Rural women in Madhya Pradesh replace traders to directly procure agri produce from farmers
Over 4,500 women across 52 districts of Madhya Pradesh are part of an initiative to directly procure farm produce from the farmers at government-fixed MSP. This has not only removed corruption from the procurement process but has also provided livelihoods to women SHGs.
Jyotsna Richhariya 1 Jun 2022 10:50 AM GMT
A resident of Khategaon in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, Sonu Vishwakarma is a 30-year-old widow and a mother of two. She is the sole breadwinner for her family and works at the nearby government warehouse to procure agricultural produce and farm harvest directly from the farmers. In return, farmers are paid the government-fixed minimum support price (MSP) thus keeping them away from the middlemen.
Based on the amount of procurement, Vishwakarma is paid on a monthly basis. "I earn twenty seven rupees per quintal on wheat procurement and could earn around ten thousand rupees every month," she told Gaon Connection.
Vishwakarma, along with 4,500 rural women in Madhya Pradesh, are part of an initiative under the State Rural Livelihoods Mission, which is working towards eliminating the private vendors or traders from the procurement process and replacing them with the women's groups. So far, 436 women groups in the state have been involved in the procurement initiative.
As part of this programme, rural women are allotted procurement centres around government warehouses to purchase the agricultural produce – mostly wheat, mustard and chickpeas – directly from farmers. The state government's Department of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection works to aid the necessary transportation of the produce.
Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF), a grassroots non-profit organisation, is working with the state government on this initiative and is providing technical support to implement the project. "We conduct workshops to train women about the buying and selling process, checking and monitoring of the loading of procured produce," Ajay Gehlot, TRIF's coordinator in Thandla tehsil in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, told Gaon Connection.
"We also help rural women tackle societal pressure, which was a hurdle for them to work freely and fearlessly," he added.
Rural women replacing traders
Large-scale procurement of agricultural produce has traditionally been a male bastion, mostly limited to wealthy money-lenders and local political leaders. This initially made it difficult for the rural women to find a place in the procurement process.
"Women were threatened by the rich middle-men and leaders as they were taking up their work and removing corruption in the procurement process," said Gehlot. But with training and regular interactions, village women came forward to run these government procurement centres.
Jhita Jhodiya, 29-year-old procurement group leader from Karanjpada in Thandla block of Jhabua district feels proud to provide financial support to her husband who works as a farmer.
"I earned eighteen thousand in a month last year during the wheat procurement season when we procured 20,058 quintals of wheat," she told Gaon Connection. Jhodiya heads a self-help group named Azad Mahila Bachat Samuh, where rural women collectively save money and work for their own development.
Managing procurement centres has helped women gain confidence. "I see how much grains can be weighed in a day and allot days to our farmers to reduce crowding at the procurement centre. This also saves time for the farmers and they need not wait in long queues," said Reena Devi from Khategaon in Dewas, who works as a secretary at the procurement centre in her district.
According to her, the farm produce is checked for various parameters of quality, and thereafter weighted, packed and tagged. "Women groups purchase agricultural produce at the MSP and they are paid on the basis of commission per quintal," informed Shahzad Khan, consultant with TRIF.
In the last financial year (FY 2021-22), 986,560.77 quintals of wheat was procured across Madhya Pradesh which benefited 12,575 farmers.
Tenders for agricultural produce procurement are given to different groups on the basis of certain set conditions such as number of years of formation of that group, bank accounts and savings, etc.
"I envision that every woman connected with these women groups should be able to earn ten thousand rupees independently," L M Belwal, CEO of MP-SRLM (Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission) told Gaon Connection.
Over 4,500 women are organised under these groups and provided employment in procurement and other activities, the CEO said. "Agricultural produce procurement drive has also helped reduce migration for work from villages to cities," he added.
This story has been done as part of a collaboration with Transform Rural Indian Foundation.