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2014 GAP Report® – Public-Private Partnerships Make Farming Profitable for Low-Income Communities
Resource-poor Indian farmers have a particularly hard time accessing information, inputs and equipment that can improve their yields and incomes. India is home to over 700 tribes, comprising 8.6 percent of the population.106 Their communities have distinct cultural and social norms, are fairly isolated from the general population and are typically located in forests and hilly areas of the country. Scheduled Tribes are considered a disadvantaged class under the Constitution and Indian law and are afforded special consideration for education and economic advancement and protection from social injustice and exploitation. They are mainly agrarian and as a class, the poorest segment of the population.
MODERNIZING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION IN GUJARAT
John Deere India has a world-class technology center and five manufacturing facilities in India. It is the largest exporter of tractors from India and the company employs 6,000 people. Recognizing that many farmers lack access to financing for equipment, the company also provides financing to buyers and works in partnership with local communities and state governments to help small farmers gain access to modern equipment.107
The Government of Gujarat and John Deere are working with tribal communities in a public- private partnership that helps farmers upgrade to modern methods of farming, reducing drudgery (monotonous heavy labor) and increasing incomes. The company set up an Agricultural Implement Resource Center (AIRC) that is supplying 50 tractors to tribal farmers in five districts through a subsidized loan financed by the Government of Gujarat.
The government pays John Deere a fixed sum for its services and monitors project implementation. After five years, the operations will be transferred to the Tribal Farmer Federations. Until then, the company repairs and maintains the equipment at subsidized rates and trains the operators and mechanics who will continue to work for AIRC after it is transferred to the Federations. Four partner NGOs identify the beneficiaries within the tribal communities, develop the Federations, and provide agricultural extension services.
In its first three years, May 2011 through April 2014, the program exceeded expectations, assisting an average of 12,714 beneficiaries per year (25 percent above the 9,600 beneficiary target) and covering an average of 11,957 acres per year (20 percent above the 9,600 acre target). The enthusiastic response from the tribal communities and the five years of training and hands-on experience provided for operators and mechanics sets the stage for successful continuation once John Deere management of the project ends in 2016.
ECONOMIC SELF-SUFFICIENCY THROUGH IMPROVED TECHNOLOGY
Public-private partnerships are helping farmers gain access to improved technologies and skills in India. In 2009, Monsanto India and the Government of Rajasthan’s Department of Agriculture joined in a partnership called Project Golden Rays to empower low-income farm families with improved seeds, inputs and skills.
Project Golden Rays dispensed inputs and primary information through 977 distribution centers mapped to the locations of village councils (Gram Panchayats). Monsanto hired 220 Market Development Officers (MDOs), each covering 20–25 villages, to assist farmers with input management, share information about the best agronomic practices and trouble shoot throughout the crop production cycle.
State governments contributed to the project by identifying eligible farm families, providing financial support for seeds and inputs and assessing outcomes. Awareness-raising campaigns by village councils generated strong farmer participation. Within two years of the project’s launch, 783,000 farm families saw their maize yields improve by 200 percent and their incomes increased 175 percent.108
The success of this project paved the way for another project in Odisha, where maize is grown mostly in tribal districts during the monsoon season in non-irrigated uplands. With increased demand for maize, commodity prices have been rising and farmers prefer maize as one of their key cash crops. Before Project Golden Rays began in 2013, Odisha farmers tried using high-yielding hybrid maize seeds, but poor management practices and cultivation on marginal land resulted in sub-optimal yields.
The Government of Odisha partnered with Monsanto India to conduct the project on 8,000 hectares in five tribal districts. High-yielding hybrid maize seeds customized to the local geography and agronomic conditions were chosen. Monsanto provided advice and assistance to farmers throughout the planting cycle. As a result, maize farmers in Odisha were able to increase yields and improve their quality of life through enhanced incomes.
Golden Rays has demonstrated the importance of collaboration and customized extension services to help farmers and their communities. It has become a model for public-private partnerships that is being adopted by many state governments and private companies.
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Public-Private Partnerships Make Farming Profitable for Low-Income Communities