COVID-19 update and our response


Farmers and the Pandemic: An account of Hardoi

September 23, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic brought our world to a standstill with the pausing, and in several cases even shutting down, of businesses and livelihoods. When our metropolises started crumbling, the country assumed the worst about rural India. However, the real test of empowerment and facilitation happens during a crisis. For farmers of Hardoi district in Uttar Pradesh, the sudden outbreak was such a moment of crisis and realisation. This is their spirited story, in the harvest season and amidst a raging pandemic.


The Pandemic


It was around the end of Rabi season when coronavirus started spreading in India. Soon enough, protocols were implemented to shut down all public spaces and jobs. While all sectors were getting adversely affected at the time, rural India saw its farmers rendered helplessly.

Crops were ready for harvest, commitments and transactions already finalised before the country went on lockdown. With the ensuing suspension of contact between villages and cities, farmers were at a loss about how to facilitate transportation of crops to designated markets. In a jiff, the logistics and supply chain management of crops got entirely disrupted, machinery to harvest crops was stuck at borders, unable to pass through, and livelihood of farmers was at stake. At a time like this, although aid was received from the central and state governments, it appeared measly upon comparison with the losses being reported. Farmers of Hardoi reported a loss of more than 40% of their produce due to remaining stagnant in fields or destruction by rain and hailstorms. A strategic, sustainable, and swift approach was required to handle the dire situation.


Prompt Action


HCL Samuday has been working in Hardoi since 2015. Their relationship with farmers is based on strengthening fundamentals through awareness generation, training, and capacity building. The immediate and obvious step, therefore, in this situation that had presented itself, was to make the farmers aware of the various schemes and measures introduced by the Government to especially tackle the erupting problems. As the country called for social distancing and total lockdown, the farming community resorted to a tactful solution – going Digital. Although there was a lack of smartphones, the community did what a thriving community does best. Villagers disseminated as much information as possible via word of mouth. Using the limited resources available and within days, 47 WhatsApp groups got formed. More than 40,000 registered farmers were being informed about government guidelines, ways to diversify their crops for income enhancement and how to ably manage their surplus crops.

Soon, conversations started, and problems were identified. The pressing issue was a lack of agriculture machinery for harvesting crops. HCL Samuday urged some well-off farmers to buy a common harvester and share it between others for rent. A list of farmers was prepared and this issue was expertly handled.

The last, most critical issue was the movement of farmers which was under absolute restrictions following the safety guidelines. This was alleviated by the Hardoi Kisan Producer Company Limited (HKPCL) – a farmer producer company supported by HCL Samuday in Hardoi. HKPCL decided to set up procurement centres in the villages itself so that they could procure wheat crops for Food Corporation of India (FCI) at Minimum Support Price. All activities, starting from demand assessment to finally selling to FCI, was done by the farmers with the support of HCL Samuday.

With these efforts, HCL Samuday was able to resort to its already established models and initiatives in Hardoi and avert the worsening of the situation.


Prepared for Future


For any self-sufficient and empowered community, it is not important to just insure its present circumstances, it is equally important to ensure that the future is secure. For rural India as well, although the misfortunes were abetted, the Kharif season brings its own set of issues. A plummeting market, altered supply dynamics, and the increasing cost of seeds and fertilisers bring out a picture of crippling uncertainty in the agro-economic scenario. To counter this, HCL Samuday provided a door-to-door supply of good quality seeds to registered farmers, giving them a kickstart. They contacted various vendors, bargained the correct price and helped farmers in this time of need.


In Continuum


The pandemic is far from over but the story of Hardoi instils a sense of fighting spirit and gives a message to always be prepared better. HCL Samuday through its many interventions has always strived to empower rural India and come up with tactful and effective solutions that work on a daily basis as well as may be tweaked to tackle the less frequent but major problems.

Through a structured approach and swift response, farmers were able to live their story of victory as we continue to battle this crushing pandemic!

Training and Extension

Agriculture is a dynamic sector that deals with specialized knowledge which is ever changing. HCL Samuday regularly makes associated farmers aware of latest developments through Training and Extension intervention. The farmers are empowered to address existing issues and mitigate and adapt for future challenges.

With the objective of bringing agriculture technologies at farmers’ doorstep by establishing a ‘Center of Excellence’ in Uttar Pradesh, HCL Samuday is setting up Center for Agriculture Technology Transfer (CATT) in Hardoi district. It shall act as a ‘single window’ / ‘one stop support system’ aligning various interventions of state department of Agriculture with HCL Foundation as an intermediary and farmers as end users in a learning, decision making and problem-solving exercise.

Nutrition Garden

Nutrition Garden is a low cost, scientific model of home garden organically producing a variety of nutritious vegetables and fruits throughout the year. The primary objective of promoting nutrition gardens is to make ½ kg of fresh vegetables available for daily consumption to rural households. Secondary objectives include reduction in daily expenditure of HHs and increase in the consumption of green vegetables for improved nutrition.

2,714 households have benefitted by adopting a Nutrition Garden.

Community Mobilization and Institution Building

Interventions aimed at mobilizing community and facilitating institution creation lend long-term sustainability to the efforts for agriculture development.

     a. Farmer Clubs

Farmer Clubs are formed with the objective of propagating the idea of collective, uniting farmers in groups which work for the benefit of their community. 199 such clubs established so far under this intervention are providing a platform for knowledge dissemination and better market linkages.

        b. Farmer Producer Organisation

HCL Foundation is the promoting agency of Hardoi Kisan Producer Company Limited (HKPCL), a Farmer Producer Organization constituted in 2017 to address challenges faced by farming community in the project area. Comprising of 2,350 shareholders and governed by an 11-member board of directors, HKPCL registered a turnover of ₹ 6.85 crores in last financial year (2019-20).

       c. Vegetable Aggregation Points

Ensuring market is a crucial part of vegetable supply chain. To facilitate better linkages with market, 7 vegetable aggregation points have been set up across 3 blocks and regular communication is made to enable farmers to choose and opt for most suitable option. Realising better prices for produce, 917 Tonnes of vegetables, worth ₹ 1.30 crores, got aggregated at these centres in 2019-20.

       d. Farm Mechanization

Through Farm Mechanization, focus is on increasing income of farmers by improving affordability and accessibility of machines for precision agriculture. It is aimed at reducing farmers’ cost of cultivation and easing farm operations. Carried out in an entrepreneurial model, thus far 3,249 farms have been supported with advanced agricultural machinery and development of 45 entrepreneurs has been facilitated.

Crop Diversification

Due to lack of awareness and perishable nature of produce, few farmers practice vegetable cultivation. Crop Diversification intervention aims to bring sustainable income enhancement by adoption of diversified crop practices. HCL Samuday is pushing this agenda and the concurrent efforts made have engaged 13,500+ farmers so far in vegetable production.


After successful response of vegetable cultivation, various add-ons in Crop Diversification have been introduced so that farmers having disparate needs may opt for most suitable cropping pattern. These include –

  • Nano Orchard- a small area of land ranging from 840–1680 sqm is devoted exclusively for cultivation of fruit crops like Guava, Papaya, Banana, Apple, Ber and Thai Lime (seedless) along with vegetables taken as intercrop. 425 farmers have successfully established Nano Orchards.
  • Floriculture - promoting flower cultivation, HCL Samuday is propagating better practices and solving farmers’ erstwhile problem of unavailability of good variety. Marigold cultivation is being promoted under floriculture in project area.
  • VASUNDRA -Village Action for Sustainable Utilization of Natural Resource and Demonstration of Resilient Agriculture (VASUNDRA) has been initiated to enhance productivity of degraded fallow lands having high pH value. Adopting scientific methods of land reclamation through cultivation of resilient crops like Lemon Grass and Palmarosa combined with PH resistant horticulture crops like Amla, Ber and Lemon, so far 140 acres of land has been reclaimed.

Traditional Crop Promotion

Traditional Crop Promotion intervention focuses on training and demonstration of traditional crop farmers (Maize, Paddy, Wheat, Urad etc.) and bringing them under Package of Practices (PoP) based production system to increase productivity and adopt better crop management practices.

HCL Samuday has worked to enhance productivity by adopting soil and nutrient management, land development and institutional building for effective market linkages. 26,000+ farmers are currently engaged through this intervention and have adopted better practices on their farm.