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India: Tapping Assam’s Vast Agricultural Potential

Education India

Improved Irrigation Increased Farmer Incomes and Helped Assam Become Self Sufficient in Rice.


Overview

The Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project helped improve the productivity and profitability of agriculture – the state’s primary economic activity – and improved market access and incomes for farmers.  Over 300,000 beneficiaries were mobilized into more than 63,000 groups across the fishery, agriculture, dairy, forestry, and livestock sectors. Project activities focused primarily on the poorest and most disadvantaged people; namely small and marginal farmers, poor fishing communities, and the landless. The high yields achieved in paddy, vegetable and fish production are being sustained, marketable surpluses are increasing, cropping intensity is continuing to improve, and the use of tractors and power tillers is increasing every year.

Challenge

The Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project helped improve the productivity and profitability of agriculture – the state’s primary economic activity – and improved market access and incomes for farmers.  Over 300,000 beneficiaries were mobilized into more than 63,000 groups across the fishery, agriculture, dairy, forestry, and livestock sectors. Project activities focused primarily on the poorest and most disadvantaged people; namely small and marginal farmers, poor fishing communities, and the landless. The high yields achieved in paddy, vegetable and fish production are being sustained, marketable surpluses are increasing, cropping intensity is continuing to improve, and the use of tractors and power tillers is increasing every year.


Approach

The project expanded irrigation facilities, which are key to a sustainable increase in agricultural productivity. Groups of three farmers were helped to install and share a shallow tube well subsidized by the project. Farmers were also trained in the use of better farming techniques, helped to diversify their crops, buy high-yielding seeds, and adopt appropriate forms of mechanization. Based on proven best practices, the project developed a semi-intensive package for fish production which increased the stocking densities of fingerlings - young fish - per hectare, introduced larger fingerlings, used lime to de-acidify the water, and promoted the much greater use of fish feed. The project also improved the all-weather road network to provide farmers with better access to markets. 



Results

The Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project helped to support improvements in several key outcomes:

 - Thanks to improved irrigation, paddy yields have doubled. The 350,000 tonne increase in paddy production has made Assam self-sufficient in rice for the first time in decades.
- By being able to irrigate their crops in the dry season, farmer beneficiaries are now effec­tively double-cropping all their land. 
- The volume of crops being brought to market has seen a dramatic eight-fold increase.
- Fish intensification in ponds, tanks and ‘beels’ – oxbow lakes – has improved the incomes of nearly 43,000 families.  Fish production has increased by some 7,000 tonnes annually - a quantum 500 percent jump. This has generated additional gross income of about $12.3 million per year, of which about half is extra money in the pockets of small and marginal famers, as well as of landless families.



Voices


I used to grow just enough food for my family because, after the monsoon, my fields had no water. I now want to convert my bamboo-and-mud house into a concrete structure, and perhaps buy a van. 

——Monul Islam, Farmer


Bank Contribution

Research by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) on constraints to small- and medium-sized enterprise financing and development in India provided the analytical foundation for the parent project, which provided $120 million from 2004. In the wake of the global financial crisis and at the request of the Indian government, IBRD provided additional financing of US$400 million in 2009.

The project is built on the solid start made by the earlier World Bank-funded Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services Project. The International Development Association (IDA) provided the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project with a credit of US$154 million, which was approved by the Board on January 15, 2005. 


Partners

IDA has now approved an additional credit of US$50 million. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of project activities and scale up their impact by building synergies with ongoing schemes of the Government of Assam and the Government of India. It will also establish a system for the sustainable use of groundwater, as well as encourage collaboration with the private sector. The additional credit will also increase investments in irrigation, drainage, the mechanization of farms, the provision of specialist advice to farmers, the development of rural ‘haats’ or markets, and improve roads in selected districts to provide farmers with better market access. 


Toward the Future

IDA has now approved an additional credit of US$50 million. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of project activities and scale up their impact by building synergies with ongoing schemes of the Government of Assam and the Government of India. It will also establish a system for the sustainable use of groundwater, as well as encourage collaboration with the private sector. The additional credit will also increase investments in irrigation, drainage, the mechanization of farms, the provision of specialist advice to farmers, the development of rural ‘haats’ or markets, and improve roads in selected districts to provide farmers with better market access.


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