Rural women trained as agri entrepreneurs to support farmers in Madhya Pradesh
An initiative is empowering people in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh to become financially independent by providing them training to become krishi udyami. These entrepreneurs not only help farmers sell their crops, but also disseminate information regarding various farming related schemes.
Sarah Khan 12 April 2022 10:21 AM GMT
Nisha Sharma from Manawar's Devla village has never felt this confident and independent before. The sole earning member of a family of four, she works as an agricultural entrepreneur in her village in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Her daily work involves assisting farmers with their harvest, providing them with relevant details to help maximise their profits and disseminating information about adopting organic farming and the benefits of using vermicompost.
Sharma is not the only female agricultural entrepreneur in her village, locally known as krishi udyami. Twenty-five year old Ranjana Esky dons a similar hat. Esky had her first taste of financial freedom when she was nominated by the local women's self help group to undergo training to become an agricultural entrepreneur.
The two agricultural entrepreneurs, Sharma and Eksy, have been trained as a part of an initiative by the Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF), a grassroots foundation, deeply focused on challenges faced by marginalised communities and in particular of rural women. The initiative, which commenced in 2018, has been empowering people in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh to become financially independent by providing them training to become an agricultural entrepreneur.
"The initiative has helped to bridge a gap between the local community and the market, it has made the dealing between the two more stable and trustworthy. Contrary to outsiders who would sometimes come to buy the produce and many times give it a skip, the locals deal with the farmers in a better way because they know their own business is dependent on them," Sachin Sakalle, the state programme manager at TRIF, told Gaon Connection.
The agri entrepreneurs are farmers who are dependent on each other so it's a win-win situation for both, Sakalle added.
Esky, who was once a very shy person, shared that now she conducts interactions with large groups of farmers independently, and most importantly without hesitation. The confidence to do that, she said, came from the work that she has been doing with TRIF since 2018.
"My family's financial condition wasn't very sound so I agreed to enrol as soon as I finished my graduation. It was one of the wisest decisions I have made. Apart from supporting my family, working as an agricultural entrepreneur has really helped to build my personality," she told Gaon Connection.
This initiative is a part of a non-financial MoU (memorandum of understanding) with Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission, a 2011 scheme aimed at promoting self-employment and organisation of rural poor.
How to become a krishi udyami
The detailed process involves nomination of candidates by self-help groups and local panchayats as agricultural entrepreneurs. The nominated candidates are then made to undergo a written and oral examination, followed by a 15-45 days training period.
Once the nominated candidate has cleared the two tests and the module prepared by TRIF, she or he works closely with local farmers and self-help groups (SHGs) in their respective villages.
The daily work of krishi udyami involves assisting the farmers and SHGs in getting inputs (seeds, vegetables, etc) from the market for them as they prepare their land for cultivation, selling the farmers' produce in the neighbouring mandis, providing information to the farmers about the new farming techniques through which they can grow a better yield with limited inputs.
"I buy seeds for the farmers so that they can grow corn, cotton, and wheat on their land. Apart from that, I also buy cauliflower and bottle gourd for them," 48-year-old Sharda Bhavel, who has been working as an agricultural entrepreneur in Manawar, told Gaon Connection. "I assist the members of SHGs as well in providing them with the materials they require for their work," she added.
The money for buying the produce of the farmers is provided to the agri entrepreneurs by TRIF, which the non-profit arranges from its donors to support these entrepreneurs. TRIF also provides them with a monthly honorarium. Most of the remaining payment is task-based and varies, beginning from Rs 3,000. In a few cases, TRIF also provides them with financial support for their agri entrepreneurial work in the initial three to four months.
Financial independence for rural women
"Wheat produce has been really good recently. I bought 20 quintals of wheat from the farmers, for which a sum of Rs 35,000 was provided to me by TRIF. I earned Rs 150 per quintal by selling that amount in the mandi," informed Sharma. Prompt payment to farmers helps to build a bond of trust between us, and even I am able to make money which is enough to meet my family's expenses, the krishi udyami added.
She also shared that initiatives such as the one being run by TRIF helps to bolster confidence of rural women who have limited education and means to earn livelihood in the rural areas.
"I used to work as a daily wage labourer earlier, my earning was less and I used to be exploited too," Sharma told Gaon Connection but " I feel very confident and independent now. The initial hesitation and fear has gone. Working around and with women also provides us with spaces to grow."
TRIF's initiative has provided training to 26 such agricultural entrepreneurs since its inception four years ago. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Manawar, hence keeping that in mind, the foundation has trained 1 agri entrepreneur for 250 farmers.
The agri entrepreneurs also provide information about the agricultural schemes of the government from which they can benefit.
"Many farmers were not aware of the PM-Kisan scheme so I enrolled them for that. Sometimes, there's a mismatch between the account number and the beneficiary's name, so I assist the farmers in solving those problems online," Esky told Gaon Connection.
Along with that, the agri entrepreneurs are involved in promoting use of vermicompost by the farmers.
"The vermicompost was prepared by us at home and used on one bigha of land to demonstrate its benefits to the farmers. Many farmers switched to using vermicompost after that. While there hasn't been 100 per cent adoption of using vermicompost but even a 50 per cent acceptance rate is perceived as a positive step by us," Esky added.
This story has been done as part of a collaboration with Transform Rural India Foundation.