Case study

Transforming agriculture: The rise of Drone Didis


The Government of India has launched the Lakhpati Didi (rural women earning a lakh per annum) programme to boost the rural economy by facilitating diversified livelihood activities and ensuring convergence across all government departments/ministries, private sector and market players. In recent years, approximately 10 crore women have joined self-help groups[1], receiving over INR 7.68 lakh crore[2] to help them become economically empowered. The government aims to create 3 crore Lakhpati Didis over the next three years[3], further expanding the campaign.

Under the Lakhpati Didi scheme, an initiative set to play a transformative role is the Namo Drone Didi Yojana. This scheme aims to train at least 15,000 'Drone Didis' across the country[4], ushering in a technological revolution in agriculture. By introducing drone technology for field spraying, it reduces labour costs, saves time, water, and other resources. Most importantly, it empowers women in rural areas by providing them with new income generation opportunities.

The STREE (Social and Transformative Rural Economic Empowerment) Programme, a collaboration between Grant Thornton Bharat and HDFC Bank Parivartan, empowers women farmers and artisans while transforming communities across Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Odisha, and West Bengal. In the last 2 years, 1.80 lakh women farmers and artisans have already been benefited through various interventions including, institution and capacity building, crop advisory, credit linkage, market linkage, digital inclusion and skill training.

To promote Namo Drone Didi Yojana under the STREE programme, Grant Thornton Bharat collaborated with IFFCO, a national fertiliser company, to train 36 women farmers across the 6 project states. Each trainee received a drone valued INR 15 lakh each, free of charge by leveraging INR 5.16 crore from the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). Women from diverse backgrounds and educational qualifications, ranging from those with a basic education to postgraduate degrees, applied to be trained as drone pilots. They were recruited through a network of organizations operating at the village level, including Farmer Producers Organisations (FPOs) promoted under the STREE programme, before being connected to IFFCO. The selection process involved interviews to assess their basic knowledge of farming.

Under the STREE project, the drone initiative is expected to empower 28,500 women farmers by FY25 and unlock significant economic benefits for them. The initiative projects a potential monetary gain of INR 1,700 per acre for women farmers, along with enhanced crop yields by 5%-8% per acre. Additionally, input costs are anticipated to decrease by 11%-13%, while labor costs are expected to see a reduction of INR 600-800 per acre. Project STREE has partnered with organizations like IFFCO, BVFCL, Indorama, Matix Fertilizers and Chemicals, and Paradeep Phosphates to provide essential training, capacity building, and on-field technical assistance, ensuring the program's success.

This initiative not only empowers women farmers but also promotes sustainable agricultural practices and improves livelihoods, shaping #VibrantBharat.


[2] Bank loans to the,Circular by RBI and NABARD.