Collectivization results in fertile livelihoods
by Santosh Kumar Mahatha

The remotest hamlet of Ranibandh Block, Chhatnigora, situated 90 km from the district headquarters of Bankura district of West Bengal, had seen a long period of discouraging output from agriculture. Early transplantation, changing crop pattern, experience sharing among farmers were some of the early strategies adopted by the smallholder farmers to enhance productivity, but not much benefit had been accruing. While the Bankura district contributes significantly to the watermelon production in West Bengal, the land in Chhatnigora used to lie fallow during the summer season. The following were the challenges faced by the farmers of Chhatnigora:

  • Non availability of quality agriculture inputs on time at fair prices
  • Sound knowledge about improved cultivation practices
  • Lack of information about and access to assured markets

The LEAP project of Walmart Foundation greatly helped in addressing these challenges. Focusing on the concept of market led agriculture interventions, the project interventions started with collectivizing farmers (only women) into small-small producer groups (PGs) and further into a Farmer Producer Company which helped the farmers overcome their challenges.

Eleven farmers (out of a total 43 HHs of the hamlet) came together to form a Producer Group named Chhatnigora Bidu Chandan Utpadankari Samiti. They planned to cultivate watermelons as their first crop since it was summer. Meanwhile, the farmer producer company, Ranibandh Mahila Farmer Producer Company Limited, was also in the process of formation. Chhatnigora Bidu Chandan Utpadankari Samiti cultivated watermelon in 4.92 acre of land in a concentrated approach and carried out transplantation within three days’ time, to ensure profitable marketing of the produce.

The Ranibandh Mahila FPC Ltd. assured the following support to the farmers of Chhatnigora:

  • Doorstep delivery of quality inputs (Seed, pesticides and micro nutrients) at competitive prices
  • Regular handholding of the farmers for the improved Package of Practices for watermelon cultivation.
  • Marketing of produce from farm gate.

Regular feedback about the services provided by the FPC and knowledge exchange among farmers was facilitated by regular Producer Group meetings

This resulted in the following benefits:

  • Seeing the services being provided by the FPC, three more members joined their producer group and the area under cultivation reached 6.02 acre.
  • Individual farmers saved Rs.42 per decimal in purchasing input through FPC, and they saved a total amount of Rs. 25, 284.
  • Assured production of 18.65 MT per Ha.
  • Farm gate price of Rs. 10.25, and Rs. 10 for the A Grade produce, based on the date of procurement and Rs. 8, Rs. 7, Rs. 5 for the B Grade produce which was better than the respective rate of Rs. 9 & Rs. 3.5 received by Non PG members in their locality.

Total sale of Rs. 3, 90,227 and net profit of Rs. 2, 41,399 that means an average net profit of Rs. 17,243 per farmer– a considerable addition to their annual household incomes.

When many farmers were still struggling to realize profit from agriculture, the women of Chhatnigora clearly established that:

“Collectivization results in fertile livelihoods”

One of the member farmers, Puspanjali Hembram, shared:

“We used to work hard in agriculture but we never got appreciated for that. To gain acknowledgement and respect we decided to take up cultivation collectively starting with the watermelon crop. We have managed to procure good quality seeds, save on the cost of pesticides and get a good price for our produce - resulting in enhancement of our family income. We have also built a good relationship with our FPC.”

The experience of the PG members shows that collectivization of small and marginal farmers is critical in the areas of:

  • Planning and indenting for inputs
  • Planning for the production cycle especially the timing of transplantation
  • Maintaining the quality of the produce through regular mutual follow up and monitoring
  • Water sharing for irrigation
  • Planning for labor requirement and sharing if labor is to be sourced at the hamlet/village itself
  • Marketing of the produce

Chhatnigora Bidu Chandan Utpadankari Samiti is now confident of better realizations of their produce in the next season too. Each of the 14 members of the PG have invested Rs. 1000 (100 Shares) and become permanent members of the FPC to get assured farming support services in the coming years.

Special inputs by : Sudhir Sahni, New Delhi