Farmers’ clubs, once started with the sole purpose of pooling resources and expertise, are taking a back seat with over 40 of the 79 listed clubs becoming inactive. The movement spread in the initial years but dwindled for several reasons, writes MICHAEL FISHER
Over 40 farmers’ clubs out of the 79 listed with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in Goa lack direction and hence have become inactive. Out of the remaining 39, 10 to 15 clubs are active, and the rest are surviving. Nabard has spent Rs 10,000 on each club as grant money to hold meetings with experts for advice and know-how.
The inactive and surviving farmers’ clubs seem to need hand-held cajoling to cultivate their neglected farmlands, according to officials of the Director of Agriculture, Nabard and sponsoring banks.
The three main reasons for farmers’ clubs becoming inactive are: drying up of Nabard grants after three years, the second being when the bank branch manager who initiated the farmers’ club was posted to another branch and the new manager lacks interest in farming. And the third when there is no committed leadership. One of the main mandates of Nabard was to hold monthly meetings to solve problems and find solutions which were rarely done, while sponsoring banks should provide credit to the farmers.
The sponsoring banks and NGOs are qualified to pamper the farmers and practically lead them to the fields. The farmers’ club is an initiative of Nabard which started in the late 1990s. The club is formed through any bank branch.
Only on the assurance of the bank branch, Nabard gives a grant of Rs 10,000 to the farmers’ club in three installments in three years. It starts with the club being adopted by the bank, whose nurturing begins. Every club is a source of income to the bank branch, which will provide a kissan credit card (KCC) to the farmers.
The main objective of the bank is to organise the farmers’ club and inform Nabard to register it for the grant. Two members of the club are appointed as chief coordinator and deputy coordinator to manage the grant. Their leadership plays an important role in the administration of the club.
On the contrary, it is the bank branch leadership and commitment as a friend, philosopher and guide that hinges on a club success. This rarely happens.
The Nabard grant assists in financing of meetings held by the clubs. Not all members or leaders of the farmers’ club may own paddy fields. These members play a leader’s role in assisting and sourcing finance from banks to conduct meetings. They invite officials from the agriculture department, who would demonstrate the art and technique of farming and encourage mechanisation.
Agriculture experts define farmers’ club as a pattern for joint cultivation. The clubs gets registered to avail of government subsidies. They pool-in their land together. They have a common source for irrigation, and a common fence around their fields.
The one-year old Betalbatim Village Farmers’ Club was formed with the motive of assisting vulnerable farmers in farm technology and mechanisation. Initiated by Ms Michiko Barros, whose vision was to revive agriculture and protect scarce cultivable land, the club membership is increasing with
"There was a need for community farming to cut down on costs and adopt mechanisation to combat shortage of labour which was the major hurdle faced by our farmers," says Ms Barros, the club’s chief coordinator.
Time was spent on bringing together the farmers who had given up farming for the last 20 years and more. Trying to understand why they gave up and working on a change of mindset, the club introduced mechanisation and assisted them in procuring government subsidies. Farmers confidence
They successfully grew and harvested a good crop yield of cowpea which fetches them a good price. The farmers recovered all their costs and made a profit too which has now motivated them further.
Toiling in taleigao
When the RP 2020 was exhibited at the Town & Country Planning department for the public in early 2010, the farmers of Taleigao got a shocked of their lives to see that a major part of Taleigao’s cultivatable land was to be converted to benefit the builders’ lobby. Farmers Mr Candido Dias and Mr Rajiv Naik ran from pillar to post to seek out ways to save the paddy fields.
It was the ICAR director who advised them to form a farmers’ club. By doing so, the cultivable land was saved. They were told by TCP officials that it was an error. The Progressive Farmers’ Club of Taleigao (PFCT) was established in 2010 and today the farmers comprising 136 members and still counting are now a happy lot. Under the PFCT is a network of farmers who are dedicated to increasing yield and manage natural resources in order to enhance their livelihoods.
"We followed the Nabard mandate and held meetings, farm technique workshops and availed government subsides," said Mr Candido Dias, president of the club. He grows exotic vegetables such as broccoli, red cabbage, red raddish and more.
Coordinator Mr Rajive Naik said, "We organised a farmers’ mela displaying the produce of the farmers. Now we are making attempts for organic farming to fetch a better price for the farmers. Our mission is to involve all the farmers youth in agriculture."
Why Chorao Island Farmers’ Club became a role model? The credit goes to the branch manager of Central Bank of India, Chorao branch, who adopted the club like a baby, said the club president Mr Premanand Mhambre. "We got hand holding by TERI and personnel like Ms Yogita Mehra, her husband among others who gave a lot of active support," he said.
They received funds from Toyota Foundation, Japan. It was a two-year project to nurture farmers’ clubs.
"We were lucky to have the fullest support of the Central Bank manager and the initiator Mr Manish Kulkarni. When the branch manager was transferred, he was followed by an inactive branch manager and the club’s fortunes started swinging again," informed Mr Mhambre.
"We started with 22 farmers in 2008, now we are 125 members, who pay a yearly fee of Rs 100 each. On a pilot project, we started to market red kernel rice and jyoti grown in khazan land and were totally organic. Cash N Carry, Magsons, Kamat Megamart, Nutan and beach retailers were marketing Chorao branded products. Chorao products have become popular with foreigners and NRIs and health conscious consumers," states Mr Mhambre proudly.
The aim was to get a fairly reasonable price for the farmers by offering quality products to the customers. For example Jyoti was being sold at Rs 40 and Rs 45 for korgut and customers at retail stores were buying jyoti for Rs 67 per kg and korgut at Rs 73 per kg. In the past, the farmers used to earn around Rs 20 and Rs 25 per kg.
"Today almost every Chorao house has a mango tree, with some having 45 plus mango trees in their back yard. In the past, they would rent the mango tree and earn Rs 2 to Rs 5 per mango. Now they get the full market price. This year we sold over 500 dozens of mangoes. These are pilot projects to prove to the farmers. We want to scale up the project to pluck 1,000 dozens. The Central Bank of India under its CSR scheme has donated a Tata ACC delivery van costing about Rs 3.75 lakh. The chairman and executive director of CBI visited our club. We purchased two tractors, one transplanting machine, a kerosene pump and two grass cutters under the Rashtriya Vikas Yogana," informed Mr Mhambre.
In 2011–12, the club was awarded the Kashinath Damodar Naik Samajak kritanyata award by Gomantak Vidya Nikitan, Margao. Selfless motives are the main reason that can drive a farmers’ club to success. Chorao club has started taking another step towards becoming a federation where it will have a greater bargaining power.
power of five
The Father Agnel Farmers’ Club manages five villages in Neura, Goa Velha, Agassaim, Pilar and Batim. In its two years, the club has garnered over 50 farmers, and the membership is still counting, and Fr Patrick D’Souza has chalked out a list of things to do for farmers.
About 80 per cent of Neura fields lie in khazan areas making them uncultivable. Strong bunds need to be built to divert this water. In Agassaim, 90 per cent of the fields are cultivable. In Goa Velha, 50 per cent of the land is used for cultivation, and in Pilar, paddy fields are less due to its hilly landscape. "With this picture we know where the problem lies," said Fr Patrick. Mr Omu Gaus is the president
of the club.