CSA focuses on developing and promoting locally adapted farming systems, sustainable farming practices. While farmers and organisations continuously innovate and evolve best practices, many of them are ending up as islands of successes and not getting scaled up. Also the growing/changing challenges like Climate Change, Opening up of Markets, Biosafety of food and farming practices needs a resynthesizing of the approaches. In 2004 when CSA began we focused on understanding how to scale up the best practices. We identified the following dimensions which needs innovations.
a. Taking a Scientific Approach: many of the practices followed are based on local conditions and resources. Often they are also caught up in ideological rhetoric rather than on scientific principle. As a result what works in one condition may not work in another and people try and give up. This needs a scientific approach based on agroecological framework to be taken to understand the problem or solution.
b. Building Farmers Knowledge and skills: The final decision maker of any model of agriculture/practice is the practicing farmer. The final decision taken depends on the confidence level on a practice and access to resources. Simply providing information or rhetoric speeches to motivate may not help farmers to adopt a practice. This needs building the knowledge and skill of the farmers to understand their context, resources, acquire problem solving skills. The extension approach needs a shift.
c. Economic Viability of Farming and livelihoods: In changing scenario, farming in addition to meeting the household nutrition security has to provide incomes for sustainable living. This requires a combination of approaches which result in reduction in production costs, reduction in risks in farming. As majority of Indian farmers have smaller land holdings, diversification of income sources is important. At the same time, integration of these activities is important for practical purposes as it could be very difficult to learn and practice diverse activities.
d. Improving last mile delivery of support services: the last mile delivery of all support services (technology, finances, markets etc) and first mile aggregation of the produce from farms are not only inefficient and expensive. This is an area which needs to improved. Farmer Collectives in the form of cooperatives or producer organisations will help to improve the situation.