Masthi Venkatesh Iyengar Horticulture Farmer Producer Company Ltd. (FPO) was registered in 2016, in village Rajenahalli, Malur Taluka of Kolar, Karnataka. When formed, the FPO had 650 members and thirty farmer interest groups (FIGs). The FPO had been incorporated by Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), Department of Horticulture, in partnership with the promoting agency Institute Vrutti Livelihood Impact Partners. All three agencies had a common goal to help the member farmers increase their income sustainably, enhance their capacities to manage their affairs effectively, promote improved agricultural practices, introduce collective procurement of inputs and marketing, and network with other farmer institutions and NGOs.
In the initial year, management issues raised doubts among the FPO members about their decision to join hands. With a small, input business in the five years since the FPO’s inception, only 150 new members had joined. Of the 150, only ninety members had paid their share capital amount of INR 1,000 ($13.4). The mobilization of farmers and procurement of the share capital from the members had been a tedious task for the FPO.
As they were in the middle of reevaluating their shared goals and commitment to supporting member farmers in September 2021, the FPO was approached by a project “Bolstering Farmer Producer Organisations,” implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, with a suggestion to work together to achieve the FPO’s goals. The conversations that followed led to the beginning of a joint initiative.
The team implementing the project soon realized that its role would be that of a catalyst to create awareness, and undertake capacity building of farmers in the most locally relevant way. Along with this, it was important to build a congenial ecosystem in the governance of the FPO. The project team realized that the shareholders, including the board of directors, were not aware of the objectives, mission, vision, or their own responsibility as FPO members.
Within four months of the “Bolstering Farmer Producer Organisations” project involvement, through regular meetings and interactions, the company saw an increase of eighty-five members, amounting to a total of 885 members. Besides all the 885 members paid their share of the capital, i.e. INR 1,000 ($13.14) per shareholder, amounting to a total of fund of INR 85,000 ($1,144) in the FPO.
Exposure visit of FPO to Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka
Additionally, FPO members were provided with technical training on a scientific Package of Practice (PoP) for tomato and potato cultivation, which were set up in farms of 100 selected farmers. The PoP inputs were supported by the project and purchased directly from the FPO’s outlet, helping farmers increase their business turnover by INR 270,000 ($3,632), thus making their business profitable for the season.
In order to conduct crop demonstrations, the FPO asked the farmers for a contribution of INR 200 ($2.7) per farmer. With that they were able to raise INR 20,000 ($270) to be used as a revolving capital or circulating capital to bear the operational costs.
Thus within four months, the project was able to make small but impactful changes in the FPO.
Authors: Shruchi Singh and Vijay Pulli
(Shruchi is program lead and Vijay is field assistant, Farmer Producer Organization project at S M Sehgal Foundation)