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  • Timely support for market access helped 14 FPOs in Andhra offset COVID-19 impact: TechnoServe 08/19/2020

    Aug 19th, 2020

    About 17,500 farmers of 14 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in three districts of Andhra Pradesh could sail through the COVID-19 crisis and find new buyers for their produce because of the timely support for market access, according to non-profit body TechnoServe India. Gradually, the 14 FPOs -- located in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts and engaged in turmeric coffee, cashew, black pepper, coconut and pineapple farming -- were able to turn the ongoing COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity and scaled up operations, it said. TechnoServe India has been working with 17,500 farmers under the 'Sustainable Livelihoods for Smallholder Farmers' programme with the support of Walmart Foundation. "COVID-19 has presented many challenges for small farmers from disrupted and shorter supply chains, to communications breakdowns, and a scarcity of available services. The need for timely and accurate information and secure market channels is paramount to support farmer livelihoods," Walmart Foundation Spokesperson Sherry-Lee Singh said. The Foundation works with partner NGOs in India with an aim to improve farmers' incomes and promote sustainable farm practices. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Foundation is extending support to NGO partners to help with necessary interventions to sustain farmer livelihoods in this challenging time, he said. TechnoServe and the FPOs are supporting the farmers during this period not only to help them secure their market access and sustain their livelihoods but also to rapidly learn, adapt and make adjustments in support of future resilience, he added. TechnoServe India Country Director Punit Gupta said, "Supply chain saw huge disruptions amid the pandemic, which broke down the conventional linkages on which the producers relied to access markets. However, this presented as an opportunity to build the capacity of community embedded resources for FPOs." During the COVID-19 lockdown, TechnoServe continued to support farmers by shifting their operating model to digital means and formalising existing digital systems of support. Timely support was provided to ensure liquidity and incomes during the crisis, he told PTI. "...We explored linkages with buyers in local markets within the state as well as other states to market produce of varying qualities. Post this, we helped finalise terms of trade as well as assist the FPOs with quality control and in raising purchase orders from different buyers," he noted. Through on-ground presence of TechnoServe's resources and 24/7 virtual guidance, Gupta said the FPOs not only strengthened their own operations but also filled the procurement gap. To help smallholder farmers navigate through the COVID-19 impact, TechnoServe facilitated fortnightly virtual board meetings to continue the training and encourage social distancing measures, he said. It also disseminated market price information for cashew farmers via WhatsApp groups to ensure greater transparency and reduce information asymmetries besides introducing post-harvest management support on drying, sorting and processing for cashew and turmeric farmers through community-embedded resource people. The NGO also supported FPOs and farmers market linkages for crops like turmeric, black pepper and cashew during the lockdown to prevent farmers from distressed sale. It also supported the FPOs in securing working capital loans from various financial institutions. "We also assisted individuals to find labour work in farm fields to ensure they have some revenue source, amid the crisis. For example, individuals engaged in polishing, sorting and grading the turmeric were able to earn daily wages in the absence of other regular work activities," Gupta said. That apart, all training programmes for farmers were shifted to online and trainers visited individual farmers, on request, in nearby villages to provide guidance when the lockdown was relaxed. Farmers were also encouraged to grow organic kitchen gardens to meet their food needs. As a result, Gupta said, "They (FPOs) successfully sailed through the COVID-19 crisis and scaled up their operations." TechnoServe is now working towards enhancing the usage of digital tools as well as other farm technologies to support FPOs and make the entire process more transparent and efficient, he added.


    Source: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/