Maximizing Farmer Producer Organizations
Sangam Samriddhi Farmer Producer Company Limited (FPO) was set up by the Uttar Pradesh government’s Bhumi Sudhar Nigam, in 2014. This was done with 1,000 farmers in eight villages of Pratappur block, Handia town, Prayagraj district in Uttar Pradesh. The FPO headquarters is in village Bhelkha, and its primary intention was to increase the efficiencies and income of its farmer members.
In September 2021, the FPO first engaged with the project team for the Bolstering Farmer Producer Organizations Program which is being implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation with philanthropic grant funding support from the Walmart Foundation. The S M Sehgal Foundation team approached the FPO with an opportunity to work together toward achieving its goals, including organization and membership sustainability. Initial discussions with the FPO revealed that even though the FPO was set up in 2014, the awareness levels of the members on modern agricultural practices was quite low. The FPO did not have any business plan in place or any forward and backward linkages. The majority of the farmers continued to follow inefficient age-old practices of cultivation with little or no knowledge about the right mix of macro and micro soil nutrients for better crop productivity and other relevant information. The participation of women was also limited, primarily due to dominant cultural norms and practices, which led women to stay indoors and not be involved in any kind of decision‑making.
With regular village-level meetings, trainings, and handholding, the project team accelerated work to support farmers to increase their awareness and to gradually shift toward more modern and sustainable methods of cultivation. In November 2021, the FPO members were provided with technical training on a scientific Package of Practices (PoP) for wheat cultivation, and its demonstrations were set up in the fields of 100 selected farmers, covering fifty acres of land. The project supported the replacement of their poor-quality seeds with better seeds that were appropriate for the area. The sowing was done in lines with proper spacing, using a tractor‑driven seed drill, replacing the broadcasting method of cultivation. Along with this, the project team provided regular technical support to farmers on better irrigation practices that also focus on the judicious use of water, effective and timely weeding methods, and the right remedy in the event of pest and disease infestation of the crop, among others.
Other FPO members were influenced by observing the practices used by the selected demonstration farmers, and an additional ninety acres of land were sown with the seed drill instead of the broadcasting method. The results of the new interventions have been impressing the farmers. With the current rate of growth of the crops, such as an increase in the number of tillers and the year‑head per plant in the demonstration wheat crop, the farmers expect a yield of over 400 kgs from the 0.5 acre plot, as opposed to the earlier average yield of 300–350 kgs when traditional practices were followed.
Regular focused encouragement is being provided to women farmers since the inception of the project, through women-exclusive initiatives, including village‑level meetings and trainings. The mobilization of women for these events is done by the project’s woman staff member, which makes the women farmers more comfortable. Fifteen to twenty women farmers now participate in the project’s women‑oriented events, while earlier none were involved in the FPO events. This number is expected to rise significantly as more proof of the improvements and advantages of the project initiatives come in. The women farmers have become more vocal and confident, and are taking a more active part in decision‑making during meetings and discussions.
Forty‑five-year-old Janta devi, of Belkha village, is a participant of the project’s wheat demonstration which is set up in 0.5 acre of her land. She says, “Women are always considered only to be housewives and not farmers. My husband (Radheyshyam) works in the city, and I manage the house as well as the farms. I have always wanted the same capabilities and voice that a man has, which I am now learning from the project team. Now I can discuss farming problems in the open forum of the FPO.”
Women farmers have requested dual membership in the FPO, i.e., both husband and wife being given memberships. The main reason for this is for women to have an active voice and decision‑making role along with their male counterparts.
Women farmers have also requested the project team to support them for cultivating high-value crops and other livelihood activities.
Authors: Vipin Kumar Singh and Shruchi Singh
(Vipin is field assistant in Prayagraj and Shruchi is program lead in Kolar region with S M Sehgal Foundation)