The Optimist Citizen

A start-up’s attempt to put tribal farmers back on top of the food chain

Rakesh Kumar Gupta had worked in the development sector for more than a decade. But, one assignment with SRIJAN in Pali district of Rajasthan changed his worldview about agriculture, farmers and farm produce.

During this assignment, he came in contact the Bhil and Grasiya tribal community, who used to sell custard apple at a throwaway price of Rs. 2-2.5/kg. Although these communities were based in a region which was blessed with abundant natural resources, they struggled to ensure food security. The middlemen involved in selling their far produce were exploiting them and this was forcing the tribals towards a pitiable living condition. This marked the beginning of GramShree, a startup aimed at helping the farmers in rural & remote tribal areas to break out of poverty.

A pilot study, comprising of 500 tribal farmers from 30 villages, was conducted with the help of SRIJAN, another NGO working on similar issues, to highlight and understand the importance of setting up a value chain for these farmers. In order to ensure that the farmers received better price for their product, the intervention involved adding value to the fruit before selling it in the market. Experts from the Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, Udaipur, provided technical support for this intervention. Browning free technology was adopted for the processing of the custard apple, which helped in increasing the shelf life of the finished product from a few days to more than a year. The intervention involved the establishment of fruit collection centres at the village level, a processing unit, a storage unit and a marketing network to promote the sale of the produce. Women were provided training on the process of grading, sorting, weighing and documentation. It was the first time in the area that the tribal women got the opportunity to get involved in such activities and earn a living for them and their family.

As a result of the intervention:

(a) Farmers received an average price of Rs 8 per Kg from the sale of custard apple instead of Rs 3 per Kg

(b) 500 families got an additional income in the range of Rs 2,500 to Rs 7,500 during the period of one month

(c) 50 plus Women got numerous days of work in processing unit

(d) Women were equipped with the skills of Shorting, Grading & Documentation

(e) Income was transferred to families through the women and this in turn, increased the say of women in family decision making

(f) Women could use the additional income for the education of children and towards saving for the future

(g) Market awareness grew within the community

(h) The bargaining power of the farmers increased

Rakesh, through GramShree, is planning to scale up this pilot in the tribal belt of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, with an impact to a minimum of 2,500 tribal families and empowering men and women by increasing their bargaining power, in a span of the next 3 years.

The article has been written in collaboration with SSE INDIA supported by PWC INDIA. For more information visit HERE

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