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IFAD report stresses on helping smallholding farmers in access to market
Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has presented its recommendations for India recently focussing on helping the smallholding farmers in getting access to the market through value addition in India. According to an independent evaluation report presented recently in New Delhi by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD, IFAD-supported projects have achieved significant results in building grassroots institutions, empowering women and improving the lives of tribal communities in India.

Oscar A Garcia, director of independent office of evaluation of IFAD, stated that adding value to the farm produce was certainly one of the components for rural development. “Not only the productivity but the income has to be increased and one of the ways it can be achieved is through value addition. But the question is how you would do that? We have seen efforts fail of creating enterprises in the rural sector. An analysis says that the infrastructure, machinery, training, and food safety regime that goes into value addition makes the project unviable on account of cost. Therefore there needs to be a supply-driven approach into the farming and value addition projects,” he explained, while talking to FnB News.

He added that the linkage between farm to market was also weak. “Our current approach of value addition will be thinking in terms of existing market, and demand for products. Based on those demands, clusters will be made which can work as value chain and I think by such means, value addition would have a greater impact on farmers’ income and it would be more sustainable way of achieving the goal of rural development,” he said.  

Further, this could be achieved through cooperative or the model of selfhelp groups where several farmers come together to form an organisation, according to him.

He pointed out that currently in the northeastern region of the country, IFAD had identified 50 potential markets, on certain category products like black pepper, medicinal plants, floriculture and horticulture based produce.

But a lot is depending upon how the government sees the opportunity. When asked about the approach of the government, Garcia said that on part of the government, the efforts were good and there was a sense of urgency to get better results faster. At the same time, there are challenges for sustainable agriculture in terms of use of fertilisers, chemical for high productivity. “We need to make the technologies more climate-resilient and also utilising the resources in a sustainable manner,” he stated.

Fabrizio Felloni, another representative of IFAD, said that in past six years the evaluations were done and now released. This is to make the country strategy for investment in rural development. A total four, two country evaluation and two project level evaluation, were done for India.

“IFAD wants to prepare new strategy of new projects in rural development in consultation with Government of India by end of this year,” he stated.

He suggested that value-addition through food processing could have the potential to achieve the goal of rural development. He stated, “If the project design does not incorporate demands of produce, than you will forego the opportunity of increasing the income of the farmers. So one of the aspects, when the farm produce is perishable, is processing.”

“Further, increased production alone will not add income, you need to look into the market for the demand and value addition is the answer. In future the (IFAD) project will look into the processing, packaging aspects to increase the farmers’ income,” he added.

When questioned whether India implemented previous recommendations, he stated that IFAD also evaluated the implementation of the previous recommendations and it was happy that many of those were implemented.

This year the recommendations consist of continuation of project emphasis on extreme poor places having SC/ST population. Focus on areas having lower human development index. Also, there is need to focus on areas where there isn’t much problem in terms of human development but the area needs linkage, access to market. “So our projects should also look into boosting quality production and marketing. Further projects will also help farmers identify the commodity exchanges to sell their produce for better price. The recent decision by the government to open the national agri market is a good step in this direction,” he said.

In terms of challenges, he said bridging the digital divide and accessibility to the platform along with regulatory issues with respect to e-commerce needed to be reviewed.

Meanwhile, more specifically, the report said that projects have contributed to mobilising communities and developing basic community infrastructure, as well as developing agricultural production and improving rural livelihoods, the use of national resources, and access to credit and financial services.

“IFAD has been working in India for more than 30 years and I am pleased to see that many of the innovative approaches in the projects we support have been scaled up by state governments so that millions of rural people across the country can be lifted out of poverty," said Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's associate VP and chief development strategist.

Among the projects evaluated, the Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme was said to be effective in facilitating the implementation of existing laws on tribal groups’ access to forests, including the 2006 Forest Rights Act. These laws uphold traditional tribal rights to forest occupancy and use, which were challenged by earlier regulations. The project facilitated access to forest and agricultural land for almost 27,000 tribal households.

Progress was also identified in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. Women’s self-help groups, for example, facilitated economic change in the project areas. The report noted that many women undertook income-generating activities including horticulture, animal husbandry and cereal production. The Tejaswini Rural Women’s Empowerment in Madhya Pradesh was cited for tackling the issue of violence against women and was so successful that the Government of Madhya Pradesh replicated it across the state.

The evaluation report confirmed the need to continue giving priority to disadvantaged areas and groups. Oscar A Garcia, director, Independent Office of Evaluation, IFAD, informed, “In the future, project design, the mix of components and the level of specialisation will need to be better differentiated and adapted to the target groups and agro-ecological areas. The traditional ‘self-help group’ model will continue to be relevant for areas where basic needs are still the priority. In areas where farmers are already experiencing a surplus in production, projects should focus more on commercialisation of smallholder agriculture.”

Since 1979, IFAD has invested more than US$928 million in 27 programmes and projects in India, with a total cost of $2.6 billion when co-financing is included, directly benefitting 4.4 million households.
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