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Leveraging the strengths of farmer producer organizations

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Participants visiting the Food development laboratory of the NPK Program of ICRISAT. Photo: S Vemu, ICRISAT

ICRISAT recently organized a capacity building program for Farmer producer organizations (FPOs) to provide better understanding of the gaps and opportunities for FPOs in agribusiness, best practices on running an FPO, seed production and effective business plan development initiatives for FPO developers and funding agencies.

“The FPO capacity building program is quite useful for emerging FPOs, and participants have benefitted greatly as the program provided them with inputs on converting their agri-business ideas into reality,” said Mr AV Poomurugesan, Executive Director, Kazhi Kadaimadai Farmers Federation from Tamilnadu and a speaker at the workshop.

The participants visited the Mulkanoor Cooperative Rural Bank and Marketing Society (MCRBMS) Ltd, a self-sustainable cooperative run by farmers of 14 villages in Karimnagar district of Telangana, India. The operations of MCRBMS range from dairy to a modern rice mill and seed production. Mulkanoor also has one of the largest paddy seed growing and selling operations in the country, with three seed-processing plants with a capacity to process 64 tons of seeds per day.

“Three units of paddy seed processing plants; a milk collection, packing & distribution center run by the local women farmers; a cotton ginning mill, all under one cooperative of over 7,500 farmers! This is one of the best examples of a cooperative group, and is a role model in several ways,” said Mr Sanjeev Prabha, Director of Jaikishan Multi foundation, Bidar, Karnataka.

“The exposure visit to a food processing unit particularly was interesting where we got an opportunity to see how food processing has been mechanised and I have gained knowledge on various food marketing related aspects,” Mr Shivaram, State-Coordinator from Chetna Organics, Hyderabad, India, a group which works with small and marginal farmers towards improving their livelihood.

Five FPOs expressed interest in receiving business incubation support from ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program. Participants interested in seed business have also placed orders for foundation seeds of chickpea (39
tons), pigeonpea (1.6 tons), millet (0.1 ton) and groundnut (13.4 tons).

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Participants visiting a dairy unit.
Photo: H Mane, ICRISAT

“The participants were exposed to extensive knowledge and information, as well as managerial inputs on effective FPO management. They were given detailed sessions on marketing and branding, food quality control, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) policies and regulatory compliances, best practices in establishing and governance for FPOs, seed processing, packaging and certification, and field visits to seed and food processing units for better understanding,” said Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer, ABI-ICRISAT.

FPOs bring farmers, especially smallholder farmers, on a common platform to foster technology penetration, improve productivity, enable improved access to inputs and services, and increase farmer incomes. This helps create and strengthen sustainable agriculture based livelihoods. Turning these collective ventures into sustainable and profitable models would help smallholder farmers actively participate in emerging high-value markets.

Mr A Praveen Reddy, President of MCRBMS, advised the farmers to start with small-scale operations with a concentrated and a long-term plan approach.

Training on seed production was given by Drs P Janila, Senior Scientist, Groundnut Breeding; A Ashok Kumar, Senior Scientist, Sorghum Breeding, S K Gupta, Senior Scientist, Pearl Millet Breeding, and Pooran Gaur, Asst Research Program Director, Grain Legumes.

Video: Sangya S, ICRISAT

The five-day training, held from 28 October to 1 November, was attended by 50 farmer producers from the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan. Participants explored areas of FPO management, financial management, seed business, agro and food processing management.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Cereals and on Grain Legumes.