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Collective action, multiple benefits: A case of a social enterprise model

Farmers in Madhya Pradesh are improving crop productivity and increasing their incomes by creating social enterprises using ecologically sound and sustainable practices. The social enterprise model has not only helped farmers to earn better incomes with very low investments, but has also resulted in building biological diversity.

 Insects like lady bird beetles are back with the use of biopesticides. Photo: Vritti

Insects like lady bird beetles are back with the use of biopesticides. Photo: Vritti
Shri Ram Kailash with his biopesticide production. Photo: Vritti
Shri Ram Kailash with his biopesticide production. Photo: Vritti

Khanpura is a small village of 100 households located in the Budhni Block of Sehore district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The village is surrounded by dense forest with agriculture as a main source of livelihood. Till about a few years back, farmers in this area, having given up traditional agriculture practices, were heavily dependent on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Vrutti, Livelihood Resource Centre, an NGO has been working in this area to promote sustainable livelihoods. It was observed that small farmers were using pesticides indiscriminately for which they were spending around Rs 1000-3000/- per acre.

Besides increasing costs of cultivation, indiscriminate use of chemicals and pesticides had led to problems such as development of resistance in pests, resurgence of pests, environmental and food safety hazards.

To help farmers reduce their costs of cultivation while adopting environmental sustainable practices, Vrutti started advocating the use of cow urine, neem and castor leaf based bio-pesticides, based on local knowledge. This was initially met with scepticism by farmers, who have been using chemicals since long, on the efficacy of these bio-pesticides.

Adopting systematic approach, Vrutti succeeded in educating farmers on the benefits of using biopesticides. Also, Vrutti encouraged farmers to create a viable business model around it.

Vrutti helped village communities organise themselves into farmer clubs and Self Help Groups (SHG). Members of the farmer groups were taken on exposure visits to different farm fields to see and learn good agriculture practices like SRI, SWI, NPM and Organic Farming. Members also visited organisations like Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Agriculture Universities and other institutions and interacted with the staff to understand the working of Farmer Producer Organisations.

The lead farmers – the innovators and early adopters of good farm practices, having a positive attitude and acceptable by the communities, were selected as the Agri Business Development Service (BDS) providers. The role of BDS providers is to provide support to farmers at their door step and also facilitate linkages with government services, market players, extension services and the research and scientific institutions.

The Agri BDS providers were trained as Master trainers. They were also trained in motivating registered farmers in collecting cow urine and supplying to BDS for bio-pesticide preparations; assessing the utility of cow urine and neem leaf based biopesticides.

Process

Case of an early adopter

One of the early adopters was Shri Ram Kailash Yadav , a farmer of Khanpura village and Agri BDS. He is 35 years, educated farmer having 5 acre land. He is curious, hardworking and has leadership qualities along with good entrepreneur skills. He has four cows.

With Vrutti’s association, Ram Kailash decided to try out production of biopesticide using cow urine. To start the enterprise, he first secured 18 drums of 200 litres capacity with NABARD’s support.

He took 15 litres of cow urine and added 5 kg of neem leaves, 0.5 kg of custard apple leaves, and 0.5 kg of Calatropis gignata leaves. He left the mixture undisturbed for 21 days. The mixture undergoes anaerobic fermentation. After 21 days, 0.5 kg of the bio pesticide was mixed with 15 litres of water and sprayed on soyabean crop. The spraying was repeated at an interval of 15 days.

Ram Kailash noticed a marked difference in the crop. The growth of the plants had increased tremendously. The roots were strong and started spreading, a sign of a healthy plant. The disease attack was reduced. Plant became more resistant towards diseases and pests. The grain quality increased. The land became fertile due to the application of cow urine. There was an increase in yield. The seeds produced were much healthier compared to those produced without using biopesticides.

After noticing these positive changes he decided to produce the bio pesticide on a commercial basis. He prepared around 2200 litre of bio pesticide in the first year making a profit of around Rs. 17600/-. The profit earned by Ram Kailash is shown below:

Year Input Cost per litre Production
(in litres)
Rate
Sold
Amount Profit
2013 Rs. 4 5700 Rs 12 Rs 68400 Rs 45600
2012 Rs. 4 2200 Rs 12 Rs 26400 Rs.17600

Preparation of bio pesticide does not require labour and can be prepared easily. The input cost for making the bio pesticide is negligible as he collects the leaves of neem, custard apple, and Calatropis gignata from the forest and cow urine is collected from the cows he owns. Infact, Ram Kailash started his business with Rs 200 only.

The entire process of biopesticide production takes place at three levels.

Cow urine is collected at SHG/Farmer Club level. More than 400 households are involved in the collection of cow urine. The agri BDS providers collect the cow urine from the SHG/farmer groups and take it to the processing centers. Every day around 500 litres of cow urine is collected from all the households. Farmers are paid Rs.5 per litre of cow urine.

Processing is done at three units located in Khandawar, Khanpura and Ondia Village. The cow urine collected is put in 200 litres plastic drum. To this, around 20 kg of neem and custard apple leaves are added. The drum is kept closed for 21 days for fermentation.

After filtering the leaf, the solution is used as biopesticide. Each unit has a capacity to produce around 3000 lts. of biopesticide. Now, some SHGs are showing interest to prepare biopesticide at the village level and market it within the village.

Marketing is done by Narmadanchal Farmer Producer Company (formed by 1000 no of farmers) which purchases the bio pesticide. Narmadanchal is a community organization registered under the companies act as Producer Company. The biopesticide is sold under the brand name Brand Ejecta.

Benefits

Bio pesticides are being used by around 500 farmers in different crops like paddy, wheat, soybean etc. They perceive a lot of benefits by using biopesticides.

There is 20 to 25% crop growth appreciated by the farmers – the number of tillers has increased, there is no yellowing of leaves and fungal disease infections, plants are healthy, the ear length has increased with increased grain weight. The seeds are bold having good colour and appearance.

Farmers have reduced using chemical pesticides. Of the total, around 25% of the farmers have totally stopped using pesticides, 50% have reduced the usage by half and 25% have used biopesticide at least one time during the crop growth. This has considerably reduced costs of production.

While cost of using chemical pesticide is around Rs. 1800/acre, cost of producing bio pesticide is about Rs.1000, thus saving around Rs. 800/acre.

Overall, with reduced costs of production and increased yields, farmers are able to increase their net incomes by about Rs.5000 per acre.

With continous use of biopesticides, farmers have observed lady bird beetles and earthworms, thus enhancing ecological diversity. There is an enormous saving of water too which was earlier used in the application of chemical pesticides.

Scaling up the initiative

Inauguration of bio pesticide Unit by Mr Deepak Kumar, GM. Photo: Vritti
Inauguration of bio pesticide Unit by Mr Deepak Kumar, GM. Photo: Vritti

At present about 500 farmers are using cow urine based bio pesticides in their farms in different crops like Paddy, Wheat, Soybean etc.

The positive results has encouraged Vrutti in scaling up the enterprise with the support of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

NABARD under the Environment Promotional Assistance Programme supported Vrutti in setting up two bio pesticide units in the tribal areas of Yardnagar and Kanndawar villages in Budani block of Sehore district in Madhya Pradesh. This is being jointly run by farmer groups /federations and Vrutti.

The social enterprise model has not only helped farmers earn better incomes with very low investments, but also resulted in soil fertility enhancement while safeguarding the environment.

Pramel Gupta

Pramel Gupta Vrutti Livelihood Resource Centre, Behind Govt. High School, 41, 1st Main Rd, Ashwath Nagar, RMV 2nd Stage, Bangalore, Karnataka 560094, India.
Email: pramel@vrutti.org; info@vrutti.org