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Linking markets: Students show the way

In an unique initiative, students of agriculture in Tikamgarh played an important role in building linkages and thereby spreading organic farming. The linkage paved the way to move agriculture towards a healthy, environmental friendly and sustainable system.

Students help in organic manure preparation

Students help in organic manure preparation

The increasing demand for certified organic produce has created new opportunities for a section of farmers who are rich and can afford the costs of certification. These farmers constitute a very small percentage of total farm holders who aspire economic boom with the development of lucrative export markets. On the other hand, majority of small farm holders are still dependent on government incentives to meet the cost of input and are striving for a rational profit margin for their produce in indigenous market. Small farm holders in India are apprehensive in adopting organic farming practices. Owing to its export orientation, organic system of agriculture is not being considered as an opportunity for small scale farmers.

The unique initiative

The final year students of College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, (M.P.), are placed in villages during the Rural Agriculture Work Experience (RAWE) programme. They are placed in the villages to have interactions with farmers, study different governmental schemes, and exchange their learning with farmers on advanced farming techniques and traditional knowledge. In 2013-14, around 44 boys were placed in different villages of Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh.

While students learnt from farmers, they also helped farmers in adopting organic farming practices, which they had learnt during their course of study. Students were also exposed to on- farm organic practices during practical sessions. In addition, they were also exposed to the on- farm trials (OFTs) and field level demonstrations (FLDs) of organic farming conducted by KVK, Sagar, under whose supervision the students were placed.

Most of the farmers in the area possessed small and marginal land holdings with entire family engaged in farming. These farmers were producing only to meet their family needs. By default the farms were primarily non-chemical, as the farmers could not afford chemical inputs. The students took advantage of the existing situation and suggested to farmers to avoid chemical usage completely.

There exist a considerable population of non farming families in urban areas surrounding these villages within a radius of 10 kms. They are health savvy and aware of the ill effects of inorganic practices. They are the ones who can afford higher prices for healthy organic produce. The students saw an opportunity to build linkages among the farm producers and urban consumers. The idea of linking urban consumers with rural producers emerged out of informal interaction with urban people. On one hand, there were urban consumers having a need for organic food and on the other hand there were farmers who had switched to organic methods of cultivation.

The RAWE students interacted with both producers and consumers and made them aware that a linkage between them would be a win-win situation to both. The farmers got convinced for adopting organic farming practices seeking two advantages – reduced cost of cultivation and assured market for their produce. Earlier, they had hardly ventured into marketing.

The students kept a track record of the urban families who could be the potential buyers. To meet the ensuing demand, the group of students motivated the small farmers to adopt organic farming. The RAWE students extended their technical inputs for undertaking organic farming by these small farmers.

Although with small volume, the market for buying back the produce from small farmers was established. A buy back agreement was also documented and got legalized by these students. A connecting link was felt to be in place in between urbanite‘s exclusive preference of buying organic produce and the obligatory practice of organic farming by small and marginal farmers, says Lakhan Patidar, an agriculture graduate working on channelizing this linkage.

Farmers now know the importance of organic manure application
Farmers now know the importance of organic manure application

Results

In the crop year of 2013-14, a group of 44 urban, non-farming families and 25 small holding farmers were part of this linkage. A total of 310 quintals of wheat was bought by the urbanites at a price three times higher than the minimum support price during Rabi season of 2013-14. As most of buyer and/or consumers are equipped with transportation means, they themselves picked up the produce from the villages. Similarly, vegetables like okra, brinjal, tomato and cucurbitaceous vegetables are also being marketed.

Farmers of small to medium land holdings are finding it easier to grow crops without price risks. Assured market, higher income, migration check are the prime benefits. The establishment of linkage undoubtedly brought a change in the mindset of other farming communities, to adopt organic farming. Farmers with large land holdings are also joining hands to get involved. Dr. S.P.Singh, Course coordinator (RAWE) of College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, finds this linkage to be very efficient in transforming agriculture. “There is a need for a comprehensive framework that integrates organic farming with focus on local resources and innovation. This will surely help in generating large-scale farmers’ acceptance to solve food crisis in the context of climate change and to address the health and livelihood security of large rural masses of India“, says Singh.

The trend of purchasing organic produce has been scaling up including more number of people from nearby areas aspiring to be a part of the arrangement. People from the service sector and the business class, are enthusiastically coming forward to be a part of the linkage. “We need not worry about the chemicals getting into our body system. Moreover, all organic food, now comes from our local area only“, says Akhilesh Jain, a local businessman residing in Jesinagar.

Yogranjan and Kamini Bisht

Yogranjan
Department of Biotechnology, JN Agricultural University, College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, M.P.-472001, India Email:yogranjan@gmail.com

Kamini Bisht
Department of Agricultural Extension, JN Agricultural University, College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, M.P.-472001, India