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Farmer producer company successfully implements farm-to-home model during lockdown

 

Farmer producer company successfully implements farm-to-home model during lockdown

Nikhila Shastry and Sharmishtha Bose May 25, 2020 Chikkaballapur, Karnataka

https://www.villagesquare.in/farmer-producer-company-successfully-implements-farm-to-home-model-during-lockdown/

Connecting farmers who had surplus produce with consumers who lacked access to vegetables and fruits, a farmer-producer company in Karnataka bridges the gap, benefiting both


Amidst uncertainties and restriction on transportation of persons and farm produce owing to COVID-19 lockdown, on the one hand farmers had surplus produce and on the other hand, consumers had zero or limited access to fresh vegetables.

This situation has been witnessed across the country for almost two months now. However, there are many ongoing efforts among farmers and their organisations that attempt to forge a partnership and bridge this gap.

Mokshagundam Vishweshwarayya Farmer Producer Company Limited (MVFPCL) is in the town of Bagepalli in Chikkaballapur district, at a distance of 100 km from Bengaluru. MVFPCL has 903 farmer-shareholders from 45 villages, comprising 587 men and 316 women.

Incorporated in 2016, MVFPCL has been involved in the marketing of agri-inputs such as fertilisers, seeds, cattle feed and organic growth promoters to the farmers by setting up farmer producer organisation (FPO) outlets in the villages.

MVFPCL has been supplying fruits and vegetables to established modern retailers and well-known e-commerce players in Bengaluru. During the lockdown, MVFPCL helped farmers and customers connect by purchasing fruits and vegetables from 40 farmers and selling 5 tonnes of produce to 200 consumers in April.

Bridging the gap

Vrutti Livelihood Impact Partners and Fuzhio, an impact product marketing firm that promotes impact products directly to customers on behalf of small farmers and vulnerable groups, helped MVFPCL develop market linkages during the lockdown.

Sale of fruits and vegetables in progress facilitated by Vrutti team members while following precautionary measures and social distancing norms (Photo courtesy: Vrutti)

The directors and CEO of MVFPCL were quick to gauge the impact of the lockdown on their farmers. They approached Vrutti for advice. Chandrashekarappa, director of Fuzhio, saw an opportunity to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to gated communities in the city.

The stakeholders met immediately and decided to procure produce from the farmers of MVFPCL. The staff of the producer company was able to leverage the Fuzhio and Vrutti teams’ extensive network among the residents of these gated communities.

Lockdown formalities

On March 30, a group comprising all the stakeholders was formed on a mobile messaging app. Fuzhio distributed a spreadsheet to residents’ associations of gated communities. Residents used the form to book orders and prepare lists of requirements for each day.

Fuzhio assessed the demand by consolidating data by location, apartment and quantity, and sent the same to the project staff of Vrutti and the staff of MVFPCL at Bagepalli. Since Vrutti staff had a presence in the field locations and a good rapport with the farmers, the operations quickly picked up.

The field team approached the local police station to get a vehicle pass; they also approached officials of the horticulture department, as their written consent was needed for MVFPCL to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the city. Similarly, in the city, resident associations had to produce letters.

By connecting directly with consumers, the producer company helped many farmers sell their produce during the lockdown (Photo courtesy: Vrutti)

There was a significant reduction in transportation costs as MVFPCL has its own vehicle. They hired a driver and a few workers to assist during the operations. Everyone practised social distancing and wore masks and gloves during sorting, grading and delivery.

Logistic planning

The team planned the timing for collection, packaging, transportation and delivery. Fuzhio, who kept the spreadsheet open until 8.30 p.m. earlier, kept it running until 11 a.m. the next day. This meant that the produce had to be collected the same night instead of between 6 and 7 a.m. the next morning.

The team members scheduled the sorting of produce in the morning so that they could deliver the same to residents in the city between 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm every day. This not only saved considerable time and effort but also resulted in the sale of 200 kg of fruits and vegetables such as bananas, potatoes, cauliflower, onions and carrots daily.

Following this, observing the demand, MVFPCL further bought 15 types of groceries from local traders and other FPOs in Chikkaballapur so as to supply to the customers in gated communities. This resulted in the sale of 20 to 50 kg of extra groceries per day, thereby providing additional service to the consumers.

Expanding the customer base

On average, the team supplies produce to about 30 customers every day, with maximum sales of about 400 kg of produce worth Rs 30,000.

The working capital requirement for MVFPCL is Rs 30,000 per day. There was negligible wastage due to pre-booked orders. The team accepted payment through various platforms and payment interfaces.

If the customers felt that the quality of the product was not up to the mark, the farmers facilitated a replacement. Thus, MVFPCL was able to retain its existing customers and get new ones with these practices.

Improved income

Farmers’ feedback was contrary to the general perception that farmer members of MVFPCL did not make significant profit during these lockdown operations.

“Before the lockdown, I used to sell rose onions and cauliflower to local traders at a rate less than the market price. During lockdown, none of the traders came to buy the produce,” said Naresh, a farmer and shareholder of MVFPCL from Penumalai village in Bagepalli taluk.

A woman farmer sorts the potato produce collected in the field based on the pre-booked orders (Photo courtesy: Vrutti)

“During the lockdown, since we have been selling directly to consumers, I could sell for Rs. 13, what I used to sell for Rs. 9 to the local trader. This shows how much higher my income has been,” said Naresh.

Business expansion opportunities

Owing to its proactive approach, MVFPCL was able to identify an opportunity in these troubled times and was quickly able to implement a farm-to-home model. Partnership with resource institutions Vrutti and Fuzhio helped the company and ensured success of the initiative.

“This is a very good initiative. Based on this experience, the farmer-producer company should explore the possibility of the B2C model as a permanent channel,” said Narasimha Murthy, head of the Business Acceleration Unit at Vrutti.

The teams of Vrutti and Fuzhio have started employing a cluster route mapping approach to tap into a number of residential areas located on the outskirts of Bengaluru, as they see huge potential in supplying fresh fruits and vegetables after the lockdown.

Even after the lockdown is lifted, this experience will help MVFPCL strategise and cater to various segments, leading to long-term relationships with urban consumers. The experience gained during this difficult phase will hold the producer company in good stead as we move into a new world filled with challenges and opportunities.

Nikhila Shastry works at Catalyst Management Services, Bengaluru. She has a master’s in Livelihoods and Social Entrepreneurship from TISS. Sharmishtha Bose works at Vrutti Livelihood Impact Partners in Bengaluru. Views are personal.

Tags: farm-to-home model, farmer producer company, farmer producer organisation, Fuzhio, lockdown, Mokshagundam Vishweshwarayya Farmer Producer Company Limited, Vrutti

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Resourceful producer companies address farmers’ lockdown challenges

 

Resourceful producer companies address farmers’ lockdown challenges

https://www.villagesquare.in/resourceful-producer-companies-address-farmers-lockdown-challenges/

Nikhila Shastry and Sharmishtha Bose Jul 10, 2020 Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu

As members struggled to buy farm inputs and sell produce, their FPCs, with special permission, arranged for inputs and sold their produce directly to consumers

In villages, the nationwide lockdown threw up many challenges for farmers and entrepreneurs. Villages in Pudukkottai district in Tamil Nadu faced similar challenges.

Farmer-producer organisations aggregate produce such as vegetables, maize, groundnuts, milk, etc., of their member farmers and sell them to maximise profit. However, the lockdown posed challenges in reaching the regular markets.

To overcome the issues, farmer-producer companies obtained special permission for transportation and took their produce for sale directly to consumers. This reduced produce waste, increased earnings for their member farmers, and provided consumers with access to vegetables and other necessities.

Sale of produce

Ambuliaaru Agriculture Producer Company Limited (APCL) in Vadakadu village, registered in March 2016, has 1,381 shareholders. Due to the lockdown, they struggled to sell their produce. While the markets were closed and farmers could not sell their produce, consumers could not buy vegetables.

Ambuliaaru APCL decided to bridge the gap. They sought permission for relaxation in vehicular movement to transport essential goods. They gained the confidence of authorities in the district administration through regular interaction. With the assurance that they would diligently follow safety norms, they obtained permission.

One of the farmer-producer companies facilitated the production of cattle feed and sold it at members’ doorsteps at a lesser price (Photo courtesy: Vrutti)

They procured brinjal, bitter gourd, okra, snake gourd, drumstick, tomatoes and other vegetables from the farmers and took them in vans to sell to individual households. If vegetables were in limited supply or not available, APCL bought them from nearby local markets and supplied them to the customers.

By approaching consumers directly, Ambuliaaru APCL sold about 7,000 kg of vegetables in a month, benefiting 1,092 farmers. From its member farmers, it also bought 15.6 tonnes of groundnut, worth Rs 7.91 lakh.

Farmers’ needs

The lockdown coincided with the sowing season for groundnut. But the input shops were closed, and the farmers could not purchase groundnut seeds. Ambuliaaru APCL made arrangements to procure 178 bags of groundnut seeds, each weighing 40 kg, from a regular supplier in a town that is more than 80 km away.

Ambuliaaru APCL not only arranged for good-quality groundnut seeds, but also supplied the same at a minimum price to its member farmers. The retail price is Rs 3,000 per bag, but the FPC supplied them for Rs 2,800 per bag. The total purchase of groundnut seeds amounted to more than Rs 5.5 lakh.

The shutdown of local shops led to a sharp increase in the price of cattle feed. Livestock farmers struggled, as the cattle feed that cost Rs 1,400 per bag of 50 kg was being sold at Rs 1,600 during the lockdown. Karambakudi Pasumai Agriculture Producer Company Limited, in Vettanviduthi village, with 583 shareholders, decided to produce cattle feed.

With the local markets closed, a farmer-producer company sold groundnuts directly to villagers (Photo courtesy: Vrutti).

As it is a mechanised process, the FPC decided to utilise the production units. They arranged for raw materials, such as black gram husk and maize, from farmers. It takes six hours to produce 1,000 kg of cattle feed and they were able to produce the required quantity.

The FPC sold the feed at Rs 1,350 per bag, Rs 50 less than the pre-lockdown market price. They also delivered the feed to the farmers’ doorsteps. In the lockdown period, until the first half of May, they did business for Rs 73,100. Apart from cattle feed, Karambakudi Pasumai APCL has also been involved in the sale of vegetables, groceries and maize.

“When most of the shops were closed and we couldn’t buy groundnut seeds, our company arranged for good-quality seeds and even delivered the seeds at our doorstep,” said Vanitha, a member of Mukkanicholai Agriculture Producer Company Limited. “It helped me sow at the right time.”

Value-added services

Members of the Ambuliaaru APCL sold groundnut oil and coconut oil, extracted in their own units, through the vans that transported vegetables. The total turnover from the sale of oils was Rs 14,307, which benefited 61 farmers.

Ambuliaaru APCL offered additional services by purchasing essentials such as spices and pulses from authorised local wholesale markets and selling them along with the vegetables. The sale of these items helped around 100 farmers make additional income.

Dairy farmers

Mukkanicholai Agriculture Producer Company Limited, in Koolayankadu village, has 790 shareholders. In this FPC, during the lockdown period, the members continued with their dairy work and distributed milk.

During lockdown, the farmers did not hike the price of milk, as in other places. They distributed milk to households and members of the communities, besides some tea shops that were open. During lockdown, till the first half of May, the total turnover through the sale of milk was Rs 55,668, for 12 dairy farmers.

Groundnut being sold in a wholesale shop in Vettanviduthi village (Photo courtesy: Vrutti)

MAPCL also arranged for groundnut seeds for its members. The farmers harvested paddy during the lockdown and sold a total of 343 kg of rice, resulting in business worth over Rs 20 lakh. A very important highlight across the three FPCs is the remarkable number of women shareholders—about 90% of members in each FPC are women shareholders.

Nikhila Shastry works at Catalyst Management Services in Bengaluru. She has a master’s in Livelihoods and Social Entrepreneurship from TISS. Sharmishtha Bose works at Vrutti Livelihood Impact Partners in Bengaluru. Views are personal.

Tags: Ambuliaaru Agriculture Producer Company Limited, farmer producer companies, farmer producer organizations, Karambakudi Pasumai Agriculture Producer Company Limited, Mukkanicholai Agriculture Producer Company Limited

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Bastar Fresh: The making of a wild custard apple brand by the tribal women of Chhattisgarh

 

Bastar Fresh: The making of a wild custard apple brand by the tribal women of Chhattisgarh

Nikhila Shastry and Niraj U Joshi

Dec 8, 2021

https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/bastar-fresh-the-making-of-a-wild-custard-apple-brand-by-the-tribal-women-of-chhattisgarh

Over the past 5 years, Mahanadi Farmer Producer Company Limited (MFPCL) has set the stage to improve tribal incomes in a remote rain-fed region where none existed for Non-Timber Forest Produce value chains like custard apple, jamun, and tamarind. MFPCL, a 517-member strong tribal farmer collective in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, has made very encouraging progress in strengthening the custard apple value chain in the remote region by developing its own pulp brand and overcoming challenges arising from the seasonality of produce coupled with the nascent enterprising skills of Tribal women.

Bastar and its natural bounty

Bastar is a richly forested landscape, with undulating hills, water streams and is a predominantly tribal area. Over 70 percent of the resident population consists of the tribes Gond, Maria, Muriya and Bhatra, among others. Tragically, though rich in beauty, natural resources and tribal culture, the forests are today dubbed “insurgency/Maoist-affected”. 

There is an abundance of wild fruit-bearing trees, medicinal plants, as well as other NTFP across the forests of Bastar, including custard apple, blackberry, tamarind and mango, among others. The abundance of wild custard apples was a perfect opportunity for MFPCL to add value and convert it into a business opportunity for the members. The MFPCL is a pioneer in the custard apple value chain in the region. This first-mover advantage enabled the FPC to stay ahead of its competitors. 

Formation of MFPCL through partnerships with local governments and panchayats

The local office of NABARD had approached Vrutti (NGO) for promoting FPOs in Kanker. Meanwhile, Vrutti had also been awarded a grant from the World Bank’s India office to develop a marketplace for farmers in Chhattisgarh. Thus, MFPCL was established on November 15, 2014, with an initial shareholder base of 200 farmers, which has grown to 517 farmers to date. The organisation was supported by the Business Acceleration Unit (BAU), which is a cluster-level incubator under Vrutti’s 3-Fold Program responsible for establishing a strong ecosystem for agriculture enterprises in the region. MFPCL is involved in input business activities through Agri input facilitation centres. Each centre caters to the adjacent 2-3 villages and is run by either a women’s Self Help Group or Farmer Interest Group (FIG). MFPCL has also established forward and backward linkages for various NTFP value chains. In 2017, MFPCL was recognised as a start-up by the Department of Commerce and Industries, Chhattisgarh and in 2018, it received the best FPO Award from NABARD.

On recognising the huge potential of NTFP as an income source, albeit seasonal, Satish Mishra, the BAU Head of Vrutti, brought it to the attention of the then (2014) Kanker District Collector, Shammi Abdi. It did not take long for him to convince her of the abundant custard apple production and its high value in the market. The district administration conducted research to estimate the custard apple’s potential. The survey reported the production of at least 30000 metric tons of custard apple in Kanker district alone. To further develop this huge potential of custard apple fruit as well as its’ by-products in the market, the FPC directors, shareholders and representatives of Vrutti were then sent on an exposure visit by the district administration and District Poverty Initiatives Project (DPIP) of Udaipur, where they also got hands-on training in custard apple pulp making. In 2015, MFPCL began making pulp. The initial year saw custard apple pulp production of 165 Kg. Currently, the production cost is approximately 100 Rs per kg, for which the FPC obtains a net margin of Rs 40 for every kilogram of pulp sold.

The relations established with various government departments, including institutions such as the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), District Mineral foundation, State Rural Livelihood Mission, with the support of BAU and Vrutti, enabled the FPC to thrive in uncertain times. Several government agricultural schemes and funds from the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) helped MFPCL in the initial phase. Local government spaces were leveraged with the support of the Gram Panchayat to establish and run procurement centres in 23 villages.

Making of the Bastar Fresh Brand

The MFPCL began its value chain development in 2016. Leveraging the existing SHGs, the MFPCL with Vrutti trained these women SHGs from 23 villages in the procurement as well as the processing of custard apples. During the Custard apple season (mid-September to December), fruit procurement, grading as well as pulp production remains an all-women activity. 


A woman being trained to harvest Custard apple in Kanker


Women grading harvested wild custard apples

Women from one SHG per village pool their money to procure all the custard apples from their village, sort and grade the custard apples based on their size and other quality parameters. Superior Quality – Grade A fruits are then sold in the local and regional markets with the support of FPC. Whilst some Grade B and Grade C fruits are also sold as fruit, the rest are processed into pulp and supplied to buyers in Raipur, Indore and elsewhere. The pulp is then used to prepare custard apple milkshakes and ice cream. 

Women getting ready to pack custard apple pulp in one kg packets

Initially, the pulp was branded as Kanker Valley Fresh, but as the procurement areas grew to include larger areas from other parts of the district, the branding was changed to reflect this and is now known as Bastar Fresh. The main source of income is from custard apple pulp sales, followed by jamun and mango pulp. Twelve pulp processing units were set up, of which MFPCL invested in two units and the remaining 10 were established through convergence with government schemes from the agriculture and District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds. MFPCL’s pulp production, which began with 165 kg in 2016, now touches 10 tons annually and is growing, and the FPC is able to realise a net profit of Rs 3 lakh out of custard apple sales.

A test of resilience once support was withdrawn

The funding support from Vrutti to the MFPCL lasted for four years, after which the FPC struggled due to a lack of working capital. With insufficient funds, it became difficult to pay the salaries, thereby resulting in staff being reduced by half. MFPCL managed to raise some funds by availing working capital from nationalised banks. However, to scale its business, it currently requires a huge investment to have its own warehouse as well as a cold storage unit to preserve the fruit pulp. It also needs skilled human resources for developing business plans for the next three to five years and accessing funding support.

The pandemic severely impacted the operations of MFPCL and SHGs. The stock of almost 43 quintals of custard apple pulp from 2019-20 is lying unsold and expired in the deep freezer units with the SHGs. The SHGs could not process pulp last year as the previous year’s pulp remained unsold. With the lockdown restrictions easing in July 2021, markets have opened in Raipur and MFPCL has started procurement and processing in October with the hope of making up for the losses of the last couple of seasons as well as developing custard apple powder if funds permit. As the world is trying to regain some normalcy after the pandemic, the continuing demand for custard apples (fruit, pulp and powder) in both the domestic and international markets augurs well for organisations like MFPCL. However, MFPCL needs to constantly innovate to move forward and have contingencies built into its strategy to handle adverse situations in these uncertain times while building the necessary financial base.

Nikhila Shastry is Team Lead – Livelihood Practice at Catalyst Management Services, Bengaluru.

Niraj U Joshi is a Senior Research Associate with the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere Program, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden.

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Fostering steady growth of an FPO through a 3-Fold model of Technical, Financial and Market linkage

 

Fostering steady growth of an FPO through a 3-Fold model of Technical, Financial and Market linkage

Pallavi GL, Gayatri Lal, Balakrishnan S, Parthsarathy T

Sep 21, 2021

https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/fostering-steady-growth-of-an-fpo-through-a-3-fold-model-of-technical-financial-and-market-linkage

Vrutti’s innovative Business Acceleration Unit (BAU) has played a crucial role in providing Chitravathi FPC with ecosystem-enabling services such as backward linkages, account maintenance and financial linkages. These parameters have helped increase farmers’ incomes almost threefold and provide important insights into the kind of support necessary to sustain FPOs. 

Turning a constraint into an opportunity 

Chikkaballapura district in Karnataka, around 60 kms from Bengaluru, is a drought-prone area with an average and erratic annual rainfall of 677 mm. Groundnut and maize are two important crops grown on these drylands. Fruits and vegetables have huge potential to improve the lives of the farmers in this cluster if any institutional mechanism could ensure better price realisation of the produce for small and marginal farmers. Farmers, though, have limited access to alternative channels to sell their produce, especially when the local market prices are low. The perishable nature of horticultural produce presents an additional challenge, especially without cold-storage facilities. To overcome this problem, farmers were collectivised and mobilised under Chitravathi Farmers’ Producer Company Limited (CFPCL), registered in 2016 at Thimmampalli village, Chikkaballapura district, Karnataka, with the funding support of NABARD and Vrutti Livelihood Impact Partners as the promoting institution. CFPCL has a geographical spread of 44 villages, 9 panchayats and 68 Joint Liability Groups (JLGs), covering 1503 farmers with a share capital of Rs. 11.2 lakhs. The primary goal of CFPCL is to reduce the role of intermediaries in agricultural produce marketing while lowering the risk and cost of cultivation for farmers.

Creating trust through transparent governance 

Focussed Group Discussion with primary stakeholder of CFPCL (from right) – Jagadeep (Assistant BAU Head, Vrutti), Shashikala (Activator, Vrutti), Nagaraj (CEO, CFPCL), Manjunath (member, CFPCL), Narayan Samy (Director, CFPCL), Parthasarathy (Skill Green), Anjana Reddy (member CFPCL), Balakrishnan (CEO, Vrutti)

The FPC is mainly involved in promotion of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), technical training, capacity building, financial services (facilitating Kisan Credit Cards, enterprise loans), promotion of Agri Allied Enterprises, supply of agricultural inputs and output business – vegetable, Maize marketing (forward and backward integration) and farm gate procurement. The services provided to members by the FPC are part of the 3-Fold model, which is about building wealthy, resilient and responsible farmers.

Inputs are directly procured from input dealers and sold at relatively low prices to the farmer members, thus reducing the transaction cost for them. A significant increase in the revenue (98.2%) of FPC was reported during 2019–20 (from Rs 40,000 to Rs 23 lakhs). The spike in business revenue can be attributed to its access to three retail outlets and CFPCL’s partnership with major players like Big Basket, Way Cool, Big Bazaar, etc., which has also provided opportunities for expanding its business activities. Transparency in the governance of the FPC has built the trust of farmers in the long run. For instance, during board meetings, financial statements—receipts and payments, receivables and payables, profit and loss statements for the period—are discussed along with key updates to the FPO. Besides, the team and BOD are part of a WhatsApp group for regular updates, such as daily sales in each outlet.

Nagaraj (CEO, CFPCL) conducting a monthly board meeting of CFPCL. Ventateshawamy, seated left, is chairman of FPO. BAU staff are seated in an outer circle.

Developing market linkage for perishables

Fresh horticultural produce is highly perishable, with some estimates suggesting a post-harvest loss of 30 to 50% in fruits and vegetables. The loss occurs due to poor pre-production and post-harvest management, as well as a lack of appropriate processing, storage and marketing facilities. But CFPCL has its own strategy for dealing with vegetables throughout the year without any cold storage facilities. CFPCL has made associations with seven corporate companies for its output business, and farmers receive a higher price than the market rate for the quality produce. BAU is established by Vrutti at the district/cluster level to develop a strong ecosystem in the agricultural sector so that farming enterprises in these clusters become sustainable. Mr. Nagaraju, CEO of the FPC, is of the opinion that the producer’s share in consumer rupee has marginally increased through direct marketing and the FPC enjoys better bargaining power. More importantly, the FPC’s intervention saves the farmer time in travelling to the market, as the produce is procured by the FPC at the farmgate and payment is ensured on time.

Activators as rural entrepreneurs key for servicing orders from corporates

Quantity, timely delivery and quality produce are the needs of corporations. To comply with these needs, CFPCL facilitated the training of ‘Activators’. Activators are field level staff who coordinate the activities of FPC with BAU for smooth conduct of the operations. The demand aggregation of produce is done by the activators, and one activator takes responsibility for five villages. Activators are actively engaged with farmers and provide guidance on crops to be grown, better farming practices, market information and other farming-related information at the village level. These activators predict the yield of any crop before 3 days of the harvest and communicate it to the buyers through FPC. The harvested produce is then supplied to the buyers. The price for the product is fixed based on open market prices in every indent (always higher than the market price).

Harish (member, CFPCL), with his sweet potato crop, for which CFPCL has entered into a contract farming agreement with Heinz Futures for supply of Orange Flesh Sweet potato throughout the year for processing

Communicating quality parameters to farmers 

Maintaining a farmers’ database has helped in the better communication of quality parameters of the produce, market-related issues and extending timely service to the farmers. Regular field visits by the FPC staff are required for monitoring standing crops/produce, and there should be a minimum of 80% match with the quality parameters as prescribed by the buyers. Mr. Jagadeep, personnel from Vrutti mentioned that the proportion of farmers participating in output business is around 30%. Out of the total produce procured, prescribed-quality produce is sent to the buyers, and the remaining produce is sold in the local market. Payment is made to farmers regularly and farmers expect higher prices from the company for their produce as they are providing high-quality produce.

Figure 4: Ramadevi (Agri Business Advisor), Shashikala (earlier ABA, now Activator), at the CFPCL outlet which supplies inputs in a cluster of 16 surrounding villages 

Leveraging greater institutional support

FPC has received good institutional support from Vrutti, NABARD, APEDA, ICAR-IIHR, and KVK. IIHR and KVK Chintamani provided training support to the FPC. Vrutti has supported desilting activities in the villages through its CSR fund. NABARD provided a Business Development Assistance (BDA) fund of Rs. 5 lakhs and training related to market and financial linkages. APEDA and Karnataka State Agricultural Produce Processing and Export Corporation Limited (KAPPEC) extended support for the export of the Rose onion variety, which has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Chikkaballapura district. CFPCL is aiming to supply more than 1,000 to 1,500 tons of rose onions every year, starting with this season.

Future line of business
Procurement and marketing of produce with reduced transaction costs are the major achievements of the FPC as perceived by the farmers, says Mr. Venkateshappa, Chairman of the FPC. Chitravathi has performed well in marketing their produce, contract farming, and adding value to a few commodities. Two acres of land are being purchased by the FPC to expand its business activities, including the establishment of a sheep/goat value chain. The value addition of tomato, tamarind processing, and sauce preparation is perceived as creating employment opportunities and a future line of business for the growth and development of the FPC. Chitravathi is confident about sustaining its business even if Vrutti’s support is withdrawn and it grows organically over the years with the greater contribution of various stakeholders involved in the growth and development of FPC. 

Pallavi GL is an FPRM student at IRMA. She can be reached at [email protected], Gayatri is associated with MYRADA, Balakrishnan S is the CEO of Vrutti and Parthasarathy T is the CEO of SkillGreen. 

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CLIMATE ACTION & AIR QUALITY – ECOSYSTEM & THE ACTORS

CLIMATE ACTION & AIR QUALITY – ECOSYSTEM & THE ACTORS

Authors:  Nikita Deshpande, Nitish Kumar, Sivaramakrishnan Balasubramanian, Vandana Sharma

Introduction  

Despite being the 6th largest emerging economy in the world today, India is increasingly becoming vulnerable to the effects of degrading air quality and extreme air pollution.

The World Air Quality Report 2020 indicated that 21 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world were in India. Additionally, as per a study based on 2016 data, at least 140 million people in India breathe air that is 10X or more, over the WHO safe limit. 13 of the world’s 20 cities with the highest annual levels of air pollution are in India. Delhi was ranked as having the highest annual average concentrations of the pollutant – PM 2.5 of any capital city in the world (WAQ, 2020). As a result of this, all major political parties had to include air pollution as a key factor in their manifestos for the city. Similarly, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister (CM) was also seen promoting measures for mitigating air pollution.

Air Quality (AQ) movement in India

In 2020, the Centre came out with a budget (recommended by the 15 Finance Commission – FC) for air pollution. Previously, the Indian government had two significant national legislations – the Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1981[1] and the Environment Protection Act 1986 – with the central and state governments regulating most sources of air pollution for nearly three decades (CPCB, 1986)[2].

However, various challenges, including ineffective monitoring & enforcement capacity, poorly designed regulatory standards, inadequate enforcement mechanisms and a lack of political and executive committees, have restricted the optimal implementation of these legal instruments (Ghosh, 2020). In 2020, based on the recommendations of the 15th FC, the Government of India has set aside about $1.7 billion to fight air pollution over the next five years.

Since the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launch in 2019, the Government of India has accelerated the time-bound target for reducing air pollution in cities with an intent to improve air quality. The goals of NCAP are to reduce PM 2.5 pollution by 20%–30% by 2024, compared to 2017, in 122 cities (NCAP, 2019). It is a collaborative and participatory approach that involves all the relevant central & state ministries and local authorities.

As stated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the overall objectives of NCAP are:

  1. Implementing comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution
  2. Augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country
  3. Strengthening public awareness of air pollution and capacity-building activities

Currently, the geographical focus of most philanthropies, foundations and aids working in the climate action sector is in the regions of Delhi-NCR and Uttar Pradesh. Since air quality issues are not geographically contained, moving towards an airshed approach (which looks at the extent and depth of pollution in an area rather than particular regional boundaries) is necessary. It is commendable to note that mature philanthropies and foundations are taking a sector-agnostic approach and working on the nexus of health and pollution rather than focusing on the issue in a silo.

Where is the AQ movement headed?

In its entirety, stakeholders in the air quality sector are slowly but gradually gaining traction on the gravity of the issue and taking mitigative and adaptive action accordingly.

Some organisations are focusing on creating awareness through the power of media, while other organisations are working towards inclusive climate action models. Focusing on the well-being of vulnerable communities requires support for capacity building, management of resources and micro-planning for activities at the national and sub-national levels. Funds are readily available to the government, but the problem lies in effectively utilising them.

Clean energy advocates like the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF) help create a network of low-cost monitoring stations at the city level (Delhi NCR) that can complement state monitoring systems. International resolution bodies like USAID & others could actively pledge to work on effectively improving air pollution mitigation in India, by linking policies, evidence/science, behavior change, technology and the private sector together in an effort to consolidate the knowledge, means and demand for reducing air pollution, in the strategy 2020-2024.

In September 2021, the India Climate Collaborative (ICC) commissioned a study to map and assess the ecosystem of public, private, non-governmental and civil society organisations working towards tackling air pollution in India with the objective of unlocking all barriers to air quality action at scale. Similar efforts have been undertaken by the Children Investments Fund Foundation (CIFF) to reduce the impacts of air pollution and offer climate co-benefits and strategies to combat challenges for the current and future generations.

 

At the Catalyst Group, our vision is to build “A thriving world powered by resilient communities and climate-neutral systems”. We intend to address the systemic challenges in the climate ecosystems and work on a people-centred solution approach. Scaling transformative climate actions for us mean prioritising the needs of vulnerable groups.

Green Health Alliance (GHA), anchored by the Catalyst Group, is another instance of an action-oriented alliance. With GHA, the aim is to build disaster preparedness for our health ecosystems. The principle behind the alliance stems from the understanding that the sector has numerous solution providers but needs strong coordination to ensure effective use of the resources.

Conversations around accelerating climate action and its solutions have started gaining momentum over the last two decades. There is no easy way to work towards climate solutions, especially regarding cleaner air. Initiatives across the spectrum need to have the backing of all stakeholders, including communities on the ground. For mobilising a lasting impact on climate action, we need to strengthen our disaster preparedness and health infrastructure as a priority.

Moving away from the pattern of polluted air we are witnessing will mean investing in long-term changes to the extent of rethinking the livelihood patterns of communities. With the right kind of support, we can definitely offer alternatives and a better life to the people who are being affected most by this drastic pollution. We owe a happy, healthy and habitable planet to future generations, and we cannot stop short of that.

 

[1] https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1981-14.pdf

[2] https://cpcb.nic.in/env-protection-act/

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Why Care for Robust Secondary Data

WHY CARE FOR ROBUST SECONDARY DATA

Choice of research methodology is largely determined by the research questions — what we want to find out, and what will help us do that best. But practical considerations such as the availability of resources (including the type of data available and the knowledge and skills of the persons undertaking the research) also influence the method we choose to employ.

Data in its various types — primary, secondary, quantitative,qualitative — forms the core of a research study. It is ultimately the quality of data generated that determines the reliability of findings, which, in turn, affects programme outcomes. Between primary and secondary data, the latter tends to be less accurate. Also, unlike primary data, it may not be customised for the specific research need.

Despite its shortcomings, secondary data is used extensively, as it saves time, is cost-effective, and provides initial insights into the research problem. But when working with secondary data, its less reliable nature must be kept in mind. It would make good sense always to thoroughly ascertain if it is accurate enough to play the role assigned to it in the study. Where secondary data analysis informs core programme decisions, this becomes extremely crucial. For instance, if identification and selection of beneficiaries for a programme is based on secondary data, we cannot afford inaccuracy or incompleteness of data. Such a lapse may defeat the very purpose of the programme.

In fact, it is good practice to not base decisions on secondary data alone, especially where accuracies are suspected. Combination methodologies and innovative approaches to generate as precise data as possible should be adopted to enhance reliance, and enable the success of development initiatives.

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The Importance Of fit-for-purpose Research Design

THE IMPORTANCE OF FIT-FOR-PURPOSE RESEARCH DESIGN

The principle that policies should be designed using the best available evidence is one that is difficult to contest. Proponents of evidence-based policymaking argue that research evidence should also influence/drive policymaking. However, the notion of a linear relationship between evidence and policy is a far cry from the reality. That is not to say that evidence cannot play a key role in crafting policy. Our experience has identified key strategies that can be employed alongside the research process to facilitate the translation of evidence to policy.

Involving reputable and influential actors in the research process enhances the authority of the evidence produced and encourages buy-in from policymakers. Though Randomised Controlled Trials are considered the gold standard for research, they may result in difficult and time consuming field processes. Usually, they achieve too little, too late.

A variety of methodological tools can be used and should involve a wide range of stakeholders in the production of evidence. Acknowledging that decisions are rarely rational helps to inform the way evidence is presented to policymakers. It should be in simple, clear, uncomplicated language that tells a story and speaks to our emotions. Timing is everything in case of policy influencing. So, when an opportunity appears, one should opt for a methodology that suits the purpose on hand, especially in terms of timelines.

It must be remembered that the standard methodologies do not always yield optimum and timely results. The research methodology employed, hence, need to be fit-for-purpose, rather than trying to be what is considered the best.

Ultimately influencing policy is more an art than a science. The policy process is a complex system that requires political astuteness and an understanding of the complex dynamics of power.

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Task Shifting of HIV Screening in Sex Worker Communities

TASK SHIFTING OF HIV SCREENING IN SEX WORKER COMMUNITIES

In a small office on a busy road in north-western Bangalore, health workers from Swathi Mahila Sangha (SMS) congregate to participate in a monthly training session. SMS is a community organization for women in sex work (WISW) focused on providing community members with improved access to critical resources and services. In order to promote HIV treatment and prevention, SMS is implementing the MITHR programme, a community-led model for providing on-site HIV screening and counselling services to high-risk groups. The MITHR programme technology is minimally invasive and provides results within 20 minutes, which makes it a valuable tool to use in the field where 90% of HIV screenings in the programme take place.

A young woman arrives at the office escorting a friend she brought in for screening. The young woman’s name is Lakshmi* and she has been a member of SMS for a year and a half, during which time she became a strong advocate of HIV screening in her community. She describes how she used to have a strong fear of HIV screening because of the implications of testing positive. Lakshmi refused screening the first two times it was offered, and agreed the third time once she had become comfortable with SMS and was encouraged by her friend. She has now successfully convinced six of her friends to join SMS and undergo HIV screening. In the WISW community, community linkages such as these play an important role as many women are convinced to undergo screening because they have been persuaded by fellow community members. In this vein, SMS decided to undergo the process of task shifting HIV screening to members of the WISW community.

Task shifting is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a process of delegation whereby tasks are moved from highly specialized to less specialized health workers.” In recent years, task shifting has been viewed as a cost-effective solution to the common shortages of qualified medical personnel in many developing countries. The WHO and other thought leaders in public health have officially recommended the process as one that has the potential to catalyse results in the field of community health. A main benefit of this method, in addition to the cost-saving gains, is that community workers are often more in touch with the communities they serve than medical professionals at nearby health facilities, which makes them better positioned to deliver services. At SMS, the HIV screening has traditionally been conducted by professional counsellors. Now, however, the organization is working to task shift that role to members of the WISW community who will carry out the screenings instead.

HIV testing in the WISW community provides a key example of where task shifting has the potential to have major impact. At SMS, there is already one WISW who has been trained to conduct the HIV screenings, and she has been successful in her new role thus far. HIV is a disease associated with significant stigma, and for those who are members of marginalised communities, the implications of this stigma are even more potent. It is unsurprising that many WISWs avoid screening out of fear. Having a fellow community member conducting the screenings increases trust in the screening process, and if there is trust, the women are more likely to encourage their friends to take part as well.

Lakshmi, the community member who persuades her friends to undergo screening, is supportive of this transition. When Lakshmi meets other WISW, she convinces them to get tested by sharing her own experience and by building trust. She is able to tell her fellow community members that she faces the same challenges that they do, understands the same realities and risks of the profession, feels the same fears and hesitations that they have, and yet she has elected to undergo screening. That narrative sends a powerful and convincing message. A message that health workers outside the community do not have the ability to convey.

Lakshmi herself is not trained to conduct screenings, so when she persuades a woman to undergo screening, she must then convince her to come in to the SMS office or to invite the counsellors into her home. Both are challenging propositions. If Lakshmi were able to conduct the screenings without a dependency on the counsellors, she believes she would be more effective. She adds that when WISW conduct screenings, they will be able to have much more frank conversations about methods of HIV prevention and the importance of screening. She says it would facilitate an open dialogue and allow for discussion on issues that someone who is not from the community would not be able to understand, leading to behaviour change.

Even more importantly, these community women have the knowledge and experience to identify high-risk individuals within the WISW community, unlike the counsellors. Within the WISW community, the levels of HIV risk among members varies. A woman who engages in sex work on a daily basis will have a higher risk of contracting HIV than a woman who practices sex work every few months when financial needs are higher. The level of risk varies depending on the frequency of sex work engagements, the types of services offered in sex work, and the presence of other high-risk behaviours such as intravenous drug use. Health workers from outside the community are often not equipped to identify the women who classify as being the most high-risk. The WISW community member that SMS has hired to conduct screenings has already been highly successful at identifying these high-risk women.

While task shifting for HIV screening in the WISW community has a great deal of potential, it is yet to be determined if the change achieves the desired and anticipated results. In an enclave of the SMS office, a 26-year-old sex worker named Divya* prepares to undergo HIV screening for the first time. Despite knowledge of her high-risk status, she never found time to get tested and did not feel urgency to do so. Her work hours as an accountant prevented her from accessing government testing services offering during limited timings. Situations such as Divya’s are not uncommon. Many women do not prioritize HIV screening, many WISW do not realize that they have a higher risk of contracting HIV, and for many the fear and the stigma is too great to overcome. At SMS, task shifting has already shown promising results and may make great strides towards overcoming these barriers, but the work of HIV screening is challenging, emotionally stressful and unrelenting. Provided with support and resources, WISW screeners may thrive and forever change the way community health in this marginalized community operates, but only time will give us a definitive answer.

*All names have been changed.

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Using Evidence To Influence Program Design

USING EVIDENCE TO INFLUENCE PROGRAM DESIGN

Breakthrough’s Early Marriage Campaign, implemented in three districts of the Indian States of Jharkhand and Bihar, aims to utilise a media (mass and community) programme that challenges existing norms around gender and sexuality, for discouraging the practice of early marriage.

We are the impact evaluators for the campaign, to assess what changes it has brought about in the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour related to early marriage — in extent and in intensity. For the study, we employed a mixed methods design that was implemented sequentially. This helped the client to better understand which component of the campaign has been most effective in influencing/ changing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour related to early marriage in the community.

While the evaluation is still on, the midline findings indicate that modification of program design through evidence generated by evaluation studies can strengthen the outcome potential of the program. There is a complex play of factors that determines the effectiveness of delivery mechanisms and efforts in programme implementation. Under the campaign, media interventions (which include traditional mass media channels, as well as, community-based media such as street theatre, wall painting, youth trainings etc.) approached all in the community in a similar way. Through our evaluation methodologies, we found that the families were generally well aware of the ills of early marriage, but decisions regarding it were made by the fathers. We shared our findings with Breakthrough and recommended that they modify the program design to include mechanisms that focus the intervention on fathers to discourage the practice of early marriage. Here, the willingness of the organization implementing the programme to consider evidence-based recommendations to modify programme design is a crucial element. Breakthrough was highly receptive to evidence, and took up our suggestions to relook and modify its programme design. Understanding the need for the prescribed revision, it promptly adopted a mechanism for targeted communication with fathers (of young girls and boys) to influence behaviours.

While we are yet to see what impact this will bring, through the endline assessment, we know the change is positive for the programme, being based on evidence. This experience provides significant insights. It implies that if evidence generated through effective evaluation of an ongoing programme can be used to influence program design, it can reduce errors in assumptions, tap resources better, and create scope for course correction, thereby improving the programme outcome possibilities.

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WHAT BUILDS AN EFFECTIVE INFORMATION EXCHANGE AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEM FOR DISASTER RESPONSE

WHAT BUILDS AN EFFECTIVE INFORMATION EXCHANGE AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEM FOR DISASTER RESPONSE

Calling information a “life-saving resource”, the World Disasters Report, 2005 noted: “Disaster-affected people need information as much as water, food, medicine or shelter: accurate, timely information can save lives.”

Indeed, it can. But how do you manage and provide accurate information on time in an emergency response situation?

Here we share our experience of managing information exchange during the two-year relief and rehabilitation intervention in the Tsunami-hit Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, India. What we did, observed, and learnt, converge to deliver insights into how a strong information exchange system can be built and sustained to ensure efficient humanitarian response to disasters.

In the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, as governments, organizations, and individuals sprung into intensive rehabilitative action, an innovative public-private partnership mechanism called NGO Coordination and Resource Centre (NCRC) was established to facilitate coordination of relief and rehab efforts of various organizations and individuals at the district level. This allocated a prominent role to Information Exchange and Communication (IEC). Generating precise and timely information, and in a form that could directly be used for decision-making by a variety of stakeholders, was key.

As experts in M&E systems design and implementation in India, we were asked to lead the IEC Division of NCRC. Our efforts in Nagapattinam centred around the principles of speed, accuracy, and the ability to address rapidly changing needs. We swiftly established a robust information exchange system after identifying stakeholders, their roles, and information needs for decisions.This need was continuously and concurrently assessed throughout the two years of relief and rehab interventions. To provide accurate information at all times, we updated the content on our website frequently — almost every hour, initially. Appropriate technologies and medium of communication were used to ensure collection, analysis and timely dissemination of information.

To address the challenge of working with multiple partners, and make information reach where required on time, we put in place several well-thought-out mechanisms. One of them was a network of Village Information Centres (VIC), established to collect and share information to the communities, and equipped with computers linked to the district-level unit, and further to the District Collectorate through a wireless intranet.

We also ensured relevance of content throughout. As such, what we shared varied with the rehabilitation phases — from accurate information on locations, damages, and profiles of people harmed, to guidelines for responses, good practices, and case studies, among many. In the final phase, the information needs primarily revolved around disaster preparedness, and called for developing data on disaster prone areas using geo-referencing, vulnerability mapping, etc.

The NCRC IEC division established strong linkages between the NGOs, and ensured that all of them worked in tandem and at optimum levels in terms of coverage, issues and impact. This also meant avoiding duplication of efforts, adding to the overall efficiency of the relief operations. Again, it enabled the district administration to take data directly from the field, which expedited their pace of relief work. On the other hand, the general public could easily access the information important to them, like compensation amounts/status, which brought in transparency, enhancing their trust and hope in the ongoing operations.

More interestingly, the field study we did while setting up the IEC division, brought in significant insights for better identification of issues. Unlike the perception of the funders and government, it informed that not only the fishermen community, but also farmers had been affected by the Tsunami as their farmland had been degraded by salt water. Farmers thus got included into the rehabilitation plan, and rightfully so.

Our experience in Nagapattinam bears testimony to the power of information to improve the quality, and accelerate the pace of disaster response. And, therefore, to save lives.