Amid lockdown, Tata Trusts initiative helps sustain farmers’ livelihood via collaborative value chains

The Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), an initiative of Tata Trusts, has scaled up its network and is empowering Harichandanpur’s tribal smallholders to realize profitable returns through collaboration with the existing vegetable value chain

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Mumbai: The Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), an initiative of Tata Trusts, has scaled up its network and is empowering Harichandanpur’s tribal smallholders to realise profitable returns through collaboration with the existing vegetable value chain.
Over the years, concerted efforts helped make the farmers shift to commercial farming by providing the farmers with advanced farming models (drip irrigation/soil-less, commercial seedlings, improved overall infrastructure, access to finance, construction of approach roads etc.  Additionally, there were also some innovative digital solutions on weather-based crop advisory and effective market linkage that helped boost the outcomes.
Thriving on the back of such a vibrant ecosystem, smallholders took to growing summer crops on 100 acres of cultivable land. The crops grown included watermelon, bitter-gourd, chilli, pumpkin and okra. These crops were chosen based on demand estimates from local mandis. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing countrywide lock down almost crushed the targets of nearly 500 smallholders and threatened to lose all ground covered.
The lock down brought economic activities to a standstill, and the demand for fruits and vegetables dropped by 60% as hotels and restaurants were closed and supply to outstations was completely hampered. The poor farmers were facing another challenge with unseasonal rains towards end of April, which further decreased the demand for watermelons. To overcome these challenging times, the District Administration (Keonjhar) with Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society and Department of Horticulture launched ‘Vegetable on Wheel’, direct retailing initiative aimed at consumers in Keonjhar Town. CInI was one key partner with this initiative for farmer coordination, through this approximately 100 smallholders sold 10 Metric Tonnes of vegetables which cost around Rs. 2 lakh. The Odisha Mining Corporate (OMC) also extended their support to the local farmers as 5 MTs of vegetables supplied to OMC’s kitchens earned more than Rs. 1 Lakh.
The production forecasts for each week are being made by CInI in close consultation with farmers. Along with this, traders are being reached out by ‘I am kisan’ for effective linkages and rates of vegetables are being finalized over conference calls between interested buyers and farmer representatives. Following such processes, about 220 MTs of Watermelons and 4 MTs of other vegetables have been sold to wholesale buyers and have generated income of Rs. 13.75 lakh.
Speaking about the developments, Ganesh Neelam, Executive Director – CInI, Tata Trusts said, “We are focussed towards infusing more of technological innovations in the hinterlands for a sustainable development. While the pandemic has posed a great challenge, it has imparted learnings on the possible achievements through collaboration and provide extraordinary opportunities for the smallholder farmers in the future. “
The massive scale of the Covid-19 pandemic could have led to the possible price collapse and pushed the first-generation farmers back to their vicious poverty cycle. The collaborative efforts and the innovative changes brought on-ground possibly open new avenues present potential for higher share in market.
CInI, a nodal agency of Tata Trusts, promotes agricultural productivity stabilization, forest-based livelihoods, water resource development, drinking water and sanitation, microfinance and strengthening community-based organisations. The programme engages with 1,00,000 households in 45 districts across four states – Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Harichandanpur Odisha, its efforts have focused on designing approaches that empower Harichandanpur’s tribal smallholders realise profitable returns by engaging with actors across existing vegetable value chains. The idea of nurturing partnerships and “finding answers together” is the core engagement strategy under CInI’sLakhpati Kisan programmes.