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The Rockefeller Foundation and The/Nudge Institute Unveil Climate Change’s Impact on Smallholder Farmers in India, Paving the Way for Resilient Solutions

70% of smallholder farmers have lost 50% or more of a crop in the past three years due to climate related challenges

NEW DELHI, INDIA | July 04, 2023 ― The Rockefeller Foundation and The/Nudge Institute announced new findings of their ‘Smallholder Farmers and Climate Change – Voices from the Field’ report, which breaks down how climate related challenges are impacting smallholder farmers across India, as well as assesses opportunities to build climate resilience. The report focuses on six states in India – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh – and aims to understand use of farming practices (e.g., crop rotation, rain forecast usage), changes in chemical usage (e.g., pesticides), and perspectives of farming families on dealing with the consequences of climate change.

The key findings from the report include:

  • Smallholder farmers cite variability in rainfall and the rise of pests and diseases as their top challenges in farming.
  • 74% of smallholder farmers said pests and disease have increased and 77% said weeds have increased.
  • The incidence of spraying pesticides and the usage of chemical fertilizers has more than doubled for 76% and 54% of small farmers, respectively.
  • Over 60% of smallholder farmers are aware of and are already implementing practices such as crop rotation and farm manure to improve soil health. Three out of five smallholder farmers are actively seeking and utilizing weather information to plan their farming activities.
  • Farmers are now spending less time on farming thanks to advances in farming technology: 55% of women are doing less back-breaking weeding work due to the use of weedicide and men are spending less time due to the use of tractors. They are engaging in other income-generating activities such as dairy farming and wage labor.

This report uses language from the context of the people that the Foundation serves through India, which defines small holder farmers – who total 22 million individuals – as those who possess 1-2 acres of irrigated land or 3-7 acres of rain-fed land, making agriculture their primary occupation. In practice, those who cultivate or work on the land but do not own it are excluded from the definition of “farmers.” Following with that local distinction, the report also includes analysis from “spouses” who work extensively on the farm but are not legally considered small holder farmers, and breaks down distinctions between male and female small holder farmers across the country.

“Smallholder farmers form a significant part of India’s agricultural landscape, however, climate change along with limited access to opportunities, are threatening their livelihoods,” said Ashish Karamchandani, President, The/Nudge Institute. “The support of The Rockefeller Foundation has been instrumental in enabling us to initiate work towards addressing these pressing issues. We are actioning research towards innovative solutions and scaling up our efforts, ensuring that small farmers have access to the resources, knowledge, and tools they need to thrive.”

The Rockefeller Foundation aims to integrate the intelligence from the report into its work on testing and scaling regenerative and nourishing food systems in India, and strengthen its other efforts towards developing evidence on the true costs of food systems, while elevating experiences of smallholder farmers to policymakers and leaders at key farming, business, and science-based organizations.

“The findings of this report are a clarion call to create newer avenues to support smallholder farmers in India. By illuminating the climate related challenges they encounter, we can develop targeted solutions and interventions that enable them to adapt and thrive,” said Deepali Khanna, Vice President, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation. “By integrating these insights into our initiatives, we can work towards building resilient and sustainable food systems that support the livelihoods of millions.”

Formal sector and Agri-tech companies typically target mid and large farmers but not smallholder farmers. The research will help prototype (identify interventions, develop business models, and do action research to shortlist solutions), propagate (enable multiple players to use the solutions, expand geographies, crops, and farmer segments), and proliferate (enable interventions to scale) solutions for smallholder farmers.

The report can be accessed here.

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation that enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We make big bets to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal and sustainable. Our focus is on scaling renewable energy for all, stimulating economic mobility, and ensuring equitable access to health care and nutritious food. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

About The/Nudge Institute  

The/Nudge Institute is an action institute working towards a poverty-free India within our lifetime. We partner with governments, markets and civil society to build resilient livelihoods for all, through our Centre for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (CSDE), Centre for Rural Development (CRD) and Centre for Social Innovation (CSI). For more details, visit

Media Contacts

Gurpratap Singh
The Rockefeller Foundation

Sindhujaa Kumar
The/Nudge Institute

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