Tribal women in Gujarat's Dang script success story with multi-crore agriculture business

The organisation’s female workforce has achieved a modest turnover of about Rs 1.85 crore this year, mainly through the sale of agricultural seeds, organic medicines, and more.
Farmer Producer Organisations sell vegetable seeds such as brinjal, chilies, tomatoes, and spinach. (Express)
Farmer Producer Organisations sell vegetable seeds such as brinjal, chilies, tomatoes, and spinach. (Express)

GUJARAT: In the heart of Gujarat’s tribal-dominated Dang district, a group of semi-literate women has crafted a multi-crore enterprise, the Farmers Producer Organisation (FPO). Its hard-earned success is reflected in the work of these spirited women who come from various villages in Dang.

Whether it is the sale of agricultural seeds or implements, the company has provided employment to scores of women, transforming their lives. These empowered women have defied societal expectations. Establishing and maintaining their business was no easy feat.

Due to the limited market, women farmers sold their harvest individually, resulting in a stagnant financial condition.

To promote natural farming and leverage various agricultural technologies, the voluntary organization, Aga Khan Village Support Programme (India) (AKRSPI) assembled a collective of tribal women. 
The aim was to organise their agricultural operations, enabling them to secure better prices for their produce, increasing their decision-making influence, and enhancing their economic status.

AKRSPI CEO Navin Patidar highlights the predicament faced by farmers in Dang, where limited agricultural land and predominantly small or marginal farmers hinder their ability to sell produce in the market. To overcome it, Patidar planned to organise them into a collective cooperative through training in administration, marketing, and other essential areas.

“We sent these women to various Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to train in administration, marketing so that they could run their own businesses independently,” said Patidar.

The company was set up in July 2019. However, due to the Covid-induced lockdown, this FPO faced hindrances in completing substantial tasks.

“Nonetheless, ever since its inception, the female members of the company have consistently progressed without looking back,” said Patidar.

Through the combined efforts of these determined women, a total of 1,170 shareholders have been officially registered as of January 2023.

The organisation’s female workforce has achieved a modest turnover of about Rs 1.85 crore this year (2022-23), mainly through the sale of agricultural seeds, farming equipment, organic medicines, fish seeds, poultry feed, and various other products.

“Through FPO, people in Dang villages get paddy seeds at a price of only Rs 300 per kg, and the same seed is sold in the market at Rs 350 a kg,” said FPO CEO Hasmukhbhai Patel.

“In addition to paddy, women’s FPOs sell vegetable seeds such as brinjal, chillies, tomatoes, and 
spinach. These seeds are available in 98 Dang villages. Farmers from Maharashtra’s border villages also come to get these seeds at low costs,” said Patel Anjli Gamit, area manager of AKRSPI-Dang, who says those affiliated with the FPO are filled with a sense of self-assurance.

Empowered with knowledge of their rights, these remarkable women have taken charge of their communities, addressing essential issues such as access to clean water, road infrastructure, and sanitation facilities through the platform of panchayats. 

Gamit Geeta Ben, a resident from Dang, shared her thoughts on the advantages of being a part of the FPS initiative. 

“Earlier our tribal sisters would have to venture out of our village to procure agricultural seeds collectively. This not only led to additional transportation costs but also an entire day’s worth of labour,” said Geeta Ben. “However, since becoming a member of the company, I have been able to conveniently obtain seeds at a reasonable price by simply making a phone call and negotiating from the comfort of my home. Moreover, the reputation of our company has spread to the district level,” she said.

In the idyllic village of Borkhed, lives Sejal Ben, she recounts her success in generating income through the sale of 800 kg of paddy seeds within her community. 

As a result, Sejal Ben was able to save a considerable sum of Rs 5,600, fueled by a generous commission of Rs 7 per kilo.

“We have also been earning Rs 150 for each article every day from seed sales commissions and the labor of packing kitchen garden kits sold by the company. As a result, our financial situation has improved,” recalls Kalpanbehan Amritbhai Gaikwad, a board member of the company and a women leader of Nadagkhadi village.

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