IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th September, 2023 Economy

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Picture Courtesy: dicra.undp.org.in

Context: A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to collaborate on data-driven innovations in agriculture and food systems to support smallholder farmers.


  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to foster data-driven innovations in agriculture and food systems to support smallholder farmers in India.
  • The MoU will enable collaboration between NABARD and UNDP on various aspects of data collection, analysis, dissemination and use for enhancing agricultural productivity, resilience and sustainability. It will also facilitate the development of innovative solutions and best practices for addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by smallholder farmers, especially in the context of climate change, market linkages and digital inclusion.
  • The MoU is expected to benefit millions of smallholder farmers across the country by providing them with timely and relevant information, guidance and services to improve their livelihoods and well-being.

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)

NABARD was established in 1982, as a development bank. Its creation was based on the recommendations of the B. Sivaramman Committee and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act of 1981.

● The formation of NABARD marked a significant restructuring and consolidation of various entities, including the Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), as well as the Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).

● NABARD operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

● It serves as the apex regulatory body responsible for overseeing and regulating regional rural banks (RRBs) and apex cooperative banks in India. This regulatory role is vital in maintaining the stability and integrity of rural financial institutions.

Objective and Key Areas of Focus

  • Enhancing Smallholder Farmers' Well-being: The primary goal of this partnership is to improve the lives and economic prospects of smallholder farmers in India.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: One of the central pillars of this partnership is the utilization of data-driven approaches to inform and enhance decision-making in the agricultural sector. This means that data will be collected, analyzed, and used to make more informed choices related to farming practices, resource allocation, and policy development.
  • Product Development: Data will play a pivotal role in driving the development of new agricultural products and technologies. These innovations are expected to be tailored to address the specific challenges faced by smallholder farmers, ultimately aiming to boost their productivity and income.
  • Technology Transfer: The partnership also seeks to facilitate the transfer of agricultural technologies and innovations to smallholder farmers. By doing so, it intends to bridge the technological gap and help these farmers adopt modern practices, potentially leading to increased yields and income.
  • Agrarian Policy Support: Leveraging data and insights, the partners plan to contribute to the formulation of agrarian policies that are more effective in addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by smallholder farmers. This includes policies related to land use, resource allocation, and sustainability.

UNDP's Expertise

  • Open Innovations: UNDP's expertise in open innovations is a valuable asset in this partnership. Open innovations involve collaboration and sharing of knowledge, which can lead to creative solutions to complex problems in agriculture.
  • Data Collaboratives: UNDP has a proven track record in establishing data collaboratives, and fostering a collaborative environment for sharing and utilizing data resources effectively.
  • Data Science Methodologies: UNDP's proficiency in data science methodologies means it can employ advanced analytical techniques to derive meaningful insights from agricultural data, aiding in informed decision-making.
  • Global Knowledge Base: UNDP's extensive global knowledge base allows it to bring in insights and best practices from various regions, enriching the strategies and solutions applied in the Indian context.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

● It was established in 1965, as a result of the merger of two earlier programs: the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) and the Special Fund.

● EPTA was initiated in 1949 to provide support to underdeveloped countries in both economic and political aspects. It aimed to assist these nations in their development efforts by offering technical and economic aid.

Collaborative Digital Public Goods

  • A central component of this partnership involves the development and dissemination of collaborative digital public goods. A prominent example is DiCRA (Data in Climate Resilient Agriculture).
  • DiCRA's Significance: DiCRA provides open access to geospatial datasets that are particularly relevant to climate-resilient agriculture. These datasets can be invaluable for smallholder farmers and policymakers, aiding in climate adaptation and sustainable farming practices.
  • Hosting and Maintenance: NABARD takes on the responsibility of hosting and maintaining the DiCRA platform, incorporating its geospatial datasets. This is critical for activities such as policy development, research, and innovation in agriculture. UNDP provides technical support in this endeavour.

Duration and Expected Outcomes

  • The technical cooperation agreement between NABARD and UNDP is set to span five years.
  • Collective Climate Action: They aim to promote collective action on climate issues, which are particularly relevant to agriculture given the vulnerability of smallholder farmers to changing weather patterns.
  • Innovative Platforms: The partnership seeks to establish innovative platforms that can serve as hubs for data-driven solutions, knowledge sharing, and collaboration among stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
  • Economic Empowerment: A key outcome is the creation of new economic empowerment opportunities for rural communities in India. This could involve income generation through improved agricultural practices and increased access to markets.

Analyzing Agricultural Trends

  • The partnership also involves continuous analysis of agricultural trends over time. This ongoing analysis informs decisions regarding investments in various areas, including watershed management, micro-irrigation, warehouse optimization, and climate-related initiatives. Importantly, this analysis contributes to the enrichment of data resources available to both UNDP and NABARD, further enhancing data-driven decision-making in agriculture.

Data-driven innovations in agriculture and food systems


  • Data-driven innovations in agriculture and food systems have emerged as a transformative force in the modern agricultural landscape. These innovations leverage data analytics, technology, and information systems to optimize farming practices, increase productivity, enhance food security, and address various challenges in the agriculture sector.

Various aspects of how data and technology are transforming the agriculture sector for the better

Data Collection

  • Data collection is the foundation of data-driven agriculture. Various types of data, such as weather conditions, soil quality, crop health, and market trends, are collected using advanced technologies like sensors, satellites, drones, and IoT devices. This comprehensive data provides valuable insights into the farming ecosystem.


  • Once the data is collected, advanced analytics techniques, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), are employed. These technologies process and analyze the data, extracting patterns, trends, and correlations that are often too complex for humans to identify. This analysis aids in decision-making related to crop management, resource allocation, and risk assessment, ultimately leading to more efficient and effective farming practices.

Precision Agriculture

  • Precision agriculture is a central concept in data-driven farming. It involves the precise application of resources like water, fertilizers, and pesticides based on data-driven insights. By applying these resources only where and when they are needed, farmers can optimize resource use, reduce waste, and minimize the environmental impact of farming operations.

Market Insights

  • Access to real-time market information is crucial for farmers. With data-driven solutions, farmers can stay updated on market conditions, including crop prices, demand, and supply. Armed with this information, they can make informed decisions about crop selection, timing of harvest, and pricing strategies, ensuring they get the best returns for their produce.

Supply Chain Optimization

  • Data-driven technologies don't just benefit farmers; they also play a significant role in optimizing the entire agricultural supply chain. From production and storage to transportation and distribution, data-driven solutions enable better planning and management. This reduces post-harvest losses, ensures food quality, and enhances the overall efficiency of the food supply chain.

Significant outcomes and impacts of data-driven innovations in agriculture and food systems

Increased Productivity

  • Data-driven agriculture leads to increased productivity through optimized resource allocation and improved decision-making.
  • By using data to make informed choices about planting, irrigation, and fertilization, farmers can enhance crop yields and overall farm efficiency. This increased productivity helps meet growing food demands, which is crucial for both global food security and economic growth.

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Precision agriculture techniques are a cornerstone of sustainability in farming. These practices, guided by data, enable farmers to minimize resource wastage.
  • By applying water, fertilizers, and pesticides precisely where and when they are needed, farmers reduce environmental impact and ensure that agricultural practices are more sustainable over the long term. This sustainability is vital for preserving soil health, water resources, and biodiversity.

Food Security

  • Data-driven agriculture plays a significant role in ensuring food security, particularly in developing countries.
  • By improving crop management and reducing post-harvest losses, more food reaches markets and consumers. Real-time market insights enable farmers to adapt their crop choices and production strategies to meet changing demand, contributing to a more stable and secure food supply.

Economic Growth

  • Enhanced agricultural productivity positively influences rural economies and livelihoods. As farms become more efficient and productive, rural communities benefit from increased income and employment opportunities. This economic growth can have a cascading effect, stimulating growth in related sectors and contributing to overall economic development.

Resilience to Climate Change

  • Access to weather and climate data is crucial for building resilience to climate change. Data-driven agriculture equips farmers with the information they need to adapt to changing weather patterns, droughts, and extreme events. By making timely decisions based on weather data, farmers can minimize losses and maintain consistent production levels despite climate challenges.

Steps taken to modernize and improve the agricultural sector

Digital India Initiative

  • This ambitious program aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. In agriculture, it has led to the development and promotion of various digital tools and platforms.
  • Mobile apps for farmers provide them with valuable information on weather forecasts, crop management practices, market prices, and more.
  • E-marketing platforms enable farmers to sell their produce online, potentially reaching a wider market and obtaining better prices.

Soil Health Cards

  • The Soil Health Card scheme involves soil testing and provides farmers with personalized recommendations on nutrient management.
  • By knowing the health of their soil, farmers can apply fertilizers and other inputs more efficiently, reducing costs and environmental impact while increasing yields.

Crop Insurance (PMFBY)

  • The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is a crop insurance scheme that aims to mitigate the financial risks faced by farmers due to crop loss.
  • Technology plays a crucial role in this scheme by enabling quick assessment of crop losses through remote sensing and satellite imagery, which expedites the processing of insurance claims.  

Agricultural Market Information (eNAM)

  • The National Agriculture Market (eNAM) platform is a digital marketplace that connects agricultural produce buyers and sellers across India.
  • It provides transparency in pricing, reduces intermediaries, and allows farmers to access a wider pool of buyers, potentially leading to better prices for their produce.
  • The platform also offers market information, helping farmers make informed decisions on when and where to sell their crops. 

These initiatives collectively aim to bring about a digital transformation in Indian agriculture, making it more efficient, resilient, and profitable for farmers. They also address some of the challenges faced by the agriculture sector, such as market access, information gaps, and risk management, ultimately contributing to the overall development of rural India.

Challenges that India faces in its efforts to modernize agriculture through technology and digital initiatives

Digital Divide

  • Limited access to technology and low digital literacy in rural areas can hinder the adoption and effective use of digital tools and platforms by farmers.
  • Bridging the digital divide requires investments in expanding rural internet connectivity, providing affordable devices, and conducting digital literacy programs tailored to the needs of farmers.

Data Privacy

  • With the collection of data on farmers' activities and crop production, there are valid concerns about data privacy and ownership.
  • To address these concerns, robust data protection and privacy laws must be enacted and enforced. Farmers should have control over their data and understand how it is used and protected.


  • Insufficient rural infrastructure, including reliable electricity supply and internet connectivity, can impede the effective use of technology in agriculture.
  • Investments in rural infrastructure are essential to ensure that farmers have the necessary resources to access and utilize digital tools and information effectively.


  • High costs associated with technology adoption, including the purchase of smartphones, computers, and software, can be a barrier for small-scale farmers with limited financial resources.
  • Government subsidies or incentives, as well as partnerships with private companies, can help reduce the cost burden on farmers and make technology more accessible.

Way Forward to overcome the challenges in modernizing India's agriculture sector through technology and data-driven initiatives.

  • Infrastructure Development: Improving rural infrastructure, especially internet connectivity and reliable electricity supply, is foundational to technology adoption in remote areas. This will enable farmers to access and use digital tools effectively.
  • Capacity Building: Providing training and support to enhance digital literacy among farmers is essential. Farmers need the skills and knowledge to make the most of data-driven tools and platforms.
  • Data Governance: Establishing clear policies on data ownership, privacy, and sharing is crucial for building trust among farmers and stakeholders. Farmers must feel confident that their data is protected and used responsibly.
  • Public-Private Partnerships: Collaborations between government agencies, private sector companies, and research institutions can drive innovation and make technology more accessible. Public-private partnerships can lead to the development of farmer-centric solutions and services.
  • Research and Development: Investing in research to develop customized data-driven solutions is essential. India's diverse agricultural landscape requires tailored approaches to address specific challenges faced by different regions and crop types.
  • Incentives: Offering incentives, subsidies, and financial support can motivate farmers to adopt data-driven technologies. These incentives can help overcome the initial cost barrier and encourage widespread adoption.


  • The NABARD-UNDP partnership represents a comprehensive and forward-looking approach to addressing the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in India. Through data-driven strategies, collaborative digital public goods, and the expertise of UNDP, the partnership aims to foster sustainable agricultural practices, improve livelihoods, and empower rural communities in the face of climate change and evolving agricultural needs.


Q. How can India foster a culture of responsible data usage while harnessing the potential of data-driven innovations to transform its agriculture and food systems, addressing challenges faced by farmers, optimizing productivity, and empowering consumers to make informed choices about their food and nutrition? How might responsible data usage contribute to achieving sustainable and inclusive growth in the agriculture and food sector in India?