a magazine on ecological agriculture
a one stop treasure of practical field experiences

Innovative value chains ensures sustainable livelihoods

Women entrepreneurs process mustard to extract oil

By organizing themselves into a Farmer Producer Company, the farmers in Koraput district in Odisha are handling processing, value addition and collective marketing of horticulture produce. With enhanced capacities in managing the crop harvest from farm to market, not only have their incomes increased, their bargaining power and motivation levels are also on the rise.

Farmers in Dasmantpur block in Koraput district have been traditionally cultivating paddy, millets, maize and niger, primarily during kharif season.  Undulating terrain, poor soil quality, lack of irrigation facilities resulted in farmers harvesting just one crop a year. Owing to lack of awareness on organic practices, farmers have been following conventional methods, resulting in low yields. With less produce, farmers had lesser bargaining power, therefore, received low returns. With unsustainable incomes,  farmers were forced to migrate in search of alternative livelihoods.

Agragamee, a national NGO, strongly believes in systematically and sustainably addressing these challenges through active involvement of producers themselves. In collaboration with donor agencies like KKS, NABARD and Govt. of Odisha, Agragamee initiated a livelihood stabilization programme and in the last ten years, it nurtured 4500 small and marginal farmers and women producers in Koraput district, to adopt agroecological practices.

 

Turmeric being processed by women entrepreneurs

Where women create their own path towards self reliance

 

The tribal belt of Odisha is richly endowed with hill grasses. The agro-climatic condition of Rayagada forest range is very much congenial to produce the best quality of the hill brooms. Most of the tribes depend on the collection and sale of hill grass. Considering the huge demand, broom making trade with its huge potential for growth is a sustainable livelihood option for the community for some part of the year.

Ama Sangathan (Women Federation) is a registered society which grew out of the efforts of 1225 women from Kashipur Block of Rayagada district, since 1992. Tribal communities are enabled to organize themselves into people’s organization. Women leadership was actively promoted both at the village level as well as at the panchayat level. Ama Sanghatan society networks with 17 Mahila Mandals of different panchayats in Kashipur block.

Ama Sangathan (AS) has a central processing unit and warehouse at Mandibisi village of Rayagada district. It collects, stores raw material, processes, maintains finished goods inventory and markets the processed product. The processing is being done frequently. After collection, the hill grass is transported to the central warehouse where the final level of processing is done. In a span of five years, the collection has increased from 312 quintals to 411 quintals. Consequently, the annual turnover increased from Rs.12,50,000/- to Rs.17,20,000/- during the same period. The profits are shared among the members equally, every year. The women entrepreneurs have achieved self reliance.

Around 1850 families shifted to organic food cultivation over 2115 acres with 5-10% production improvement per hectare.

Case of a Farmer Producer Company

Local vendors procure organic mango from farm sites

Dasmantpur Cashew Development Processing & Marketing Producer Company Ltd. (DCDPMPCL) has been promoted by Agragamee involving farmers and Mahila Mandals (women groups) belonging to 87 villages to enable fair returns to farmers. The FPC has been working with economically poor,  socially marginalized women and farmers to help them foster their entrepreneurial spirit and to turn potential into profit through enterprise development. DCDPMPCL was formed during May 2016, consisting of 2050 progressive farmers belonging to 87 farmer producer groups (37 Udyan Vikas Samiti and 50 Mahila Mandals), belonging to 87 villages.

 

Between 2009 and 2011, the existing members of Udyan Vikas Samiti and Mahila Mandal groups in the village were organized into farmer producer groups.  They have been mobilizing savings and giving loans to the members who are in need of credit. Gradually, the members got successfully initiated into different agro-horticulture production systems involving cashew, turmeric, oil seeds, pulses, mango, tapioca, hill broom and millets.

The foremost emphasis of the FPC has been on productivity enhancement.  Sustainable practices were promoted among horticulture farmers. By the end of December 2017, around 1850 families had shifted to organic food cultivation over 2115 acres, with 5-10% production improvement per hectare.

Farmers were encouraged to use grafted seedlings and organic inputs like pit compost, vermi compost, liquid manure, green manure, pot compost etc. They followed practices like mulching, ring making, pitcher irrigation, plant staking etc., learnt through trainings, demonstration and exposure visits.  Around 1275 farmers from 56 villages have developed cashew orchards, harvesting an yield of 5-7 kg per tree. Similarly, around 1109 farmers from 53 villages developed mango orchards, harvesting an yield of 12-15 kg/tree. The FPC tied up with input dealers like Orissa State Cashew Development Corporation Limited (OSCDCL), Agro Service Centre and Utkal Seeds and Nursery.

A customer verifies the hill broom quality

Around 1250 farmers from 58 villages were engaged in cultivation of hill broom. Earlier its cultivation was taken up on encroached land, but now is taking place both on individual farms and on commons, in a systematic manner.  With enhanced skills and knowledge on cultivation, processing and value addition of hill broom through various capacity building processes, farmers could harvest 400-450 kg per acre.

Around 79 farmers from 6 villages were engaged in cultivation of turmeric. There were no collective efforts for processing and value addition of turmeric. Owing to lack of awareness about the scientific methods of turmeric cultivation, the yield per acre was around 10000-12000kg.  Presently, 407 farmers from 32 villages are engaged in cultivation, adopting sustainable practices realizing an yield of 18000-22000 kg per acre, besides collection, processing and value addition.

Value addition and marketing

Members of FPC took up various value addition processes after being trained on processing and value addition. (See Table 1). Local branding was also done. While value addition of mango and cashew was taken up by farmer business groups of FPC, the mahila mandals took up processing of hill broom and turmeric.

Table 1: Value added products

Sl. No. Name of the Produce Value Addition of the Produce Local Brand Name Done By
1 Cashew Cashew Nut Dasmantpur Cashew nut Farmer Business Groups under DCDPMPCL
2 Mango Pickle, Amchur, Dried Mango Cake Dasmantpur Pickle Farmer Business Groups under DCDPMPCL
3 Hill Broom Broom (Jhadu) AmaHaldi Mahila Mandals under DCDPMPCL
4 Turmeric Turmeric Powder Shradha Mahila Mandals under DCDPMPCL

Farmer members of FPC collectively marketed by pooling their produce and transporting the same to the local as well as city markets.The procurement has been facilitated by Agragamee which trained the FPC Board of Directors to handle such procurements. A fair system of quality control for procurement was adopted as per the standards laid down by the market policy and guidelines. By eliminating middlemen, farmers could get better prices. A sale outlet was set up in Dasmantpur for direct marketing of value added and processed products to customers. By the end of the year 2017, by selling 255 tons of cashew, 145 tons of mangoes and 41 tons of hill broom, each producer/shareholder got an income of Rs 53,840. FPC also had a tie up with Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society (ORMAS) and PCM Exports. With this initiative, the income of the farmer members increased by 40%. For example, by selling to the middlemen, the turmeric farmers of Marichaguda village of Dasmantpur Block were getting only Rs. 8000/- per quintal of raw turmeric. Now, after value addition, they are able to earn Rs. 15000 per quintal of turmeric powder, by selling it directly in the market. Likewise, the cashew, mango and hill broom farmer producers have augmented their income by 40%.

Cultivating cashew trees ensured better returns for tribal households

In addition to market linkages, the FPC has also been organizing farmer melas seasonally, to directly sell the produce to consumers, thereby, creating visibility too. Besides marketing, FPC is also providing services like emergency credit, production credit, retail services on consumables and other agricultural production support services required by the farmer producers.

Conclusion

Collectivizing efforts for meeting the requirement on the farm inputs and increasing the direct sale of the produce has helped farmers increase their income levels. It has also enhanced their bargaining power. This procurement mechanism has now triggered a wave of support for FPC in the region not only among the farmers but also at the administration level.

However, there are still challenges. NGOs play a crucial role in development of the FPC as promoting institutions but they operate largely based on a philosophy of social work. But, understanding the markets and nurturing entrepreneurial abilities is something which is required for the FPCs to grow. And, this is beyond the capabilities of local NGOs. Also a favorable ecosystem is a must for development of the FPC, as it has to deal with most vulnerable part of the agri-value chain, which starts from the farm and ends in far away markets.

The journey has just begun.

 

Kulaswami Jagannath Jena
Project Coordinator -Eco Village Development
Agragamee
Kashipur, Rayagada,
Odisha, India.
www.agragamee.org
E-mail: kulaswami13@gmail.com