Ensuring a profit for the small farmer

May 16, 2013

Stichting Het Groene Woudt (SHGW), a Dutch family foundation, promotes sustained economic development in rural areas of developing countries like India. Dipankar Borah representing SHGW in India, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, says that consumers can enjoy better quality products if the farmers are assured of a price for their produce. Excerpts from the interview.

Dipankar Borah

OneWorld South Asia: Tell us about the role played by Stichting Het Groene Woudt (SHGW), in promoting sustained economic development in developing countries like India?

Dipankar Borah: Stichting Het Groene Woudt (SHGW) supports projects that are aimed at setting up viable businesses in rural areas. Initially supported by SHG, these rural enterprises are eventually owned by a group of farmers. SHGW started by supporting cotton farmers in 2006, followed by coffee and spices and now apple farming in Uttarakhand.

Our initiative to support apple farming in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh has been assisted by two NGOs including the Delhi-based Agricultural and Organic Farming Group (AOFG) and Uttarakhand-based Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS).

All the groundwork, including getting the farmers together and forming their trusts, has been done by SJS. The next process was to create apple collection centres and develop a cold storage where the produce could be stored. SHGW has funded joint venture companies running apple collection centres and a long term storage facility in Uttarkashi.

OWSA: How do you look at this model as a viable tool for empowering marginalised farmers?

Borah: With a long term storage facility available to farmers, they need to focus on producing better quality of produce as it would bring them better profits. The role of farmers now is not just to pluck the fruits but also to deliver these to the collection centres. Ultimately, the farmer gains when the quality produce from his farm is sold at a much higher rate in the market.

OWSA: Is SHGW planning to initiate such projects in other areas of the country for the other crops?

Borah: Let us wait for the full outcome of the project. Once the project completes its full cycle and we see the success on ground then only will we think about taking this project to other areas. The success of this kind of a project depends on the involvement of the farmers and also on how well they respond to the assistance being provided in terms of education, training and equipments.

OWSA: How does this model provide an incentive to the farmer to work harder to reap bigger profits?

Borah: The farmer needs to really understand the model and then work towards converting it into a successful venture. Ultimately, it is the product that has to reach the market at an efficient cost. The farmer now knows that there is a collection centre to take care of his produce, so he is left with enough time to go back to his orchard and give it the desired attention.

When the small farmer is assured that his produce would be purchased at an optimum price, it is a big incentive for him. And, if we can ensure quality, it also brings more value to the consumers.

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India’s Minister for Water Resources, Harish Rawat, lauds the innovative apple project of Uttarakhand, a model that has freed small apple farmers from the clutches of middlemen besides introducing business acumen in them.
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