With the support of partners IFC, Hindustan Unilever Foundation, Solidaridad and New Holland, Olam supports around 16,000 smallholder farmers (about 14% of whom are women) across 20,000 hectares through the Olam Livelihood Charter programme.
Since the start of the programme, overall productivity has increased by 15% while thanks to water stewardship programmes, about 62 billion litres have been saved (water avoidance) over 3 years. This was achieved by helping farmers to adopt less water-intensive irrigation systems like drip irrigation, skip furrow and furrow irrigation.
The water which farmers save, can then be used for intercropping and the growing of accompanying short duration crops to improve incomes.
Farmers have also been trained to trash-mulch, using the old dried leaves of previous crops to supply carbon and nutrients, as well as helping the soil to retain moisture by improving physical and chemical properties.
In 2016, the initiative was awarded the Most Notable Project of the Year by the Confederation of Indian Industry.
India is the world’s largest consumer of sugar and the second largest producer after Brazil. However, sugarcane is highly water intensive and recent years have witnessed significant droughts. Solidaridad, along with its partners, is supporting farmers with modern cultivation practices to enhance smallholder production.
Radheshyam Patidar has been planting sugarcane for 20 years. Previously he used traditional, water intensive methods but working with Olam’s sustainability team he has now become one of the most innovative farmers, particularly when it comes to intercropping.
In November 2016, he planted sugarcane in 1.7 hectares with 4.5 feet between each row, laying drip irrigation and intercropping chickpeas. Cultivating the chickpeas cost him about Rs 20,000 (US$300) and produced 32 quintals. His gross income was Rs 160,000 (US$2,385) and net income was Rs 140,000 (US$2,090). He has since suggested that if we plant sugarcane in wider rows, the intercropping could be increased without impacting the cane.
Mr Patidar also experimented with garlic intercropping. In the 2015/2016 season he planted a new variety of sugarcane (Co-3102) provided by Olam. He realised that pests on the sugarcane were reduced due to the allelopathic (biochemical) effect of the garlic.
Radheshyam Patidar from the village of Ghatwa in Barwani district