Orchards that Revitalize the Environment – and Farmers’ Lives

TechnoServe and the Kellogg Company are helping aging farmers in Madhya Pradesh, India, establish sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of income.

Maganlal Patel stands in his orchard in Madhya Pradesh, India. 

Maganlal standing in his field in Madhya Pradesh, India

As deforestation and climate change turned the land barren over the years, Maganlal Patel watched younger farmers leave this part of Madhya Pradesh, India. Eighty years old and dependent on his children, migrating to the city for better work was not an option for Maganlal.

He mourned the time when abundant trees helped tie the community together. “Children used to swing and play many outdoor games, and adults would sit around outside for discussions,” Maganlal reflects. “Perhaps with the loss of trees and homesteads we are also losing the brotherhood and sweetness in our relations with neighbors.”

In India, where 44 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, many farmers face similar challenges. But agroforestry – the integration of trees with crops and/or livestock – can provide a promising solution, especially for older farmers like Maganlal.

The program aims to train farmers to develop 1,000 wadis by planting 270,000 trees over three years, simultaneously providing sustainable income for farmers, improved food security, and community development.

The cultivation of small orchards called “wadis” is less labor-intensive than traditional agriculture, and can be accomplished even in semi-arid regions like Madhya Pradesh. In 2018, TechnoServe and Kellogg partnered to develop the “Promoting Sustainable Agriculture for Experienced Farmers” program in two districts in Madhya Pradesh. The program takes a holistic approach to address a broad range of issues, including climate change, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss, while ensuring continued sustainable livelihood opportunities for rural and aging populations.

TechnoServe and the Kellogg Company partnered to help aging farmers plant orchards as an environmentally friendly source of income.

Maganlal stands in a field with his three neighbors

As part of the program, TechnoServe provided Maganlal with 218 guava, lemon, moringa (a common Indian vegetable), and ber (a tropical fruit) saplings to plant on his one-acre parcel of land, and trained him how to care for his new wadi. He learned how to lay out and plant the saplings, and how to cultivate them through integrated nutrient and pest management practices, which emphasized organic fertilizers and pesticides. Maganlal got to work, spending two to three hours each day watering, mulching, and weeding his new plants. To make sure the saplings would not be trampled by his cattle, he covered each one with handmade tree guards. Thanks to his meticulous care, the saplings grew three to four feet in the first three months.

Agroforestry – the integration of trees with crops and/or livestock – can provide a promising solution for older farmers like Maganlal.

Noticing this progress, his neighbors were also eager to register for the program, and many other farmers from nearby villages are signing up as well. The program aims to train farmers to develop 1,000 wadis by planting 270,000 trees over three years, simultaneously providing sustainable income for farmers, improved food security, and community development. The trees will also shelter birds and other animals, improve soil health, and help purify the air, slowly pushing back against years of environmental decline.

But the social impact of the wadi may mean the most to Maganlal. Even if his trees are not tall enough yet to provide much shade, they have started to attract his neighbors, who come over to see the new wadi and stay to chat. He cares for his orchard in the company of his children and household animals, and the satisfying work eases his mind after a long day.