Ashok Goud is small farmer in the state of Telangana in southern India who has been farming two acres of land for the past 20 years. When his paddy crop failed last year due to drought, he planted maize. When the market for maize fell, he learned how to grow tomatoes with help from the local seed store’s owner. When his land was unusable six months in a year due to heat waves exceeding 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius), he ran a small store on the side to support his family. Ashok is an entrepreneur, and his dedication to an often unforgiving profession is unwavering.
More than a billion people in the world are employed in agriculture, and in India, one out of four people are farmers or agricultural workers. Like Ashok, these smallholder farmers—who constitute 85 percent of farmers globally—make up one of the largest constituencies among the world’s poor. They farm on a hectare or two of land, and often lack access to the right seeds and fertilizers, technology, and knowledge, which in turn makes their yields far lower than they could be. Markets fail them when they try to sell their produce. On top of these challenges, they are increasingly affected by climate change.