The centre in Pathanamthitta not only enables farmers to sell directly to consumers, but also allows them to decide the selling price of their produce while the centre monitors the quality.
The only problem Indian agriculture has been facing for years that scientists, researchers and opinionmakers have not been able to solve is of marketing. Though several attempts have been made in the past to strengthen marketing, there has been little headway.
When some universities were asked how they are going to address this major problem, the usual tailor-made reply was, “It is the role of the KVKs (Krishi Vigyan Kendras)” which work in the fields with farmers to address this. However, in several places, KVKs are merely namesake with nothing to show except a tall red-coloured building with a hall for farmers to stay and a room for meetings.
In the worst cases, the KVK staff do not even go to the fields or meet farmers and instead spend their time sitting inside air-conditioned cabins and then leaving for home at 5 pm.
However, the KVK centre run by the Christian Agency for Rural Development (CARD) in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, is different. In fact, KVKs across the country can take a few lessons from CARD on how such an institute should function. Take the case of the new farmer facilitation centre (FFC) started by this institute.
The FFC follows a unique approach which enables farmers to access scientific information on crop management, animal husbandry, integrated nutrient and pest management, low input good agriculture production systems, sources of inputs, credit facilities, agriculture schemes, market intelligence and the like.
It also follows positive approaches for holistic farmer development like value-added agriculture as a sustainable supply chain management strategy. It also provides a platform for direct marketing of produce at the prices decided by farmers themselves without compromising on quality.
“Linking individual farmers to farmer’s club, farmer’s society and farmer facilitation centre is a unique approach in farmer empowerment. The uniqueness of the market mechanism is that an individual farmer himself decides on the selling price of their produce at the same time quality of the produce is monitored by us,” explains C.P.Robert, a senior scientist and head of the institute.
In addition to this, another concept called Sparsham, an agri-cum-vet clinic advisory service, has been created as a wing of the FFC to assist the farming community.
The main objective is to support the farmers and to enable the farming community to easily access current information on technology, package of practices, input sources, market channels and financial assistance and to promote single window delivery of need-based services in agriculture and allied sector.
“Farmers registered with FFC sell their produce directly to consumers without the middlemen nuisance. It is also ensured that every producer is registered and issued an ID card for ensuring transparency in marketing. Registration is renewed every year,” says Sindhu Sadanandan, a specialist.
Though only local produce is sold at the outlet, it has already gained the confidence of consumers as an eco-friendly market. Through a public-private partnership model, the centre meets the varied needs of farmers like sprayers, minor tools and equipments, growbags etc.
An information cell attached to a green shop at the FFC is playing a proactive role in enhancing the knowledge of farmers on technology, package of practices, input sources, market channels and financial assistance and also promotes single window delivery of need-based services.
Since its inception, the institute has been providing an advisory service to farmers.
“Our KVK being the technology back stopping institution for the district, a team of experts attend regular calls from farmers and extension functionaries and resolve their problem now and then. In most cases the experts also visit the farmer’s field. In addition to this, we have an exclusive email id to answer queries of farmers and extension functionaries online” explains Robert.
But despite all these approaches, many of the farmer’s problems remain unattended. Lack of adequate public transport facilities inhibited farmers from meeting the experts personally.
About 20 consumers visit the centre on a daily basis. On an average, there is a 15% increase in the income level of farmers, according to the institute.
For more details, contact C.P. Robert at 0469-2662094/2661821 (extention-11/12) or [email protected].
First published by The Wire