the core of this project. SAFBIN will run from 2018-2022. It will benefit ten thousand Indian farmers and almost forty thousand farmers across South Asia.
Speaking at the launch, Dr T Haque, former chair of land policy in Niti Aayog and former commissioner of the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP), remarked that all of South Asia depends on small farmers, who cultivate less than 2 hectares of land. Yet, while South Korean & Japanese farmers easily earn five figure incomes annually, the average Indian small farmer earns less than $1,000 per year. The answer lies in the plethora of farmer associations these countries have established, he said. This is something SAFBIN incorporates into its strategy.
Fr. Paul Moonjely, Executive Director of Caritas India said Indian smallholder farmers are crucial in achieving the nation’s food & nutritional security goals. Through SAFBIN, CARITAS India aims to create a safety net for smallholder farmers, by creating Farmers Collectives and securing their assets.
Fr. Moonjely mooted the idea of “Consume to Conserve.” He suggested that by generating demand in the marketplace for small-farm products and directly linking urban consumers to rural producers, SAFBIN will help in both promoting agro-biodiversity and preserving the environment.
Bishop Lumen Monteiro, Chairman of Caritas India, offered a short primer on the organization. Caritas India was established in 1962, he said. It has experience in emergency response & recovery, community development, reconstruction & natural resource management. It offers sustainable & holistic response to the most vulnerable & marginalized sections of society, which it reaches through more than 200 member organizations and partners. Caritas India is a member of the larger global Caritas confederation, spread across 165 countries. And draws the learnings and good practices of these member organizations. Caritas India nurtures human dignity by supporting millions of people without distinction of caste, creed or colour.
At the panel discussion immediately after the plenary session, a galaxy of dignitaries discussed the need to mainstream smallholder farmer-led research & build multi-stakeholder partnerships. Mr. Bhaskar Pant, Dy GM, NABARD; Dr. Arabinda Kumar Padhee, Director, ICRISAT; Dr. S.K Bandyopadhyay, Principal Scientist, NICRA; Subramanian Pattabiraman, Sr. Project Mgr, EU in India; B.K Prusty, Advisor, Government of India; Kanta Singh, Gender Lead, UNDP; Dr Alok Sikka, IWMI and Mr. D.K Manavalan, Executive Director, AFPRO were all present.