Climate Change Resilience - Crop Residue Management

A Community Driven Initiative to Mitigate the Catastrophic Farm Fire Crisis in North India

How Viable Alternatives to Stubble Burning Are Driving Change at the Grassroots 

Millions of farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn crop residue around September-October to clear their fields in time for sowing the Rabi crop. Smoke from the burning stubble envelopes the farms and spreads across the region gradually, aggravating air pollution in the region, especially in Delhi-NCR. Stubble burning causes environmental damage by way of soil degradation and air pollution and also affects the health of people, causing and aggravating respiratory ailments, amongst others. 

Crop residue burning was identified as a significant cause of air pollution in Delhi-NCR after a CII NITI Aayog study in 2017 on air pollution in the region.

To address the issue of crop residue burning and help farmers with environmentally viable alternatives,  the CII Foundation launched a pilot project in 2018 covering 19 villages in Punjab.  Significant changes at the ground level saw the programme evolve and grow to meet the goal of making zero crop residue burning a farmer movement  facilitating industry and community partnership in climate change mitigation efforts.[PS1]  The interventions include creating awareness, organising technical training and handholding support to farmers in partnership with Agricultural universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and State & District Departments, providing financial support for developing Community Tool Banks from where farmers can rent machinery at affordable costs, creating Nigrani committees and providing bio-mass management alternatives.

In 2021, the programme was scaled up to 226 villages covering almost 2 lakh acres of farmland and 40,000 farmers. Biomass burning was reduced by 84% in the intervened villages.

Rajesh Kumar, 36, is a marginal farmer with 5 acres of farm in the Dholu village of the Fatehabad district of Haryana. He has a family of 5 members to support. He would routinely burn the crop residue since there was no practical alternative. In 2019 he learnt about the CII Foundation initiative and began participating to learn more about the alternatives to stubble burning and the support the CII Foundation could offer. As a marginal farmer with limited financial means, Rajesh found the Tool Bank set up by the CII Foundation very useful. He could now easily access advanced agriculture tools needed to manage paddy waste such as Superseeder and Rotavator, which were unaffordable earlier. With this assistance, Rajesh decided to treat the paddy stubble ex-situ. 

Rajesh is happy to have made that switch: since the machinery cost is low, he is saving money (contrary to popular belief, stubble burning also costs money). He says farmers in his village are currently experimenting with various machinery offered in the village by the CII Foundation. Timely availability of machinery is helping farmers and resulting in less burning of paddy straw.

Rajesh claims that the Happy Seeder, Mulcher, Zero Till, and MB Plough have all been very useful in managing crop residue. “ Farmers previously lacked the necessary equipment to treat the stubble, but since getting the equipment, we haven't burned any of it. Using these devices has enhanced yield, and reduced the need for weedicide and farm inputs in the field."

Rajesh emphasises how cooperative usage of the farm equipment and machinery by the village farmers has inspired other farmers in the region to follow suit. “Whosoever sees this effort, appreciates it. Seeing the increased yield and cost efficiency, other farmers are also experimenting with using the new machinery.” 

People around him are also appreciating the cleaner air, especially those who experience breathing problems during the colder months because of stubble burning, adds Rajesh. 

Today, Rajesh is a happy farmer and a role model for his village. With his adoption of new and economically viable alternatives, he has demonstrated that a behavioural change is possible, and the project impact significant.

To know more about the CII Foundation Crop Residue Management Project contact Chandrakant Pradhan at and Kuldeep Sengar at

Donor: Apraava Energy