Agragamee works with farmers in Nabrangpur, Odisha. These farmers own 1.5 acres of land on an average and earn anywhere between 20,000 to 100,000 per year from this land. They mainly grow vegetables, rice and millets. Animals like chicken and goats are consumed as food, and bullocks are used for farming. Food crops and animals, both are used for personal consumption as well as to sell and earn money.
Most of the villages where Agragamee works, are remote. The kind that I read about in my school textbooks, in the 90s. Electricity and internet are not more than five years old in these villages. Some still do not have such facilities. Times have changed but there are a few areas that stay disconnected. Proper cement roads are being constructed.
The organization is working with the farmers to plant Mango and Cashew trees, and generate income from them. While the intervention is for 3-4 years, the trees will take longer to grow. However, once they start growing, minimal effort is required for maintenance. An average mango trees give 80-100 kg mangoes per year. With 30 such trees planted, the total yearly yield accounts for about 2400 kg. in case of Cashews, 35 trees are planted.
Now, consider the farmer selling Mangoes at the lowest rate of INR 10/kg even though they are sold anywhere between INR 20-35 per kg. This guarantees an income of at least INR 24,000 without a lot of effort. If we add the estimated income of INR 6,000 from cashews, the total becomes INR 30,000. As compared to the food farmers are growing currently, this would double their income with much lesser effort.
A large part of the income is spent on health care, education and transport. But the four-year wait is difficult. For a farmer with 1.5 acres of land or less, Mango and Cashew plants taking space and giving no results means a loss for the first four years. One cannot blame the farmers for discontinuing in the process. But when the results start showing up, the change is evident. Even if only a few farmers are successful, the entire village, and even the neighbouring ones witness the transformation. It motivates others to follow this path. Hence, even 30% is considered a success rate.
Along with Mangoes and Cashews, Agaragamee provides training on methods to improve yields. The focus is on basic methods like line farming and the use of organic vermi-compost. Water tanks are constructed. Different vegetables, millets, and fruits are promoted which take anywhere from 3-6 months to grow. Implementation of MGNREGA for making roads, farm ponds, and/or any other infrastructure development is also done.
An all-round development of the village is the aim with livelihood and income generation at the heart of it.
The organization is a strong promoter of the ‘Eco-Village Development‘ concept that stems from Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of Gram Swaraj. It aims at creating self-reliant, economically developed, harmonious villages securing sustainable livelihoods, and improved standard of living of the people. This has a direct impact on health, social life, and poverty reduction. Natural resources like land, water, and forest are nourished to sustain the main livelihood resources of the people. Key components of Eco-village development are:
- Establishment of Family Farm
- Development of Commons (Community Land)
- Irrigation Development
- Seed-Cum-Grain Bank
- Supply of Smokeless Chullah
- Support to Women Headed Households for Income Generating Programs (IGPs)
- Formation and Strengthening of Women Groups
- Training and Capacity Building of Community Farmers/Leaders/Mobilisers
- Farmer Field School
- Formation and Strengthening of Farmer Producer Companies (FPOs)
Each idea comes from various methods and practices used by Agragamee in the past. Further FPOs are being created and strengthened so that the farmer produce can be sold at the market price. This will allow them to say no to the wholesalers’ demands and avoid any distress sale.
There is a strong focus on conservation and natural resource protection. Sustainable agricultural practices are promoted as a part of the project which further adds to the ecological sustainability as against the currently practiced chemical agriculture which is not conducive for the environment. All farming activities here are done without the use of any fertilizers or pesticides. Crops are grown organically.
All this not only increases the productivity and efficiency of farmers but also contributes to the overall development of the village. As a result, there are more opportunities. People are motivated to stay in the village and work for themselves, their communities, and their land. They do not need to migrate to nearby towns in search of work.
There is also an increase in the availability of natural and organic produce. However, they are not certified organic. If the farmer’s land is certified organic, then the selling price for farmers shoots up by at least 20%. One can easily find organic certified quality products available at a premium of 100% in the cities. But there is less or no demand for organic certified products here in the local markets. Farmers themselves consume their produce and sell the surplus.