Foundation's initiatives in Maharashtra are helping rural communities find their feet
Geetanjali Minhas | March 31, 2021 | Mumbai
Vishnu Jayaram Ghadse, 45, had to drop out of school and could not complete his tenth standard studies due to economic conditions. As a daily-wage labourer and paddy farmer he was able to earn Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 annually. After a chance meeting with representatives of Swades Foundation in 2017, he was introduced to their Water for Irrigation Programme and he came to know about the benefits of organic farming for his two-acre farm in his village, Chikalp near Shrivardhan in Maharashtra, and how cropping methods using chemicals and fertilizers were cost intensive.
Along with six farmers Vishnu got into community farming. He uses cow and goat dung as manure and grows crops like marigold, brinjals, watermelons, drumsticks, coriander, bitter gourd, tomato and chilies on his farm. As against 50-60 kg of seeds for crops per acre earlier, now with only four kg per acre he is able to grow two crops at the same time. Earlier he spent nearly Rs 5,000 but now he incurs cost of only Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500. With double yield each farmer easily earns an annual income of Rs 1 lakh-Rs 1.4 lakh. Daily 50-60 kg of each vegetable is supplied to Shrivardhan and all unsold stock is sold in Pune.
As Vishnu wanted to expand his cattle and also get into goat rearing Swades helped him purchase hybrid buffaloes. After meeting his home needs now Vishnu was also able to sell milk to nearby villages. His income has now increased to around Rs 2 lakh annually. For goatery a collective of 10 farmers came together in a single unit. As the herd increases lambs are sold and money ploughed back into goatery.
Vishnu is now a ‘lead farmer’ for Swades and supports other farmers in community farming. He also gives them technical information on growing crops and arranges seeds from other nurseries in Satara and Pune.
Earlier only watermelon and bhindi were grown in the village. Now with more cultivable land, all types of vegetables are grown. Motivated by Vishnu’s success in vegetables farming 15-20 farmers have come forward to replicate the same on their lands.
Vishnu wants his children to study agriculture so that they are technically empowered and plans to expand goatery, dairy and farming. “After using chemicals for so many years going completely organic will take three-four years,” he says adding that Swades has given him recognition in entire taluka and also increased reverse migration in the area.
Rahul Vitthal Jadhav, 31, worked in Mumbai as a data entry operator and earned Rs 15,000 a month. His salary went towards payment of monthly rent and household expenses and there was no question of savings. In 2018, he attended the Mumbai committee meetings of Swades and came to know about the cashew processing entrepreneurship programme. In January 2019 along with his wife he returned to his village Wakalghar near Shrivardhan. In February with his savings and monetary help of Rs 90,000 from Swades, he started his cashew processing unit. Within a year he was able to process five tonnes of raw cashew and earn Rs 1 lakh.
Rahul is also generating employment for women in his village by employing them in his unit that processed 10 tonnes of cashew last year. He is now increasing enhancing production capacity of his unit. After attending training session in a big cashew processing company in Kudal with the help of Swades, he has become a technically certified cashew processor and even provides repair and maintenance service to units in his block which has added to his income. With 120 acres of cultivable land around his village, Rahul now wants to start cluster processing with other villagers to develop cultivable land.
As a contractual worker in a big construction company in Mumbai since 2008, Pradip Kadam yearned to return to his village but lack of opportunities and support deterred him. During one of his visits of his village, Chandve in Mahad, he came to know that a meeting on reverse migration and training for goat rearing programme organized by Swades was going on. Along with wife Sujata he attended the meeting and learnt about livelihood opportunities available in the village. Both were motivated and shifted back to the village in 2017.
“As there was no income from farming I was thinking of getting into goatery business due to less input cost. With support from Swades, initially I purchased six goats and 12 lambs which have now expanded to a goatery farm and along with five others in the village and we now have 65 goats,” says Pradip, now 39.
Swades helps buy back lambs and also connects villagers with vendors so that they can also sell goat manure. The foundation is also providing support to Mahila Bachat Ghat by helping them sell their produce in market. Pradip’s income also has now increased to Rs 60,000 per month. He has also started a small electrical business. Sujata, 35, too has become an expert in in goat rearing. With 8-10 litres extra goat milk at home she prepares dishes like basundi, peda, malai barfi, paneer and rabdi for her family.
“I am now also exploring chicken business. My life is now completely changed. The environment is very child-friendly and others too are getting motivated to come back to the village. With our income, our image has enhanced. People from other villages now come and see our goat farm,” says Pradip. He adds that as children have migrated to towns old parents living alone is a huge issue in many villages. “It is very sad that during their last moments their children are not with them. We hope that reverse migration will address this issue,” says Pradip.
Providing economic opportunities
To uplift farmers’ conditions and to give them life of dignity, Swades has been working on economic development of farmers in seven blocks of Mahad, Mangaon, Mhasala, Poladpur, Shrivardhan, Tala and Sudhagad of Raigad district.
Training is provide to villagers earning with an annual income of up to Rs 2 lakh for their upskilling and to build capacities for advanced paddy cultivation, poultry, dairy and goat rearing, and through water for irrigation programmes.
Founded by Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala, the foundation in the last seven years has helped 550,000 people from 125,000 households in more than 2,513 hamlets in the region and now expanded into Igatpuri block in Nashik.
The dairy programme provides high potential to increase average household net income between Rs 40,000-Rs 60,000 per animal on a sustainable basis through the year .The programme aims to build through government and private players an eco-system for animal procurement, feed, fodder, animal health services, breeding services, milk procurement and milk product productions and to create a cycle wherein profits are invested through loan repayments and building animal ownership.
Swades helps get bank loan either by forming a joint liability group (JLG) or by individual mode as applicable for bank loan. The model is based on two animals (buffaloes and/or cows) in an interval of six-eight months from first animal. Swades provides in-kind support of up to Rs 11,000 for cows and Rs 12,000 for buffaloes for the first animal. For the second animal it provides EMI grant support of Rs 2,000 for 12 months in case of cows and Rs 2,500 equated monthly grants for 12 months in case of buffaloes, which are transferred to the bank loan account in the first, third, fifth month and so on after submission of the required documents. So far at least 4,414 dairy entrepreneurs have been created with 5,918 milch cattle increasing their average household income to Rs 50,000 per annum.
The dual purpose poultry program provide additional/supplementary income to poorest of poor and other households through the sale of birds as meat poultry and eggs as a layer. The geography provides good scope for backyard poultry and villagers rear four to 10 birds depending on their home consumption need. In 2020 Swades supported households with desi breeds like Kaveri, Vanaraja, Giriraja and Grampriya which thrive well in free range and lay eggs which can be sold as well as part hatched for rearing next cycles.
Under the programme each beneficiary is given a maximum of three units at an interval of 4 months including the supply time of one month. Rearing of chicks for first 21 days is done by anchor farmers and from 22nd day onwards it is done by the beneficiary at their place. Each bird from one unit can grow up-to 1.5 kg to 2 kg in four months of free range rearing and beneficiary then sells it in their village as well as in local market at Rs 150 per kg. A 10% mortality rate is factored in during rearing. From the survived lot beneficiaries can sell 35 birds and rear 10 birds (9 female and 1 male) for egg production and hatching simultaneously. These retained birds are the eligibility tokens to avail second and third units at subsidized rates by Swades which supports 80% cost of programme. As many as 6,217 households have been supplemented with 9,086 units of poultry (egg and meat) leading to an average household income gain of Rs 10,000 per annum.
The goat rearing programme is low cost and promotes sustainable livelihood options among marginal and landless farmers. It is aimed at providing additional or supplementary income through the sale of goat for meat, milk and goat manure.
Swades provides training to eligible farmers on pre- and post-goat procurement and distribution to build capacities and ensure optimal quality goat rearing. It has developed vendor eco-systems for supplying high quality breeds from different parts of Maharashtra and supply chain entrepreneurs as primary animal health care service (Pashu Sakhi) providers along with a network of vendors to supply feed. With Osmanabadi breed rearing well free range as well as on stall feeding and thriving well in the region it is also adaptable to Konkan climate and gives good results and major twin kidding. Swades has continued with the programme. Breeding starts at seven-eight months of age with a small gestation period of five months. Each unit has one adult goat, one heifer and two females. In community contribution, general households contribute Rs 4,500 and tribals and poorest of poor households Rs 2,500. Eligible farmers are supported with two units with a gap of six-eight months.
With the success of the programme over last four years communities have been supported to take up more than 3,400 goat rearing units in six blocks of Tala, Mangaon, Mahad, Shrivardhan, Poladpur and Mhasla. As of now 3,982 households are engaged with 16,124 animals and have had an annual average household income gain of Rs 20,000 from second year onwards.
Water for irrigation programme
Since the agro-climatic zone of Raigad suited to vegetable and fruit crops the foundations water for irrigation programme ensures that water is made available for the farmers for the Rabi season crop cultivation. With rainwater harvesting during monsoons and drip irrigation system farmers could do cultivation of second as well as third crops and gained confidence to harvest multiple vegetables on their lands with success.
The programme aims to create a virtuous cycle where the households start cultivating vegetable crops and reinvest the profits earned in repeating the crops. Over the last five years more than 2,000 acres of land has been covered under water for irrigation in the seven blocks of Raigad. Cash crops like vegetable, floriculture, drumstick and watermelon through drip irrigation ensure a net income Rs 60,000-80,000 per acre to farmers. Similarly after four-five years one acre of orchard plantation gets a net income of Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 to farmers which can easily increase every year for up to 10 years.
Drip irrigation provides two types of support to individual farmers. Drip for vegetables costs around Rs 1,35,000 per acre and the farmer’s contribution for POP is Rs 6,750 per acre. For general category it is Rs 13,500 per acre. In Conversion of Flood to Drip model, drip for vegetables costs around Rs 60,000 per acre where farmer contribution for POP is Rs. 3,500 per acre and Rs 7,000 per acre for general category depending upon demand along with donation and NOC.
Additionally, in community farming, drip irrigation with structure is provided to farmer groups. Small dams are created to ensure water availability throughout the year for agriculture purpose. Farmers are required to donate Rs 16,000 per acre for this programme. At least 2042 acres have been transformed through drip and flood irrigation under the water for irrigation programme and 12,050 farmers have been trained on technique of advanced paddy cultivation for better and more yield and income.
As many as 29,018 farmers have benefited from training sessions and field trips on cropping and irrigation of cultivable land. Farmers are trained to sow economically viable crops, increase productivity and survival percentage of existing and recently planted orchards.
Over and above these, with the suitability of agro-climatic zone of Raigad to all major fruit crops like alphonso, cashew, sapota and coconut, and to enhance their incomes, Swades also supports communities in the region through its new orchard and mango grafting programmes. More than 137,193 trees have been grafted and 929,274 new plants have been distributed for horticulture under these programmes.
Besides, the Foundation works in the areas of health and nutrition, education and sanitation in the region. Its initiatives include skills training to youths and their placement in formal employment and enterprise development in which 3,094 youth have been upskilled and trained. Out of them, 2,696 have been placed in formal employment and 79% have completed more than a year in their jobs. As many as 1,135 village development councils (VDC) have been formed.
These interventions have resulted in a multiplier effect as farmers, motivated by opportunities in their villages, are encouraged to migrate back. At least 254 people have returned to their villages in Raigad while 397 are in different stages of migration.
All these aims and objectives have been made possible by the Foundation’s 1,000-strong community of volunteers and 270 fulltime staff of FTE specialists and professionals with 90 percent of them working at grassroots.
“Due to the absence of education, health, sanitation and livelihood opportunities in rural areas people migrate to cities. Our livelihoods initiative is focused on empowering communities through building their entrepreneurial capacities. The programme over the years has restored hope for not just the people staying here but recently for many who came back to their villages during the pandemic and engaged with us and decided to permanently stay on,” says Sameer D’Souza, director, market value chain, economic development, Swades Foundation.
He says that Swades ensures all their rural entrepreneurs have access to the best knowledge and technologies and are supported with the right partnerships and market linkages that help them reap the right incomes. The Foundation takes immense pride especially in all women entrepreneurs who prove every day that equality means being equal partners in building the prosperity of their households.
D’Souza says that at Swades, along with economic development initiatives, their thrust area is to build a complete eco-system of supply. Initially the programme was to support single land/ farm owners and provide them with an eco-system and supply chain for eggs, meat and agricultural produce. It gradually needs a larger market for products and they are now working to connect them with large companies like Reliance and Amazon among others.
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