The Farmer FIRST Programme (FFP) is an ICAR initiative to move beyond the production and productivity, to privilege the smallholder agriculture and complex, diverse and risk prone realities of majority of the farmers through enhancing farmers-scientists interface. There are concepts and domains that are new in emphasis like resource management, climate resilient agriculture, production management including storage, market, supply chains, value chains, innovation systems, information systems, etc. The Farmer FIRST as a concept of ICAR is developed as farmer in a centric role for research problem identification, prioritization and conduct of experiments and its management in farmers’ conditions. The focus is on farmer’s Farm, Innovations, Resources, Science and Technology (FIRST). Two terms ‘enriching knowledge’ and ‘integrating technology’ qualify the meaning of Farmer FIRST in Indian context. Enriching knowledge signifies the need for the research system as well as farmers to learn from each other in context to existing farm environment, perception of each other and interactions with the sub-systems established around. Technology integration is looked from the perspective that the scientific outputs coming out from the research institutions, many times do not fit as such in the farmers’ conditions and thus, certain alterations and adaptations are required at field level for their acceptance, adoption and success.

The past efforts brought lot of success in terms of raising production and productivity and addressing issues of the farmers and the technology was considered as a vital factor in the production system and farmer as a recipient of the technology outputs. The knowledge and innovations of the farmers were not valued much and their presence was relegated at most as a participant but not as a partner in the experimentations. The wisdom available with the farmers was also not channelized so much to derive suitable options for different production systems. The participation of multiple stakeholders was also not taken up in perspective for technology development, integration and adoption. Now the situation has changed drastically in terms of increased number of smallholders, growing proposition of women-led agriculture, need for higher return per unit area and addressing the changing socio-economic environment, etc. This necessitates new approach for project development involving innovation and technology development with the strong partnership of the farmers for developing location specific, demand driven and farmer friendly technological options.

Farmers tend to face problems related to production and natural resource management but they might not have found out solutions to overcome them. In such situations, Farmer FIRST is an opportunity for the researchers, extension professionals and farmers to work together and find appropriate ways through assessing different solutions. During the production process, farmers often evolve new ideas to improve their cultivation and natural resource management activities. This creates a space for researchers, extensionists and farmers to design and organize new experiments. Farmer FIRST can be applied not only at household level but also at village and community level as community experimentation. Usually, the experiments are managed at the individual farmer’s level who are involved in the project or who are selected by the village as the representatives to conduct experiments. In addition, there are some cases where experiments focus to solve problems of the whole village. Farmer FIRST is a concept in which the farmers participate in the research process with scientists. Research questions are found out together with selected farmers or the whole village and villagers’ participation in monitoring experiments with scientists. The aim is to find out new ways of doing and bringing in synergy of the stakeholders. The experiments need to be adapted to specific conditions of a farming system and to have the participation of farmers as well as scientists. Especially they must acknowledge local wisdom as a vital element for the development of useful innovations. The role of extensionists is to ensure implementation. Farmer FIRST will create linkages between farmers-researchers and extensionists to support farmers to conduct appropriate experiments selected by them. It will help researchers and extensionists understand and know real needs of villages. In this process, priority does not come from researchers or extensionists but from the end users of results of research and technology development.

  • Actively manage, implement and monitor experiments/trials.
  • Use labour and available resources to conduct experiments/trials.
  • Closely link with extension and research in the process.
  • Share their experiences with other farmers
  • Researchers have responsibilities to implement research and technology development in reality.
  • Study local knowledge, analyse issues of farmers together with them, identify and prioritize problems.
  • Participate in the whole process together with farmers and extensionists, provide technology information, scientific knowledge to support the implementation.
  • Involve farmers in monitoring, documentation and evaluation of experiments.
  • Create farmer-scientist interface, organize farmer to farmer experience exchange, developing literature and extension materials based on experiment results and disseminating results.
Farmers and villagers
  • Farmers get an opportunity to solve their problems or try out new ideas that they themselves could not do without the support of the researchers and extensionists.
  • Improve experimenting and technology development capacity.
  • Learn and share production experience with outside actors and other farmers.
  • Better access to extension programmes, services and information about technologies, markets, prices, etc.
Researchers and teachers
  • Learn local wisdom through working with the farmers and extensionists.
  • Implement research that suit farmers’ conditions.
  • Improve research methods and facilitate field based learning.
  • Improve knowledge and skills in participatory research approaches.
Extensionists(Field Extension Officials)
  • Learn new extension tools and methods which satisfy farmers’ needs.
  • Improve their capacity through close monitoring of experiments, a learning-by-doing process.
  • Better access to scientific and local knowledge.
  • Get support of the farmers for better spread of results through “farmer-to-farmer” sharing.

‘Farmer FIRST’ programme aims at enhancing farmer-scientist interface for technology development and application. It will be achieved with focus on innovations, technology, feedback, multiple stakeholder’s participation, multiple realities, multi method approaches, vulnerability and livelihood interventions. The specific objectives are:

  • To enhance farmer-scientist interface, enrich knowledge and facilitate continued feedback.
  • To identify and integrate economically viable and socially compatible technological options as adoptable models for different agro-ecological situations.
  • To develop modules for farm women to address drudgery reduction, income enhancement and livelihood security.
  • To study performance of technologies and perception of the farmers about agriculture as a profession in the rural settings.
  • To build network of linkages of organizations around the farm households for improving access to information, technology, input and market.
  • To institutionalize Farmer FIRST process.

(i) Enhancing Farmer –Scientist Interface
Enabling involvement of researchers for continuous interaction with farm conditions, problem orientation, exchange of knowledge between farmers and other stakeholders, prioritization of problems and setting up of research agenda.

  • This component will create a strong farmer-scientist bond for continuous exchange of idea, innovations, resources, feedback for development of appropriate technology and human resource development.
  • Identification of farm innovators and grooming them as technology agents for farmer to farmer technology dissemination, up-scaling and out-scaling.
  • Regular visits of project team and other scientists to project site for orientation of problems and ground realities.
  • Multi stakeholders’ participation in building strong farmer-scientist interaction.
  • Regular interactions of farmer-scientist at institute and project site through trainings, visits, workshops, interfaces, extension activities, etc.
(ii) Technology Assemblage, Application and Feedback
  • Integrating components of technology for application in different agro-ecosystems will focus on innovations and feedback.
  • Crop based modules will focus on intensification and diversification of existing systems with introduction of new varieties and technologies to substantially enhance income. On site input management like seed production by farmers through training, timely supply of quality seeds and resource management may be major activities.
  • Horticulture based module will focus on seed production and nursery management, vegetable, fruit production, floriculture, post-harvest management, poly house technology and adoption of new technologies.
  • Livestock based module will focus on raising the production and productivity of existing livestock, introduction of new breeds, animal health management, development of viable milk production units, poultry and fisheries. The livestock related different modules are to be developed as per the micro farming situations and socioeconomic status of the farmers.
  • Enterprise based module will cover various income generating activities like seed and other inputs production, bee keeping, mushroom production, vermi-compost production, handicraft, processing and value addition, marketing through federating farmer groups etc. The farmers, youth, landless and farm women may be important target groups.
  • NRM based module will have the insight to work upon natural resource management, climate resilient agriculture, use of resource conservation technologies, water harvesting and micro irrigation, micro-organisms, land races and bio diversity etc.
  • Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) module emphasise different categories of land holders based on resource availability, socioeconomic conditions, risk bearing capacity, market availability etc.
(iii) Partnership and Institution Building

Building partnerships involving different stakeholders, development of rural based institutions, agro-ecosystem and stakeholders analysis and impact studies.

  • Creation of models of partnerships
  • Institution building for bringing professionalism, leadership, marketing ability, organizing capability among farmers, database creation on perception, attitude and agricultural scenario.
(iv) Content Mobilization

Project platform having institutions as partners will be used to develop specific contents for e-enabled knowledge sharing.

  • Identification and pooling of available transferrable technologies available with different institutions.
  • Project outcome to be utilized as part of content.
  • Preparation of knowledge models as network representation of agricultural knowledge.
  • Content management platform enabling off and online access.