Smallholder Farmers & Climate Change


This report was published in June 2023 by the Nudge Institute, Bengaluru, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. It presents information gained from interviews with farmers regarding changes in the climate and the effects of these and other environmental changes on their harvests and households.

The survey for this report consists of interviews with 145 smallholder farmers who owned1-3 acres (irrigated) or 3-7 acres (rain-fed) land, used farming practices typical in India and were the decision-makers for their land. The interviews were conducted in eight districts across six states: Satara and Jalna (Maharashtra), Narsinghpur (Madhya Pradesh), Dharwad and Kalaburagi (Karnataka), Sri Sathyasai (Andhra Pradesh), Hanumakonda (Telangana) and Mahendragarh (Haryana). 

The report’s findings emphasise that rain variability, pest infestations, diseases, weeds, decrease in soil fertility, lack of earthworms and chemical usage are the most significant challenges faced by farmers. It also highlights other issues such as poor price realisation, lesser attention towards smaller farmers from agricultural and formal sectors and a scarcity of resources.


  1. The report states that on average, farmers were using pesticides 133 per cent more frequently in 2023 compared to five years before. It also notes that use of chemical fertilizers per acre of land increased by 115 per cent during the same period.

  2. Around 35 per cent smallholder farmers reported an increase in yield in the five years before the survey. Of these, only around two per cent stated that it was due to opting for organic. As many as 46 per cent attributed it to use of chemicals, 32 per cent to rainfall patters and 20 per cent to change in seeds used.

  3. Of all the farmers interviewed, 75 per cent of those who practised rainfed agriculture reported unseasonal rainfall as their biggest concern. They noted that it caused variation in yield due to unpredictability during sowing and harvest times. On the other hand, 52 per cent of farmers who relied on irrigation for agriculture identified pests and diseases as their primary concern.

  4. An overwhelming 74 per cent of farmers reported a noticeable increase in pest infestations and diseases on their land. As reported by a farmer in Telangana, the issue becomes extremely critical when the pest species are non-native to India. Often, Indian chemicals and pesticides are ineffectual on such species.

  5. Smallholder farmers usually earn very little from sale of crops, the report notes. They mostly grow food for their own household consumption and have only a small surplus to sell. They often have to rely on other work like agricultural labour or remittances.

  6. As many as 59 per cent of farmers felt that the fertility of the soil on their land has decreased in the previous five years. Around 44 per cent also felt that the texture of soil had worsened. Of those who had started using new chemicals like weedicides and plant growth promoters, 57 per cent felt that they had deteriorated soil quality.

    Focus and Factoids by Madhumita Rajgopal.


The Nudge Institute, Bengaluru


The Nudge Institute, Bengaluru


Jun, 2023