Market-Oriented Pro-Poor Crops

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This model is being carried out for PACS in the Jharasguda district of Odisha by Access Development Services. It focuses on 3000 female-headed households.

Project summary

This model involves:

Project context

Jharsuguda is the second most urbanised district in Odisha. Rapid industrialisation of towns and cities in the region has encouraged rural to urban migration. As a result, the urban population has grown and demand for food items (including vegetables, meat and milk) is proportionately increasing.

There is therefore tremendous scope for the local farmers to grow commercial crops to supplement their household income. However, the growth of agriculture has remained more or less stagnant. Only 57% of the agricultural land in the district is cultivated - the rest remains fallow - and paddy continues to be the major crop. It is a low value crop, grown mainly for household consumption.

Single, divorced or widowed Indian women are customarily excluded from many areas of life, subject to significant discrimination. Female-headed households are therefore particularly vulnerable, lacking opportunities to make a living.

This model seeks to incorporate these women into the agricultural sector, helping them to grow produce that is in demand in the growing urban markets.

Pro-poor crop value chains

Under this model, women can choose one of three crop types to focus on:

  1. Pulses – moong lentils
  2. Oil Seeds – sunflower, peanut and til
  3. Vegetables – chilli and pointed gourd

These crops have all been identified as those with a good potential market in the region.

In addition, women can choose to supplement their crop income with livestock rearing – poultry or goat farming. Most of the district’s population is non-vegetarian and so demand for meat is high, particularly during festive seasons and marriage ceremonies.

The model looks at all aspects of the crop value chains. For example, within the poultry value chain, there are a lack of chicken food suppliers and hatcheries in the district. If these functions are made available locally, prices will decrease. The project therefore aims to support areas of the value chain, like these, that need development.

Cluster development

Once they have chosen a crop, the women are linked up with other women in their local area who have chosen the same crop. Together, they are supported to form local producer organisations.

These local producer organisations are then linked up with others in the district to form crop-specific cluster organisations. The cluster organisations aggregate all the goods produced by the members. By pooling together their harvests, women are able to achieve better prices.

The Small Producer Assistance Resource Centre (SPARC) is a dedicated structure which has been set up by ACCESS as part of the project to provide training and support to the cluster organisations. Here, nominated women from the clusters are trained as Community Resource Persons (CRPs).

The CRPs receive training on the best agricultural or livestock rearing techniques (dependent on their specialty). They then go back to their communities and share this with others in their producer groups, providing handholding support and help to adopt the improved practices to increase their yields.

In addition, the SPARC supports the cluster groups with market information (such as crop prices, trends and forecasts) along with links to relevant suppliers, banks and government programmes.

A business cooperative

ACCESS has been working in the Jharsuguda district for over 5 years. During this time they have set up a women’s cooperative – the Subhalakshmi Cooperative – to provide women with technical, financial and business development services.

No matter which crop they grow, the women all have shares in the cooperative. As members they can access loans to invest in their farming or other micro-enterprises, helping to further develop and improve their livelihoods.

Micro enterprise

The business cooperative promotes and supports the women to set up micro enterprises, such as vegetable carts and small village shops.

In order to receive a loan from the cooperative, women are supported to carry out an enterprise feasibility assessment and business plan (with detailed financial projections). If the plans are approved, they receive the loan and are then linked up to other similar businesses to receive training, mentoring and support.

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