Impact of training programme for smallholder gherkin farmers in India

We have supported our supplier, Marcatus QED, in implementing its multi-faceted Responsible Farming Programme for over 10,000 smallholder gherkin farming families in southern India.

Impact of gherkin programme

The programme has so far:

  • delivered over 170 advanced field officer training events, covering topics on sustainable farming practices, family nutrition and gender equality
  • provided approximately 2,200 families with ‘low-tech’ drip irrigation systems which increase yields by 20% and reduce water use by 25%
  • trained around 4,500 families in scientific composting to improve soil health
  • distributed 5,800 safety kits which include personal protective equipment

Marcatus Mobile Education Platform

Impact of gherkin programme

The Marcatus Mobile Education Platform (MMEP) is the first programme to receive funding from the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund, which we set up jointly with Oxfam and the Ford Foundation.

The platform uses simple technology to help families learn about sustainable agricultural practices through locally-made farmer videos.

Marcatus QED also developed the industry’s first interactive Master Digital Textbook, which is distributed on tablets to field extension officers. This draws on the collective knowledge and experience of over 20 organisations including industry partners, NGOs and designers.

The MMEP has expanded training reach by 300% through targeting entire families, specifically focusing on women farmers. This innovative training model also won the 2016 Guardian Sustainable Business Award for Diversity and Inclusion for empowering women farmers through education. 

To assess the impact of its video-based training methodology, Marcatus QED collected data from a randomised selection of farmers in over 1,200 villages between November 2015 and April 2016. The results demonstrated a:

  • 63% adoption rate of practices shown through group video screenings
  • 20% average increase in yields compared to a group of non-participants
  • 24% increase in net income compared to a group of non-participants

Women’s empowerment

The focus on women is crucial as it has a positive ripple effect and is transformational for their families, wider society and economies.

Marcatus QED is working to educate the industry about the need and benefits of ensuring women farmers in rural areas have equal access to training. The new training materials are designed to showcase local women farmers as decision makers, leaders and teachers on the farm. Training videos are screened during flexible viewing hours at easily accessible events in local villages. The programme aims to teach sustainable agricultural practices to women in farming families across three states in southern India, to help them improve productivity and profitability.

Research shows that households headed by women:

  • adopted 40% more practices than male-led households after participating in the programme
  • saw a 30% increase in yields compared to a 20% overall average

Meet Savitha Naik

female gherkin farmer in india female gherkin farmer in india

Savitha lives in a small village in the state of Karnataka, India. She has been married to Girish Naik for three years, and has a one-year-old daughter. As is customary in her community, she lives with her mother and father-in-law. They are gherkin farmers, and everyone in their household participated in the Seeds of Prosperity programme in 2015.

As part of the programme, a trainer visited Savitha’s home once a week to teach her and her family about the different food groups, and about the five key occasions when they should wash their hands with soap. She was also given handouts – including shopping lists and food diaries – to keep track of what the family ate. Savitha reports that she is eating a more diverse array of food groups since participating in the programme.

One of the biggest improvements for Savitha and her family has been in their handwashing habits. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the cases of diarrhoea – the second biggest killer of children under five years old – by between 30% and 47%. However, many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.

Before the Seeds of Prosperity programme, Savitha and her family only washed their hands with water. Since taking the ‘glo-germ’ test – which illuminates germs under ultraviolet light – the family has started washing their hands with soap before meals, after going to the toilet and while bathing.

Savitha hopes that, as she looks to the future, she will be able to use the materials and knowledge provided through the programme, to encourage her family to maintain their improved hygiene practices and further broaden their diet. This will mean a healthier future for her and her daughter.