Mandi: Indian Institute of Technology Mandi along with the Enabling Women of Kamand (EWOK) Society of IIT Mandi, have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development (NABARD) on 22nd February 2020 for collaboration on setting up Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. The MoA was signed by Dr. Venkata Krishnan, Dean Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy (SRIC), IIT Mandi; Ms. Sandhya Menon, Secretary, EWOK Society; and Mr. Nilay Kapoor, Chief General Manager, NABARD.
Speaking about the collaboration, Dr. Venkata Krishnan, Dean Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy (SRIC), IIT Mandi, said, “IIT Mandi is pleased to have this collaboration with NABARD. With the recent MoA signed, IIT Mandi and EWOK society will be able to connect and help the community at large in Himachal Pradesh”.
Expressing his views on this collaboration, Mr. Nilay Kapoor, Chief General Manager, NABARD, said, “NABARD, Himachal Pradesh Regional Office is delighted to sanction three Farmer Producer Organizations to EWOK and IIT, Mandi. This marks a new beginning for collaboration with prestigious institutes like IIT, Mandi. The Regional Office proposes to sign a tri-partite agreement involving NABARD, EWOK and IIT, Mandi for developing farmer-friendly equipments. In addition, opportunities will be explored for collaboration in areas like Internet of Things in Agriculture, Watershed, Rural Mart etc. I am sure, our collaboration will go a long way in solving the problems of farmers of the State and achieving the dream of Doubling of Farmers’ Income”.
The MoA signed by the 3 organisations is a result of the brainstorming meetings held between December 2019 and February 2020 to identify the key areas related to farm and non-farm sectors in Himachal Pradesh. As a result, NABARD has sanctioned an amount of Rs. 35 lakhs to IIT Mandi and EWOK Society to promote and setup 3 Farmer Producer Organisations in a period of next 3 years. For this, the Institute and the Society will be involved in the following activities:
● To identify clusters for setting up the FPOs
● To create awareness among farmers
● To establish and register the FPOs
● To train the Chief Executive Officer and Board of Directors of the FPOs
● To prepare the business development plan
● To organise capacity building programme
● To assist FPOs in raising credit/ bank loans
IIT Mandi and EWOK Society share a common vision of helping the society at large by exchanging knowledge and expertise. Apart from setting up the FPOs, other potential areas of collaboration in which the Institute will provide its expertise includes tourism, rural marts run by Self-Help Groups (SHGs), engineering solutions for farm-friendly equipments, research on the impact of climate change on agri incomes, among others.
Speaking about the role of EWOK Society, Ms. Sandhya Menon, Secretary, EWOK Society, said, “EWOK has been working with the women and family in the greater Kamand area in both farm and non-farm sectors to encourage women entrepreneurs at grass root level. In the farm related activities, along with IIT Mandi Medicinal Plant lab, some successful pilot programmes have been run for the past 2 years. The support from NABARD has come at the right time in order to scale up these programmes to ensure a sustainable model in income generation for farmers in the long run in this area. In the coming years, EWOK will play its role to form FPOs and guide in building out the FPO business activity and market linkages. Additionally, EWOK will continue to focus on skills development and increasing incomes of the women & families in the surrounding rural areas, especially through entrepreneurship”.
Enabling Women of Kamand (EWOK) is an initiative of IIT Mandi Women’s Center to help rural women set up small enterprises in 5 panchayats of Kamand, Kataula, Katindhi, Batheri and Navlaya in Mandi district by providing them guidance, training and information. With a vision to enable women of the Kamand area to grasp the opportunities provided and grow their skills for income generation, EWOK is trying to establish a model in which it evaluates the skills and aspirations of rural women based upon which a personalised plan can be prepared to groom their skill set. Since its inception, EWOK has supported 12 women entrepreneurs of the Kamand region. In 2019, EWOK got registered as a society.
An FPO is a group of farm producers, with members as shareholders in an organisation. It is a registered body which deals with business activities related to the farm produce and works for the benefit of the member producers. In April 2013, the Government of India issued a National Policy on the formation of FPOs. This policy encouraged the state governments to provide incentives, including credits for and support of the formation and ongoing operation of FPOs in various states. Through the formation of FPOs, farmers will have better collective strength for better access to quality input, technology, credit and better marketing access through economies of scale for better realisation of income. Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) granted approval for 10,000 FPOs to be formed by 2024.