Bandal Ghati is a scenic hamlet nestled in the valley between the hills in Raipur, Uttarakhand – about 30km from the state's capital, Dehradun. The community here has lived off the land for generations.
However, with changing times, unavailability of quality seeds, organic manure, fertilisers, pesticides, and other critical inputs proved to be a hurdle in improving farm productivity. This came in the way of them earning more. The rain-fed agriculture ecosystem was handicapped by underdeveloped marketing channels, despite the proximity to Dehradun, one of the area's biggest farm produce markets. The locals found that selling surplus produce was a challenge and the price realisation was low.
The Big Change
Himmotthan, an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts, active in community development programmes in the hill state, took up Bandal Ghati as a project in 2019, with support from The Hans Foundation. To rejuvenate the farming ecosystem, Himmotthan motivated the farmers to develop a community institutional structure to enhance production, procure quality seeds and inputs, and establish practices for the collective marketing and distribution of the produce.
Himmotthan helped the community of over 402 households organise across 51 self-help groups (SHGs). The members of these groups were imparted skills through several capacity building programmes and exposure visits. The SHGs were federated under a cooperative named ‘Bandal Ghati Sawayat Sahakarita’, registered under ‘Uttaranchal Self Reliant Cooperative Act, 2003’.
As part of its activities, the cooperative established a Community Facility Centre (CFC) in the middle of the Maldevata produce market to ensure that member farmers could get critical agricultural inputs. The CFC supplies quality seeds, manure, fertilisers, and pesticides, while the cooperative purchases the farmers' produce to sell it in bulk and obtain a better price.
A significant achievement of the cooperative has been in establishing a robust value chain for the potato crop. Based on the farmers' demand, the CFC procured 60 quintals of quality potato seeds of the Kufari variety for the harvesting cycle of 2020. The unavailability of the seeds had earlier prevented the potato cultivators from growing more and better potatoes.
“In May 2020, when the potato crop was ripe for harvesting, the entire country was in the middle of a Covid lockdown. Harvesting the crop and marketing became a challenge. However, the project team (comprising members from the cooperative and Himmothan) guided us through calls and teleconferences. All the farmers were able to harvest their crops successfully, and the cooperative facilitated the sales,” said Beena Devi, President, Bandal Ghati Sawayat Sahakarita.
“The total turnover of the cooperative from the agri-business and related input supplies is around 42 lakhs for the period of 2020-21,” she added proudly.
The cooperative started by purchasing 25 quintals of potato and selling it at the local mandi (market), where the potato was in short supply because of the lockdown. This success led to the cooperative reaching out to more farmers, especially in the areas adjoining Bandal Ghati. Soon, the cooperative was procuring 25 quintals of potatoes every day to sell in the market.
“Himmotthan supported the Bandal Ghati cooperative movement by obtaining a storage centre from the ‘Mandi Parishad’, which enabled storage of the potato produce. Eventually, the cooperative made a profit and provided critical support to Bandal Ghati's farmers during the lockdown. Moreover, the cooperative provided the farmers with access to quality potato seeds,” explained Dr. Rajendra Koshyari, Area Manager, Tata Trusts.
The clusters' farmers are happy and grateful for the support provided at a critical time by the cooperative and the CFC.
"We are thankful for the cooperative. It provided quality seeds and access to the market and storage for our produce during the lockdown. In the coming year, we are confident of achieving newer heights with our productivity and will earn more from our farms,” says a happy Akash Singh, a farmer from Kyara village, Bandalghati.
(Text and photograph courtesy Tata Trusts. Content has been reproduced without any major editing)