27 April 2012

RRA Network Internship Programme

The RRA Network recently launched the ResRA (Re-searching Rainfed Agriculture) group, as part of its strategic commitment to knowledge for sustainable and equitable development of rainfed areas.The ResRA group is facilitating the RRA Network Internship Programme.

Summer Intern with RRA Network

The internship programme has been conceived with the objective of creating learning opportunities that will catalyse the interest, creativity and commitment of students pursuing their Bachelors and Masters degree from diverse disciplines to acquire and use their knowledge and skills for understanding of rainfed areas. The RRA Network can support up to 12 interns this summer.

More information about the internship programme can be found at on the network homepage and the particulars on summer intern here.

Prospective applicants may also benefit from the following research questions while preparing a one-page write-up on expectation and motivation.



Key Research Hypotheses and Questions in Rainfed Agriculture
The Argument: Water management in rainfed agriculture should build the perspective of “water-as-protection” away from that of intensive exploitation of water resources. The key task is to operationalise the concept of Rainfall Use Efficiency (RUE - productivity per unit of rainfall) in management of both surface and groundwater.
Key Hypotheses:
Protective irrigation can
·         lead to x-fold increase in productivity;
·         lead to significantly increased income; and 
·         lead to enhanced food security for small and marginal farmers
Key Questions:
·         What are the key methods available for management of soil moisture and providing protective to maximise rainfall use efficiency in rainfed agriculture?
·         What is the incentive structure required for soil moisture management, protective irrigation and operationalisation of the concept of RUE?
·         What are the key challenges of sustainable management of groundwater resources from the perspective of water-as-protection in rainfed areas?
·         What is the impact of a) soil moisture management; b) groundwater management and c) protective irrigation on
o   soil moisture availability?
o   plant productivity?
o   household incomes?
·         What is the unit cost and investment required in a) soil moisture management; b) groundwater management and c) protective irrigation?
·         Which are the ongoing programmes through which the programme of water management in rainfed areas could be upscaled to mobilise public investment? What are the necessary changes in the programme architecture of ongoing programmes required to promote such upscaling?
The Argument: The approach to soil fertility has to move away from adding nutrients to the soil to maintaining soil health, reducing soil erosion and enhancing the water holding capacity of soils.
Key Hypotheses:
·         Addition of organic matter @2 tonnes per acre per year can enhance soil health, ensure crop productivity, reduce cost of cultivation and increase farm incomes.
·         Though farmers realise the importance of soil organic matter, there are some systemic bottlenecks (financial, labour, natural resource based) that need to be overcome for wide adoption of such practices. These bottlenecks can be overcome through public investment and capacity building of communities. 
Key Questions:
·         What are the ways to add bulk organic matter to soil under different rainfed conditions? Does this norm of 2 tonnes per acre per year vary in different rainfed typologies?
·         What is the structure of incentives and key areas of public investment essential for facilitating application of organic matter to soils to enhance soil productivity?
·         What is the impact of addition of organic matter to soil on:
o   soil properties (physical, chemical and hydrological)
o   crop productivity
o   cost of inputs
o   farm incomes
·         What are the best uses of organic amendments to cropping systems by farmers to improve soil nutrients and water holding capacities and thereby assist in restoring agro-ecosystems
·         Which are the ongoing programmes through which the soil productivity enhancement programmes could be upscaled? What are the necessary changes in the programme architecture of ongoing programmes required to promote such upscaling?
The Argument:
Seed security in rainfed agriculture requires that a locally managed, decentralised seed system is place to provide timely supply of quality seeds of a wide range of seed options in sufficient quantities.
Key Hypotheses:
·         The absence of timely availability of adequate quantities of contingent seeds is key factor responsible for the uncertainty and poor returns inherent in rainfed farming
·         Farmers use hybrid seeds because of the non-availability of non-hybrid seeds. If non-hybrid seeds are provided, then farmers in rainfed areas would prefer these over hybrids on the consideration of enhanced seed security through farmer-saved seeds.
·         A considerable amount of the subsidy provided on seeds in India goes to the corporate sector and not to the farmers.
Key Questions:
·         What are the available methods of ensuring seed security in rainfed agriculture through locally managed, decentralised seed systems?
·         What is the structure of incentives required for local communities to develop their own seed storage and distribution systems?
·         How do we assess the impact of a locally managed, decentralised seed system on
o   timely availability of seeds
o   quality of seeds
o   farm productivity
o   farm incomes
·         How does a locally managed, decentralised seed system compare with current system of seeds in terms of the cost of providing seeds to the farmers?
·         Which are the ongoing programmes through which the soil productivity enhancement programmes could be upscaled? What are the necessary changes in the programme architecture of ongoing programmes required to promote such upscaling?
The Argument: A diversified cropping system, in which millets play a crucial role, is essential for household food security and enhancement of the resilience of rainfed agriculture to climate-related vulnerability. Farm forestry and tree crops play a critical role in this diversified farming system.   
Key Hypotheses:
·         The easy availability of rice and wheat in the PDS is responsible for the reduction in acreage devoted to millets.
·         The difficulties of processing millets are responsible for lower preference of millets compared with rice and wheat.
·         A 25% allocation of millets to the PDS basket will lead to a xxx% increase in acreage under millets; yyy% reduction in agricultural water consumption, and higher nutrition security.
·         Devoting 25% of the grains procured for mid-day meals scheme to millets will lead to a xxx% increase in acreage under millets; and yyy% reduction in agricultural water consumption and higher nutrional security.
·         Farm forestry and vegetation of “wastelands” and commons is vital for poverty reduction in rainfed areas.
Key Questions:
·         What are the millet-based cropping systems available for the different natural resource configurations in rainfed agriculture?
·         Which are the prominent millet growing regions in rainfed India? What is the millets share (percentage) in the household food grain consumption across districts at present, 10, 20 years back?
·         Why has the area under millets cultivation declined in these regions?
·         What is the incentive price that stimulates household demand for millets? Are there any other drivers, say, for e.g., value added products?
·         What are the types of incentives (price, subsidy, public investment) needed to promote a millets-based cropping system?
·         Evaluate INSIMP program –Does stand alone productivity enhancement activities enhance millets area?
·         What is the impact of millets cultivation on rainfed agriculture in terms of
o   soil fertility
o   food security
o   climate resilience
·         What is the economics of millets cultivation in terms of per hectare costs, returns and profitability? How can this system be compared to a conventional irrigated cropping system?
·         What are the macro-economic implications of a 10-25% shift towards millets in the public funded and food entitlements-based programmes (PDS, ICDS, MDMS etc.) – implications in terms of water use, saving of electricity, fertiliser consumption, quality of land and household nutrition levels?
·         Which species of trees need to be promoted for wasteland afforestation and revegetation of common land?
·         What is the role of contract farming in tree crops? What are the institutional mechanisms required for productive utilisation of the so-called wastelands or commons through community effort?
The Argument: Sustainable crop management practices of NPM agriculture reduces cost of cultivation, enhances soil health and reduces chemical contamination of food and water.
Key Hypotheses:
·         High premiums and uncertain availability are key factors that have served as bottlenecks to urban consumption of organic produce.
·         There exists a market for the NPM produce where the customers are willing to pay a 15% premium for NPM produce.
·         An NPM based Participatory Guarantee System and development of NPM label provide benefits of certification and market access to a large number of small and marginal farmers in rainfed areas who are “default organic” farmers.   
Key Questions:
·         What are the locally appropriate and low cost plant protection technologies available for NPM agriculture? What is the type of research required to develop such technologies?
·         How can the farmers be incentivised to adopt the NPM agricultural practices?
·         What is the impact of NPM agriculture on
o   Crop productivity (Is there a yield drop? For how many years?)
o   Soil health
o   Farm incomes
o   Chemical contamination of food and water
·         What is the cost economics of an NPM based farming system compared to the conventional system?
·         How can NPM agriculture be upscaled through ongoing programmes like the RKVY?
·         Can pest management be converted to a public good through agro-advisories and public support systems?
The Argument: The existing livestock support systems for market access, animal healthcare and risk minimisation need to be re-designed to suit the specific needs of rainfed agriculture and to match the types of livestock holdings in such areas.
Key Hypotheses:
·         Animal husbandry systems based on low-input, indigenous breeds are more suited to high-input, cross-bred cattle in rainfed areas. With adequate support, they can perform better than the cross-breds.
·         Poor delivery of animal health services is a key factor for high morbidity and mortality observed among livestock holdings in rainfed areas.
·         The small ruminant sector is the fastest growing animal husbandry sector in the country.
·         Small ruminant management, with high quality health care, provides a realistic route out of poverty.
·         Management of backyard poultry provides a route out of poverty
Key Questions:
·         Identify components of a sustainable livestock system for rainfed areas. The system will have:
o   Identification of varieties suitable to different contexts
o   Creation of a strong water infrastructure and fodder base
o   Creation of animal healthcare systems
o   Creation of market structures for livestock products
o   Risk minimisation through insurance
o   Linking these activities with producer organisations and SHGs
·         What are the livestock mortality rates in rainfed areas and what is the status of livestock health care services? A quick survey across different states may bring out the basic issues on board statistically. This quick survey can be taken up by different field partner organisations.
·         How can we incentivise farmers to move towards locally appropriate forms of animal husbandry systems and practices? What are the key shifts required?
·          How do we incentivise backyard poultry as a sustainable activity? Analyse backyard poultry as a production system and its role in the overall poultry sector.
·         What is the impact of a well-functioning animal healthcare system on calf mortality, animal health and household incomes? Does insurance help households to minimise risk?
·         What is the scope to link livestock systems and essential services with ongoing public investment programmes like MGNREGA or NRLM?
·         What is the institutional back-up and support required for carrying forward livestock rearing (including small ruminants and backyard poultry) as an economic activity in rainfed areas? What are the institutional models available?
The Argument: Fisheries and acquaculture are significant livelihood activities in rainfed areas. The existing fisheries support systems need to be adapted and modified to take care of the specific needs of rainfed fisheries.
Key Hypotheses:
·         The non-availability of fish fry is a key bottleneck to making inland fisheries sustainable and profitable.
·         Institutional reform is likely to be a key factor in transforming the viability of inland fisheries.
Key Questions:
·         What are the existing methods and technologies of rainfed fish production? How can this system be made more productive?
·         What are the existing management systems for rainfed fisheries? How can the rights of the landless households be recognised and incorporated in rainfed fisheries?
·         What are the incentives required for farmers to take up fisheries as an income generating activity in rainfed areas? What is the nature of public investment support required for this?
·         Examine the economics of sustainable fisheries development in rainfed agriculture. How does this cost and returns compare with other forms of fisheries development?
·         How can a programme of rainfed fisheries be linked to and upscaled through the ongoing public investment programmes?
The Argument: Locally appropriate farm mechanisation is essential in rainfed agriculture.
Key Questions:
·         What are the implications of mechanization on agricultural labour and food security? Is the impact of mechanisation in rainfed areas disproportionately on women (i.e., the gender aspects of farm mechanisation)?
·         What is the macro-economic significance of animal draft power (for agriculture and transport of produce) in rainfed areas? What is its significance for small holders?
·         What would be the desired mechanisation for rainfed areas?
·         What are the institutional mechanisms available for farm mechanisaion for small holders
·         How can a locally appropriate farm mechanisation be incentivised?
The Argument: The System of Rice Intensification (SRI – or more generally, the System of Crop Intensification – SCI) marks a paradigm shift in management of land, labour, water and resources in a rainfed farming system.
Key Hypotheses:
·         SRI/SCI is a sustainable crop management system appropriate for rainfed areas in terms of cost, returns, labour use and maintenance of soil health.
·         There are some financial and behavioural bottlenecks to full transition to SRI/SCI in rainfed areas, which can be overcome through carefully planned transitional investments.  
Key Questions:
·         What are the key steps involved in establishing SRI as a viable option in rainfed areas? What are the innovations and experimentation required to further strengthen SRI?
·         What are the incentives and transitional investments necessary for farmers to move into SRI? How can they be structures to facilitate uptake by all classes of farmers?
·         What is the impact of SRI on crop yields, labour sue, input use and soil health? How does SRI enhance household incomes?
·         What is the economics of SRI? What are the major costs and returns?
·         How can SRI be integrated with MGNREGA and other such programmes? Can these programmes be structures in a way that they take care of the necessary transitional investments for a minimum number of years?
The Argument: Smallholder farmers in rainfed areas need to be supported by several key institutions (for production, marketing, finance, research & extension and capacity building services). These institutions are required to provide key technical services, increase market access of smallholders through aggregation and to undertake essential infrastructure investments in rainfed agriculture.
Key Questions:
·         What are the appropriate forms of producer organisations needed to address specific issues of small and marginal farmers in rainfed areas?
·         What are the existing legal spaces available for developing producer organisaitons? How can these be utilised to foster new institutions of the people in rainfed areas?
·         What is the institutional framework required for marketing, finance, research and extension services in rainfed agriculture? What are the principal shortcomings of the existing institutional mechanisms and how could they be overcome?
·         Are SHG Institutions relevant for agricultural development? (not only for credit but also for value addition and service delivery)?
·         What are the principal capacity building needs of farmers and PRIs in  rainfed areas. What type of institutional framework  could be envisaged to meet these needs?
·         What is the performance, problems and potentials of producer companies as New Generation Co-operatives? Are they relevant for small holders?
·         What are the promotional (establishment) investments required to develop these producer organisations?
·         How the extension system to be redesigned? Is there a case for community based extension?
·         How the extension system to be redesigned? Is there a case for community based institutions for extension services?
·         What were the investments on farmers’ organisation so far? Why this has to be (whether it is) exclusively dependent on voluntary action / with donor funds?
·         How can the role of producer organisations be integrated with the implementation of programmes like NRLM?
Financial Services to the Poor
The Argument: The poor actively participate in financial markets to get a wide range of financial services. Easy and affordable access to a wide range of financial services is crucial for the survival of small and marginal farmers in rainfed areas.
Key Hypotheses:
·         Small and marginal farmers actively participate in financial market – i.e., they can save, productively use credit and repay borrowed amount with interest and participate in insurance markets.
·         The reach of formal sources providing financial services such as banks, co-operatives, insurance companies etc., is low in rainfed areas. The small and marginal farmers, in particular, depend on a range of informal sources to meet their essential financial needs.
·          Institutional innovations like SHGs offer a range of financial products to the poor in rainfed areas which are suited to their needs and types of cash flow.
Key Questions:
·         What are the key avenues available for financial saving by smallholder households in rainfed areas? Are the conventional saving products offered by the formal system adequate to meet their needs? Is there a case of devising new saving products to help smallholders in rainfed agriculture to build their savings and capital base?
·         What is the outreach of formal credit system and financial institutions in rainfed areas? What proportion of the household’s financial need to they meet?
·         What is the outreach of the new sources of credit like the SHGs in rainfed areas? What are the critical bottlenecks preventing their expansion?
·         Is there sufficient evidence of smallholder and landless labour exclusion from credit sector? If yes, what are the major reasons for this exclusion?
·         What is the reach and role of KCC and smart cards in rainfed areas?
·         What is the reach and role of the Warehouse Receipts System? Do banks in rainfed areas accept warehouse receipts as liquid assets?
·         What is the status of insurance services in rainfed areas? What are the critical bottlenecks preventing the adoption of insurance as a risk-distribution mechanism?
·         What is the reason for the poor performance of crop and livestock insurance in rainfed agriculture? Are options like weather-based crop insurance adequate as a risk cover mechanism?

Summer Intern with RRA Network

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