India is a country built on the sweat and toil of its farmers. The range and expanse of agricultural produce are exhaustingly vast, and agriculture, to date, remains the mainstay of the Indian economy. It is not an exaggeration to call farmers the backbone of the nation.
Assam is one amongst many states in India, which is fundamentally based on agriculture. Over 70 percent of the state’s population rely on agriculture as farmers, as agricultural laborers, or both for their livelihood. Agricultural markets in Assam are under-developed. Geographical isolation, weak transportation and communication systems, poor marketing facilities, poor or non-existent market intelligence (e.g., information on price and place to sell) are some of the principal factors deterring farmers from earning a reasonable income. While most of the brokers/buyers have access to modern communication facilities such as telephone and regular and timely market reports, farmers in Assam are many years away from having such facilities to gauge the market and sell accordingly.To aid farmers through such problems, FXBIS’ team in the three remote villages – Dipila, Dahinagoan and Khataniapara, namely, of Darrang district in Assam built farmer support groups with the name ‘Farmer Clubs’. FXBIS gathered a group of small and marginal farmers (with shared interest in agriculture) from the same village and motivated them on benefits of collective business. FXBIS has formed 6 farmers’ clubs with 120 farmers (i.e. 20 farmers in each club) as members in 3 villages through execution of ‘Association of Persons’ agreement among the farmers. The main objective of these clubs is to improve the methods and returns on current farming practices and connect them with government schemes for their benefit.
FXBIS has facilitated trainings for the members to give them exposure to new farming methods, tools, crop varieties, online marketing and government schemes. In addition, FXBIS has developed a very productive partnership with Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) – an in-house ICAR programme aimed at promoting best practises amongst small and marginal farmers. The KVKs were approached for leveraging benefits for farmers of these farmer clubs. In collaboration with FXBIS, KVK Mangaldoi initiated seed cluster demonstration programme in 7.5 bigha land in the Kathaniapara.
To aid in the advancement of agriculture and provide opportunity to the farmers to meet, learn and access agricultural tools and equipment within the village, FXBIS has created a facility called AGRICULTURE RESOURCE CENTREs (ARCs) in all 3 project villages. The ARCs serve as a common platform for farmers to share their experiences, learn from one another, interact with officials from departments of agriculture, animal husbandry, the KVK. The ARCs are in the process of digitised (2 ARCs have already been converted to digital ARCs), so that the farmers in these remote locations get updated on the prevailing market prices.
India’s soul resides in her villages and agriculture still sustains most of our rural populace. The least we can do as a country is to give the farmers what is rightfully theirs and not let their agitations go unnoticed. The interventions in Darrang are a humble contribution from FXBIS to catalyse farmers’ wheel of progress, especially for the marginal farmers. FXBIS’ philosophy to co-create (with communities), connect (the communities with benefit schemes) and converge (bringing the State and NGOs together for a mindful purpose) has borne fruit in the 3 villages of the district. Similar programmes are being run in another district – Kamrup in Assam, and Ri-bhoi district in Meghalaya.