Successful Farmer Producer Organisations are those that look beyond the objective of profits - underscore experts at webinar by WOTR

Nov 25, 2022

Pune (Maharashtra) [India], November 25 (ANI/PRNewswire): A webinar on 'Promoting FPOs for resilient incomes and sustainable farming practices in India' brought together practitioners and experts to discuss emergent challenges and opportunities related to Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and establish a better dialogue between the various stakeholders.
The presentations and discussions during the webinar held on Tuesday, 22nd November, included speakers from both large and small FPOs, organisations financing the operations of FPOs, and government officials. The event was organised by WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) as a part of its ECOBARI initiative that focuses on Ecosystem-based Adaptation for Resilient Incomes and supported by Honeywell Hometown Solutions India Foundation (HHSIF).
ECOBARI brings together institutions and individuals for the purpose of upscaling Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) practices in India. Discussing the relevance of ecosystem-based approaches, Arjuna Srinidhi, national anchor for ECOBARI, initiated the discussions saying, "We hope that implementing Ecosystem-based Adaptation through FPOs can bridge the apparent divide between the need for resilient incomes and maintaining the health of the ecosystem."
Addressing the webinar on Tuesday, experts emphasised the need for Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) to take on a regional development perspective and harness sustainable agricultural practices to address resilient incomes for their farmer members.
Key messages from the webinar:
- Access to finance has improved in recent years, however for FPOs in the initial stages of establishment, the quantum of capital available is still a challenge
- Ensuring farmers are getting back a share of profits is vital to ensure the loyalty of primary stakeholders in the FPO
- A key factor in many success stories is the presence of an anchor person that drives the business forward and bring stakeholders together - from farmers and buyers to investors
- Diversification in terms of crops grown and products that are marketed is important for resilient incomes
- Successful FPOs have also been those that look beyond the objective of profits and have taken on a regional development perspective and sustainable agricultural practices
- The mission of FPOs will be fulfilled only when their members post income growth - FPO profitability is incidental to the objective of member incomes

N Srinivasan, Ex-CGM at NABARD, who was moderating the event, outlined the challenges faced by FPOs at the outset. Farm Producer Organisations (FPOs) are gaining traction for the benefits and resources they provide to farmers, including better market access, equipment, storage facilities, investments, and are also actively promoted by the Government of India. However, FPOs face a myriad of challenges. Accessing human resources and financial and technical support, understanding markets, and capacity building limit their viability.
The three success stories, represented by Vilas Shinde, Chairman of Sahyadri Farms, Krishna Prasad, Director of Sahaja Samrudha and Anita Malage, Chairperson of Yashaswini Agro Producer Company, provided evidence-based answers to many of the challenges faced by FPOs across India. Diversification in terms of crops grown and products that are marketed were important ways in which these FPOs found success. Sahyadri Farms have diversified their production to include 27 varieties of grapes and 8 other horticulture crops to hedge their risks related to climate variability as well as the uncertainty in market prices. Speaking about the value in conserving traditional and indigenous crop varieties, Krishna Prasad spoke about how Sahaja Samrudha has helped conserve over 1000 varieties of rice and 150 varieties of millets. Somesh, the CEO of Sahaja Samrudha, highlighted the challenges faced by them in the first four years to understand the market dynamics before they could become profitable.
"Today Sahaja Samrudha is in a position to provide farmers a premium price for their products, and also a share of profits made through our marketing initiatives," said Somesh. Ms Anita Malage provided an inspiring story of how her company of 1,400 women farmers and shareholders deal with a variety of products such as tur, jowar, channa, vegetables and fruits. She also highlighted the various developmental activities done by her organisation including building toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and providing skill development training to women in non-agri related sectors like setting up a beauty parlour, fashion designing, computer literacy, etc.
The panel discussion, that included Balakrishnan S (CEO of Vrutti) and Sridhar Easwaran (Head, Samunnati Foundation) provided valuable insights and take-away messages for FPOs that included the need to need to look at the resilience of FPOs from multiple perspectives. Balakrishnan discussed how Vrutti encourages FPOs to have at least 2 to 3 income sources, particularly trying to include a mixed crop-livestock system that brings in income from dairy. Easwaran, while acknowledging the difficulty in new FPOs getting access to capital, discussed how many can start off with smaller loans from non-banking finance corporations (NBFCs) and then slowly transition to larger loans once they have a proven track record. Emmanuel Murray, Investment Director, Caspian Equity, while summing up the discussions, and reflecting on the earlier presentations, discussed how critical it was that new FPOs have an anchor person who takes on the leadership role and can drive the business forward. Taking a long term perspective on resilience, Murray added that, "Successful FPOs have also been those that look beyond the objective of profits and have taken on a regional development perspective and sustainable agricultural practices." Srinivasan, in his concluding remarks said that the FPOs are the new age institutions that can protect small holder farmers interests. FPOs, to thrive and prosper need to focus on member relations that sustain loyalty, good procurement and pricing systems for aggregation, capacity to take business decisions including financial aspects, digitalisation for good account and record keeping and continuous search for improved value for members. He concluded saying that, "It is not the surpluses that FPOs earn, but the surpluses they create in their members hands that matter in mission fulfilment."
ECOBARI is a multi-stakeholder collaborative that facilitates the joint action of committed individuals and institutions, representatives of Government, Civil Society Organisations, Businesses, Academia, NGOs, and Media to enable communities to conserve their local biodiversity, and restore and sustainably manage their natural resources aligned with the ecosystem they live in. ECOBARI's vision is to empower communities to sustainably regenerate and manage their ecosystems, conserve biodiversity, derive resilient incomes, and improve their quality of life through nature-based and nature-positive solutions, as they adapt to climate change.
For more information on ECOBARI, please visit:

WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) is a globally recognised non profit and think tank dedicated to transforming the lives of millions of poor across India through participatory watershed development and eco-systems restoration, climate resilient sustainable agriculture, integrated and efficient water management and climate change adaptation, with a special emphasis on building resilience of vulnerable communities, farmers, and women. It is headquartered in Pune, Maharashtra, India.
As on March 2022, WOTR with its partners, has worked in 10 states; 5,592 villages; impacted > 4.78 million people; trained > 607,000 people (including from 63 countries); collaborated with over 230 NGOs/ PIAs and facilitated nearly 16,000 SHGs involving about 200,000 women. On the ground over 1.45 million hectares of degraded landscapes/watersheds have been regenerated, over 158 billion litres of potential water harvesting capacity has been created, and agriculture productivity has increased significantly with a 121% increase in area under triple cropping. Farm incomes in most project villages are 2 to 4 times more than those in control villages.

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