Unlocking Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers, National Conclave Explores Digital Platforms and Inclusive Value Chains in Market Access

New Delhi, 24th May, 2023 : A National Conclave on Market Access for Smallholder Farmers, organized by Grameen Foundation India and supported by the Walmart Foundation, successfully concluded at the Hyatt Regency in Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi. This conclave aimed to tackle the challenges encountered by smallholder farmers in reaching markets, and explored the potential of digital platforms and inclusive value chains to improve their livelihoods.

The Indian agriculture sector is witnessing a revolution, driven by visionary leaders and groundbreaking technological advancements.

Prabhat Labh, Chief Executive Officer, Grameen Foundation India, Dr .Ashok Dalwai, CEO, Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Director and Vice Chancellor of ICAR-IARI and other agriculture leaders are at the forefront of this transformation. Together, they are championing initiatives that empower women, enhance nutrition, boost small farmer employment, and foster sustainable growth across various states.

Recognizing the importance of micro-nutrition, the team is working towards encouraging farmers to cultivate nutrient-rich crops and leveraging women-friendly and climate-smart technologies. Moreover, they are fostering market linkages by promoting Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs) to improve farmers’ access to markets and finance.

Discussing the MANDI Project, Prabhat Labh stated, “We are dedicated to enhancing employment opportunities for small farmers while ensuring gender mainstreaming. In partnership with 40 FPOs in Uttar Pradesh, Grameen Foundation India is empowering women to actively participate in this project by offering them market and finance support. We have witnessed remarkable growth in FPO turnover, enabling FPOs to access loans and essential services. Mandi support is crucial for the success of these FPOs.”

Shri Ashok Dalwai, CEO, National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmer Welfare, Govt. Of India, emphasized the significance of asset creation and sustainable development in the agricultural sector. “Land is a fundamental asset that should be distributed equitably,” he noted. “By creating assets, we initiate a cycle of entrepreneurship, building managers and entrepreneurs who drive development. NRAA is actively deploying digital technologies not only in production and marketing but also in areas such as bio-management, fossil resources, and greenhouse solutions. Our aim is to promote micro-industries and ensure systematic sustainability.”

Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Director and Vice Chancellor, ICAR-IARI, highlighted the potential of crop diversification and digital solutions in agriculture. “We are promoting the cultivation of unique crops like Kala Namak, which has two distinct varieties, including a shorter height variant. Connecting farmers to markets is crucial for the successful cultivation of such crops. Basmati rice farming is also being expanded, with three different types available. Thanks to its disease-resistant nature, Basmati rice growth is not impeded. Grow Indigo, a company dedicated to providing biological and digital solutions, helps farmers by offering relevant information and improving soil health.”

Purna Roy Chowdhury, Associate Director, Women Economic Empowerment, Grameen Foundation India said, ” Women play a pivotal role in agriculture and allied activities, but they remain invisible as agricultural workforce. Given women’s invisibility, there is a high chance that the new age FPOs will mobilise the recognised farmer, who are typically men and are holders of land. Though land ownership is not a legal criteria to be a member of FPO. It is only when we recognise women farmers, address the gender social norms and barriers and ensure strategic promotion and capacitation of FPOs from a gender perspective that FPOs can become a crucial mechanism for women farmers to be at the fore front in decision making and marking facing roles in agriculture.”

In the study conducted across 162 villages, involving 1,536 participants from 10 districts and 27 FPOs, it was observed that women accounted for 45% of the total involvement. Village traders emerged as the primary sales channel, indicating an opportunity for Grameen Foundation India to support FPOs in becoming aggregators and moving up the value chain.

Gigi Gatti, Senior Director, Program Strategy & Learning, Grameen Foundation, cited, “The Indian agriculture sector is experiencing a wave of growth, driven by these transformative initiatives. With cutting-edge technologies, a focus on gender inclusivity, and a vision for sustainable development, agro leaders are shaping the future of Indian agriculture.”