Crediting Happiness

Envisioning financially inclusive and empowered rural communities, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has many interventions in place

To foster rural prosperity, NABARD came into existence in 1982 by transferring the agricultural credit functions of RBI and refinance functions of the then Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).

NABARD’s initiatives focus on everything connected to rural empowerment. This includes financial support to farmers, rural infrastructure, designing innovative development schemes, training and skill building of handicraft artisans, implementing government schemes and more. NABARD has a strong partner network across government and non-government agencies, non-profit organisations and private players to implement its developmental programmes across the nation.

Countering Climate Change Vulnerability in Water Sector

Listed among the 18 biodiversity hotspots in the Eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is a small state with a variable climate across its four districts ----— North, South, East and West. But the green and organic state, too, is facing the impact of climate change.

Jumkyo Bhutia in Middle Phalidara, Namchi block, South Sikkim, literally lives under the stars. Her house is located on a hillock with no water source in the visible vicinity. She had to walk half-a-kilometre daily to fill two buckets of water from a small spring. She did not have a toilet nor could grow vegetables or keep livestock. But in 2019, after a need assessment, a 10,000-litre water tank was built at her home by NABARD. And life changed. She got a toilet constructed, keeps two cows, poultry and grows more vegetables.

“I sell the extra milk and the eggs,” says the 32-year-old woman. This water lasts up to a month with judicious use. Like her, there are many vulnerable ones, who face problems due to water scarcity.

Nearly 80,000 rural households depend on springs for drinking water. But the springs have been drying up over the years for various reasons such as change in weather patterns and urbanisation. “South and West Sikkim are drought prone, falling under rain shadow area of Darjeeling hills. The annual rainfall received here is less than 150 cm as compared to 300 cm for East and North districts,” explains Subhash Dhakal, Assistant Director, Rural Management and Development Department (RM&DD), Government of Sikkim. Based on the vulnerability analysis on water sector done by RM&DD, the entire South district and four blocks of West Sikkim were identified as water-stressed area, as per the Project Completion Report by Rural Development Department, Government of Sikkim.

To address the challenges that come with scarcity of water, NABARD initiated a project ‘Addressing Climate Change Vulnerability of Water Sector at Gram Panchayat Level in Drought Prone areas of Sikkim’. The project, implemented by RM&DD, had an integrated approach, including practices to conserve water along with boosting agriculture and livelihood opportunities in allied sectors. This included Dhara Vikas that is springshed management, construction of water harvesting tanks for households and communities, fodder plantation, horticulture development and construction of solid waste recovery centres. Around 2,220 participants were sensitised on climate change, water conservation measures and climate resilient activities.

Database for village springs atlas was updated. The project was implemented across 74 Gram Panchayat Units (GPUs) in 12 blocks of South and West Sikkim.

To begin with, a Village Water Security Plan (VWSP) was made. The community was mobilised, trained and prepared to implement these interventions through GPUs. Under Dhara Vikas, 500 units were rejuvenated, creating additional water capacity of 1,70,70,000 litres. This helped 45,000 families gain access to clean drinking water. Farmer Udai Man Rai was very happy to see the spring near his village Sadam Suntaley revive. This helped 20-25 homes for household consumption needs and in farming.

Construction of household-level water harvesting tanks with 10,000 litre capacity augmented water storage capacity of reservoir by 13.8 million litres. For community welfare, water reservoirs with 30,000 litre capacity were built. And Prabhu Narayan Pradhan of Middle Phalidara, Namchi block, was happy to give a piece of his land for this construction. The benefits are shared by eight families for household and agricultural activities.

Sikkim is primarily an agrarian economy; major landholders are small and marginal farmers who lack access to mechanisation and latest technical know-how. Under horticulture and fodder development, saplings of native plants were provided to farmers, along with training on better agricultural practices. Broom grass plantation was encouraged for fodder and making brooms. Fodder plantations created additional livelihood options in dairy, piggery and goatery sectors.

Black (large) cardamom is another vital cash crop in the region. Chandramaya Limboo lives in New Sada village, Barfung Zarong GP, Ravangla block and works as a daily labourer. The cardamom crop adds Rs 25,000 to her annual income.

For better conservation of water resources, it is also important to prevent garbage from polluting and plastic from clogging the water sources. For this, 12 Recovery Resource Centres were built. Managed by the GP, the waste is collected on a weekly basis and segregated here. Leela Basnetti does that at the Rongbul centre in Namchi block. A GP van collects the garbage and the dry waste after segregation is sent to a bigger dump where it is sold off for recycling. The villagers normally make compost from the wet waste, she informs.

This project benefited over 40,000 households, covering a population of 20 lakh.

Millet Sisters FPO

Millet cultivation, new farming techniques and value-added products are changing the lives of women in Pedabayalu village, Andhra Pradesh. Susag Millets Producer Company Limited is an all-women Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) that has positively impacted the lives of 960 women working on millets and associated products. And it has even won the second prize as the ‘best performing women FPO’ by NABARD. The FPO members grow all kinds of millets and work on grading, valuation, processing, and marketing of the produce. NABARD collaborated with Sarada Valley Development Samithi (SVDS) to aid the millet sisters. They are also supported by Azim Premji Foundation and Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), an agricultural extension centre.

The FPO works on foxtail millet, finger millet, little millet, pearl millet, jowar, proso millet, kodo millet, brown top millet, barnyard millet, red and white rajma, cow peas, white beans, green gram, red gram, black gram, horse gram, pepper and turmeric. They also make millet-based biscuits, idli, semolina, vermicelli as well as instant dosa mix, instant idli mix, instant soup, instant nutria mix, and instant khichdi.

Millets are known to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body. They contain high dietary fibre that regulates blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of diabetes. Being rich in vitamins, they help control anaemia as well. All the millets, pulses and vegetables grown in the farm are organic and the village prides itself on cultivation under natural farming methods.

K. Jogi Naidu, secretary, SVDS and CEO, The Share Macts, says, “We work for economic development of tribal people, Dalits and farmers. A decade ago, as a partner of Millet Network of India, we worked with the tribal people to rejuvenate the millets, especially at Pedabayalu, covering over 2,000 acres. We increased production and consumption increased as well. However, we still had a surplus and that is when NABARD invited SVDS to promote an FPO. And we started Susag Millets Producer Company Limited. Our focus is conservation of natural resources and women and tribal empowerment.”

Shanti Kumari, CEO of this women-led FPO, says that the FPO is currently making profits. FPO member Vijaya says, “Traditionally, we used to grow millets but it had stopped in between. However, the Millet Sisters FPO ensured we go back to our roots. They gave us seeds and we were taught to sow the seeds using the beds. We have doubled our yield. Also, we have cross cultivation so that even if one crop fails, we have a back-up.”

Shanti Kumari is cultivating 18 varieties of vegetables in half-an-acre of land. She says, “Pre-monsoon sowing and dry sowing ensures that we have something to harvest 365 days. Also, the land looks green throughout the year. We sow different crops monthly and can harvest greens, brinjal, gourds and pumpkins. Also, with organic methods, both our health and the health of the land are good.”

The women are being trained in using natural farming methods including the right way to use organic manure as well as adopting farming technologies that can increase yield. In fact, all the 49 families in this village have made natural farming a way of life.

As the region also grows jackfruits in large numbers, the FPO has collaborated with a Kisan Vikas Kendra (KVK) to produce jackfruit seed powder or flour. It can be used to make biscuits and cookies. Dr. Rajkumar, programme coordinator, KVK, says, “We have collaborated with C. K. Narayan, Principal Scientist, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru, to train the women to make jackfruit seed flour.” The KVK has invested Rs 10 lakh on this.

NABARD also helped the Millet Sisters by giving 50 per cent aid for a vehicle, which they use for transporting their products to the markets. Now, the focus is on developing agri infrastructure and one acre land has been set aside to create a model space to showcase all the processes.

Transforming with Wadi

The plateau region with thin forest area, Korba district, Chhattisgarh, is home to many tribes. But poor agriculture yield and the lack of knowhow was a bane and farmers and villagers lived in utter despair.

Addressing the challenges, NABARD initiated a Wadi programme in the district. Financed under the Tribal Development Fund (TDF), Wadi relates to orchard development. The programme encompassed developing 1,000 acres of land for sustainable livelihood. This included cultivating mangoes and cashews. Moreover, the small landholding farmers were taught the value of intercropping such as growing groundnuts, lemons, pomegranate and even vegetables.

This ‘One Family, One Acre’ Wadi project benefited 1,000 families. NABARD associated with Gram Bartori Vikas Shikshan Samiti (GBVSS) to implement this convergence project, bringing a shift in the quality of life for small and landless farmers. “These farmers did not earn enough due to lack of knowledge of good agriculture practices and use of natural resources. They would either be doing labour jobs or working on others’ land. The first phase started in 2011,” says Suryakant Soulakhe, president, GBVSS. “We covered 200 families. In the second phase in 2014, we covered 725 families. Introducing a new crop was a challenge. Our initial work started with fencing and planting trees such as Sal, which keep the area green and can later be used as wood. We train the farmers at the training centre in Nawapara. The training includes all aspects such as pit digging, pit filling, stacking, fertiliser sprinkling, soil conservation and water resources conservation and utilisation. We also touch upon healthcare issues of the farmers. We even train them on alternative sources of livelihood such as goat breeding, poultry farming, pisciculture. We also impart knowledge of seeds such as sesame and pulses.”

There is a cashew processing unit also at the GBVSS centre. For irrigation, around 200 borewells were installed. Around 10-12 farmers benefited from each borewell.

The farmers were invited to form FPOs. A single FPO has about 500-600 members. Seeing the success of the project, cultivation of black rice was also introduced. Two years ago, over 60 tonnes of black rice was sent to Tamil Nadu on order.

Conservation of soil and water is essential for the success of a Wadi project. NABARD supported the farmers to form a Jal Grahan Samiti (JGS). Under this, the need was to control bunding, build check dams and desilt the ponds. “Approximately, 1,000 hectares were covered between two villages of Purena and Kharhari,” says Ramanuj Gabel of Purena Panchayat, who is also the president of JGS.

NABARD sanctioned Rs 2 crore to carry out the work in 886 hectares. All this resulted in increase in water level and paddy production, informs Krishna Lumar Binjwar, Treasurer, JGS.

NABARD also takes up measures for providing a market for the produce through ‘Rural Mart’---— one in Korba and the other in Janjir district, about 50 km from Korba. The produce is brought or sent to the mart every 15 days on rotation basis. NABARD takes care of the rent and salary of the sales staff for three years after its opening.

With an integrated approach to holistic development, the focus is on women empowerment as well. NABARD distributed solar lanterns to the tribal women so that they could continue uninterrupted work at night. With hours of power failure in the region, earlier, the women could not pursue work related to small cottage enterprises as supplementary income.

Village Botli now has many joyful farmer families, whose lives have taken a turn for the better. Gajraj Rathi was earlier a labourer, but the project has given him a new life. The 40-year-old has built a hutment, 1 km from his native village Botli. He now grows mangoes, groundnuts, cashews, lemons and vegetables. Besides, fish farming, his livestock includes poultry, ducks and two bullocks. The entire family is involved in this work now. “We have a private borewell and also get water from the borewell built under the project. I have a new house under Indira Awas Yojana in Botli. I also bought a bike two years ago. My daughter is studying nursing in Korba.”

A spunky Raj Kunwar from the same village hails the women of the community as guardians of crops from wild animals and elephant herd. The jovial and hospitable Bahadur Singh Rathia of Rampur village, which comes under ISSU Wadi cluster, shares, “I am the first wadiwala. Thanks to all the training, I could transform this place from a barren land into a fertile land with mangoes and watermelons.”

Livelihood and Enterprise Development

Located in the thick greens of the forest-covered Dalma Mountain range, Patamda Block in East Singhbhum district, Jharkhand, is inhabited by small and marginal farmers. The main source of livelihood here are agriculture and farm labour. But these occupations were not yielding adequate returns and therefore, NABARD initiated a Livelihood and Enterprise Development Programme (LEDP).

Trained under this, Sanjoli Tudu of Kashidih Tola, says, “We used to sell our raw produce, pulses and spices, at very low prices. But now that we are trained and there is a processing unit at Macha village, we are able to sell our produce at higher prices. Soon, we will open units in Dhadkidih and other villages too.”

There were many causes for low production: outdated cultivation practices and lack of technical know-how and machinery, no storage facility and quality power supply. Moreover, in the absence of marketing exposure, the small and marginal farmer members of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) were forced to sell their agri-produce, including spices and pulses, in raw form and at throwaway prices. Assessing the requirements, NABARD collaborated with Tagore Society for Rural Development to sanction this LEDP project. Rupali Baksi, Women Organiser, Tagore Society for Rural Development, says, “This project was sanctioned in 2021, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We began the process in March 2022 and selected 90 women from 25 existing SHGs. The criteria for selecting them was that they were needy, active, interested in increasing their income and could devote time.”

These women were identified from seven villages namely Birra, Mohulbona, Dhadkidih, Sundarpur, Rangatand, Beldihand and Patamda. They were trained in production and processing of spices and pulses. “Earlier, we were using the broadcasting method. Now, we have been trained in line sowing,” says Anjoli Mahato of Kashidih Tola, Dhadkidih village. “The new way of farming has led to an increase in production,” she adds.

The National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), Sonipat, Haryana adopted the LEDP Cluster under its village adoption initiatives. District Horticulture Department provided eight insect-free sapling raising structures and distributed free seeds of various spices and pulses.

All these interventions have reduced cost of production and increased the production and productivity of spices and pulses. The women are involved in processing and marketing of chilli, cumin, coriander, turmeric and pigeon pea under the brand name, Dalma Suddh – Masala & Daal.

To overcome power shortage issues and smoothly run the unit at Macha village, there was a convergence with Selco Foundation. The unit got solarised and the women can continue their work without any difficulty. The unit was 90 per cent funded by the Selco Foundation in the form of grant cum revolving fund assistance. The remaining 10 per cent was contributed by the women. To meet the credit requirement of the beneficiaries, Bank of India, Patamda branch, extended the bank credit through group and individual financing.

The success of this project has attracted more takers now, informs Baksi. “Earlier, these women used to sell their produce at very low price. They sold their arhar dal at as low as Rs 50-55 per kg to middlemen. But now, they are processing, packaging and selling their produce directly in the market. The price has doubled, going around Rs 120 per kg. Now, more women are interested in joining the project.”

Some products are sold raw but most are processed. Within a few months, each beneficiary has been able to earn Rs 2,500-Rs 4,000 per month, which is expected to increase further in the coming days. The products are sent to local grocery outlets in Patamda block and Jamshedpur city as well. NABARD has also coordinated for institutional tie-ups with Palash Mart (marketing outlet chain supported by the Government of Jharkhand), Namkum Farmers Producer Company and State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Ranchi. A tie-up has also been made for sale through the marketing outlet of forest department situated inside the Dalma Elephant Sanctuary.

For smooth business operations, a SPV - Dalma Suddh Masala Utpadak Samity - has been floated. The Samity is focusing on forging new tie-ups with institutional buyers, shopping malls as well as aiming to enter the national market through online platforms by the end of FY 2022-23.

In a bid to boost the production and business scale, the members are being brought under the NABARD-promoted CSS FPO —Patamda Progressive Agro Producer Company Ltd.

1.. The project had an integrated approach, including practices to conserve water along with boosting agriculture, livelihood opportunities in allied sectors
2.. Susag Millets Producer Company, is an all women-run Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) that has positively impacted the lives of 960 women
3. ‘One Family, One Acre’ Wadi project benefited 1,000 families. The programme encompassed developing 1,000 acres of land for sustainable livelihood
4.. Soil and water conservation are indispensable for the success of the Wadi programme. NABARD supported the farmers to form a Jal Grahan Samiti
5. The women are involved in processing and marketing of chilli, cumin, coriander, turmeric and pigeon pea under the brand name, Dalma Suddh–Masala & Daal