Farmers Debt Traps & How Grassroot
NGOs are Helping

Agriculture is often hailed as the backbone of India’s economy. Farmers are perhaps the most invaluable asset to India as a developing nation and yet their situation is less than desirable. Our country is riddled with farmers who aspire to a better future but aren’t able to attain it because of crippling debt.

Debt traps have become a common issue in the country, often pushing farmers to despair. According to the National Crime Bureau Records, it is estimated that over 100,474 farmers chose to take their own lives in the nine years between 2014 and 2022.

This problem has persisted in India for ages with many interventions failing to yield a solution.

In this article, we want to dig deeper into the issue of farmer debt traps, why it is so difficult for farmers to break free from vicious debt cycles, and how NGOs at the grassroots level are trying to address this issue head-on.

So without much further ado, let’s get started.

The Pervasive Nature of Farmer Debt Traps

On the surface, farmer debt traps may seem like a benign issue. However, the problem is far more complex than meets the eye. This is perhaps why we haven’t been able to come up with a comprehensive solution to this problem for decades. Various factors can be attributed to farmers falling into the clutches of mounting debt.

From fluctuating market prices to high input costs and unfavorable weather conditions to inadequate access to credit, any one or a combination of these issues have pushed farmers into inescapable debt traps since India attained its independence.

Many small farmers still depend on informal moneylenders for credit. These moneylenders are infamous for charging exorbitant interest rates, which only results in debt that spirals out of control until it becomes impossible to clear.

Many farmers aren’t literate or aware enough to make informed and smart financial decisions, which only aggravates the situation further.

The consequences of falling into this debt trap can be severe for farmers. We’ve already touched upon the grave issue of farmer suicides. However, the consequences stretch far beyond that tragedy. Debt traps condemn a farmer and his family to a life of poverty. It harms agricultural productivity.

Moreover, debt traps prevent farmers from investing in technologies that could help them improve their yield and turn their fortunes around.

The Role NGOs are Playing in Helping Farmers Escape the Debt Trap

Over the years, we’ve seen many forces intervene in an attempt to alleviate this issue once and for all. NGOs have been one such entity always at the forefront of this battle. One can argue that because most of these organizations work at the grassroots level, they have a better understanding of this issue than many other government agencies and philanthropic organizations.

This is why we at Let It Count have made it our mission to shine a spotlight on such NGOs.Let It Count lends such organizations the platform they need to get donors who could help them in their noble cause.

Here’s how NGOs are helping farmers escape the debt trap:

1. Providing Access to Affordable Credit
By providing access to affordable credit, NGOs are helping farmers steer clear of informal moneylenders. There are many organizations throughout the country today that have allied themselves with microfinance institutions. These institutions offer loans to farmers at an interest rate that can be deemed reasonable.

2. Encouraging Financial Literacy
Many farmers lack the basic financial literacy required to manage their debt. There are many NGOs out there that provide farmers with the education they need on financial products and planning. Take the example of Proshika in Bangladesh. This NGO is known to provide farmers with training sessions and specialized programs that help farmers make informed decisions.

3. Promoting Sustainable Farming Practices
As we mentioned before, a major problem triggering farmer debt traps is the high input costs. This is something farmers can avoid if they are familiar with modern sustainable farming practices. These practices can help farmers not only improve their yield but also cut down their dependence on substances that have proven to be harmful to their produce in the long run.

There are NGOs in India, like Navdanya that are promoting the use of organic farming among farmers. This organization also engages in providing farmers with adequate training on using sustainable farming practices more appropriately in a bid to reduce their costs and boost their produce.

4. Getting Access to Market
Farmers in the country have often struggled to keep up with fluctuating market prices. Most of them lack any direct access to the market, which only ends up cutting their profits significantly as they have to rely on a middleman. NGOs like BRAC in Bangladesh, for instance, are now working hard to ensure farmers have direct access to the market, thus ensuring they get fair prices for their yield.

Such organizations also provide farmers with data on market trends and prices, which can help farmers make smart decisions concerning what they should sell and when it should be sold.

5. Influencing Policy
On a larger scale, NGOs in India have always played a significant role in advocating for policies that serve the best interests of the farmers. Oxfam, for instance, is one such organization that has played a significant role in influencing a policy change that benefits and protects the interests of small farmers.

Initiatives Taken by Farmers to Avoid Debt Traps

While the role of NGOs cannot be denied, farmers themselves have taken greater initiatives in recent years to help themselves and their fellow brethren from the clutches of debt. Many farmers have set up co-operatives whose job is to help with the purchasing of inputs, reduce costs, share knowledge, and help farmers access markets directly.

Some farmers have also started diversifying their roles. Instead of engaging in crop production alone, many farmers have also taken up poultry, fisheries, and livestock as a means to open up multiple streams of income. This has helped them manage the risks that often come with farming like crop failures, unstable weather, market price fluctuation, etc.

We’ve also seen farmers investing in their education and training to facilitate better decision-making and a life free of debt.


This country has always considered farmers as one of its invaluable assets. These farmers have struggled to live a debt-free life for decades. It is high time we give this issue the time and attention it deserves. NGOs, especially those at the grassroots, have proven themselves to be a worthy ally of farmers.

They’ve played an instrumental role in educating farmers, providing them with affordable financial assistance, and helping them access the market better. This is a major reason why we at Let It Count want to lend grassroots NGOs the platform and support they need.