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Mobilizing and empowering farmers’ through EPOs
Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. D. Namgyal9/19/2019 10:15:37 PM
The farming community in the country is still in a static mode. Although many efforts were made and are continuously being made to mobilize them; but not much headway has been made in this direction. The ATMA (Agriculture Technology Management Agency) was a step in this direction. ATMA emerged as a district body where all the research and extension activities were concentrated at one point. It was based on a bottom up approach, decentralized and convergence model which envisaged setting up of commodity interest groups, Farmer Interest groups at the village level. The whole planning for the district was to be done through a participatory approach and based on this the Strategic Research and Extension Plan of the district was formed. The main objective of forming the groups at the grass root level was to make them self propelling units for mobilization of farming community. But unfortunately it did not happen. ATMA is now a part of National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET).
The government of India has now come up with Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs). Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman in the budget 2018-19 has proposed setting up of 10,000 FPOs.
FARMER PRODUCER ORGAISATION (FPO): FPO is a group of farmers with special interests and consensus with developed structure, formal membership, status and functions for its members and with a set of rules and regulations. The main aim of an FPO is to ensure better income for the producers through an organization of their own. Aggregating small holders into FPOs is proven pathway to increase investment, improve bargaining power, move up the value chain and improve access to technology. The membership to these FPOs is Voluntary and open. FPOs are democratic and independent bodies which are based on the principal of cooperation among FIG's and are supposed to work to provide education, training and information to its members.
FARMER INTEREST GROUPS (FIGs): FIGs are self managed, independent group of farmers with a shared goal and interest. The members work together to achieve this goal by pooling their existing resources, gaining better access to other resources and to share in the resulting benefits.
OBJECTIVES OF FPOs: Mobilizing farmers in groups (FIGs) at the village level and build their associations (FPOs), Strengthen farmer capacity through agricultural best practices for enhanced productivity, ensuring access to and usage of quality inputs and services, facilitate access to fair & remunerative markets including linking producer groups to marketing opportunities by market.
FPO SERVICE MODEL: FPOs are expected to provide the following services to its members:
Financial Services: loans for crops, purchase of tractors, pump sets, construction of wells, lying of pipelines.
Input Supply Services: low cost and quality inputs to member farmers. It will supply fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, sprayers, pump sets, accessories, and pipelines.
Procurement and Packaging Services: The FPO will procure agriculture produce from its member farmers; will do the storage, value addition and packaging.
Marketing Services: The FPO will do the direct marketing after procurement of agricultural produce. Save time, transaction costs, distress sales, price fluctuations, transportation, quality maintenance etc.
Insurance Services: The FPO will provide various insurance like Crop Insurance, Electric Motors Insurance Technical Services: FPO will promote best practices of farming Networking Services: Making channels of information, business services accessible to rural producers; facilitating linkages with financial institutions, building linkages of producers, processors, traders
ACTIVITIES PERFORMED BY FPOs: Farmer Producer Organizations can perform a wide variety of activities which include orientation/training programmes, exposure visits for its members, arranging audio visual shows on best agricultural practices, lying of front line demonstrations, interaction with farming communities through Kisan Gosthi's, value addition/processing of the farmers' produce and finally marketing of the produce.
FORMATION OF FPOs: The formation of FPOs is an elaborate process that starts first from the identification of cluster of villages in one or two blocks. It is followed by a diagnostic study to assess the preliminary situation of the farmers and to identify the potential interventions required. After diagnostic study, a feasibility analysis covering financial, technical,, legal, political, environmental, economical and socio-cultural aspects is carried out. The next step is the baseline assessment through data generation of the individual farm households. Business plan is than developed with the farmers. At least 10 percent of the farmers should be involved in business planning. After being satisfied that a strong case has been established, it is high time farmers should be mobilized into Farmer Interest Groups. The FIGs are than organized and formalized together to form FPOs. The whole structure is developed democratically. Resources are than mobilized and a management system is developed to manage finance, human resources, marketing and audit of the FPO. Finally business operations like commencement of procurement, processing, production marketing and other services start. The assessment and audit of the FPO is the last but not the least stage. The resource institutions should facilitate in conducting assessment and audit of the FPOs. Members of FIGs form a Board of Directors. It must be ensured that every FIG gets representation in Board of Directors. The Board of Directors form an Executive Body and than a Governing Body is formed which takes over the whole function starting from registering the FPOs to looking after the need of the members.
FPOs are no doubt a noble initiative having a democratic body, a farmer centric service model and activities intended to serve the farming community. The extension functionaries of the state agricultural department have to take on this responsibility for they are the one who are directly engaged with the farming community at the grass root levels. They should take it as a philanthropic effort ad if at least one FPO per block is set up; it indeed will be a huge achievement.
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