Thursday, July 4, 2019

IRRI partners with social enterprise to incubate women’s producer company

As a concerted effort to test various models of women’s entrepreneurship development in rice agri-food systems, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has partnered with Access Livelihoods Consulting (ALC) India in the Dharmagarh and Kokasara blocks of Kalahandi district, Odisha to incubate a rural women-producer enterprise with 3,000 women farmers. This is undertaken through the project ‘Increasing Productivity of Rice-based Cropping Systems and Farmer's Income in Odisha’ supported by the State Government of Odisha. The initiative aims to double the income of the women farmers and groom the next generation of rural women leaders to conduct businesses profitably and sustainably.

Declared as one of India’s aspirational districts by policy think tank National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), and considered the “Rice Bowl of Odisha”, Kalahandi is where the major livelihood activities of a large section of rural population revolve around the paddy-based food system. In the two selected blocks of the district, more than 80% of the farmers are small and marginal with an average land-holding of less than 3 acres.  In Koksara, 80.9% of the cropping area is rain-fed and in the Dharamgarh block, 40% of the area is under canal irrigation. 34.8% of the women belong to the Scheduled Tribal (ST) community with an average annual income of below INR 40,000 and a major part of their income comes through paddy farming.

The Producer Company will provide all the services which include inputs (seed, fertilizers, bio-pesticides), agricultural machinery, financial services and marketing for its members and facilitate access to the latest technologies in production, processing, information and traceability. It will facilitate linkages with multiple stakeholders like government, financial institutions, knowledge Institutions and, markets and also, create adequate risk coverage mechanisms.

The planned outcomes of this initiative are as follows:
  • A sustainable women-governed and -managed enterprise catering to paddy based business and services
  • Skilled Agri-preneurs able to provide paddy-based support services through their microenterprise, supported by the producer company. It will generate local employment, drudgery-reduction among women farmers, bridge service gaps in paddy based crop system and income enhancement of Agri-preneurs
  • A locally designed and developed integrated farming model that will be disseminated to lead to quick infusion of technology and modern practices in paddy and allied activities
Following a phased approach, 1,288 farmers have been mobilized and clustered into 85 Women Farmer Affinity Groups. These women have contributed a share capital of US$ 16,345. 10 next generation women leaders have been identified and underwent a visioning exercise. Competency development for promoters included a visioning exercise, financial services orientation, business orientation and a learning visit. 300 women seed growers have been identified and farmer and the producer company’s registration as seed producing agency and seed licensing is under process. Process is also underway for obtaining fertilizer licensing for the producer company.

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