SwitchON Foundation facilitates the formation of 13 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) in North Eastern India

Guwahati : SwitchON Foundation has facilitated the formation of 13 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) in north eastern India. These FPOs are present in the states of Meghalaya, Sikkim and Manipur with the support from NABARD, National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) and Sikkim Organic Farming Development Agency (SOFDA).

Agriculture is the backbone of India’s agrarian economy. The share of agriculture in India’s GDP was 19.9% in the year 2020-21. However almost 70% farmers in India are small and marginal, with landholding size less than 2 hectares or 5 acres approximately. Therefore, to enhance the farmers’ conditions, their collectivization and entrepreneurial development is essential and FPOs are perceived to be a possible way ahead for this.

SwitchON Foundation’s approach is to create an enabling ecosystem for farmers to broaden the spectrum of livelihood opportunities available to them. Currently, SwitchON has been recognized as a Cluster Based Business Organisation (CBBO) and empaneled under NABARD, Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) and Sikkim Organic Farming Development Agency (SOFDA)to form and promote 30 FPOs across the country.

SwitchON Foundation also facilitates scheme linkage of the farmer members in the FPOs. 20 farmers in Meghalaya benefited from the Good Agricultural Practices of Potential Seed Spices for Livelihood Improvement at ICAR through SwitchON’s initiative. Currently, 6 FPOs are being promoted in four districts of Meghalaya with support from NABARD and NCDC. In Manipur, 2 FPOs are being promoted in two districts with support from NABARD. The initial process for baseline survey and identification of Board of Directors has been done which would soon be followed by formation of Farmer Producer Companies in the state.

SwitchON’s ecosystem approach in enterprise development involves entrepreneurship and skill building for farmers. Initial handholding support for business development is also provided to the Board of Directors of the FPOs by SwitchON. Initially SwitchON mobilises farmers to form FPOs and support in their market linkage, scheme linkages, agri-business initiation and management and trading license procurement. It also provides training on agriculture and non-agricultural capacity building to motivate farmers to take up sustainable agriculture with a sustainable enterprise.

FPO management is generally done by farmers, therefore they need support in various ways to develop the FPO from a farmer collective to a successful business entity. SwitchON mediates the risk-taking endeavours for the FPOs to enhance farmer incomes. For example, sometimes farmers are not confident enough to negotiate with large buyers and market players, and end up selling their produce at less than their optimum prices. SwitchON comes in here and brings the farmers and buyers together, and thus the farmers get the most optimum prices of the products.

FPOs have doubled farmer incomes on average, and FPO managed business activities have brought social entrepreneurship amongst them. This also is an attempt towards a change in the narrative where we encourage farmers to become entrepreneurs thus challenging the existing notion of business management only for a particular social strata.

“SwitchON Foundation’s role as a CBBO or Resource Institution in FPO formation has been acting as a bridge between the farmers and the external agencies, facilitating scheme linkage and promoting leadership towards a common vision. With a holistic approach, we are changing the farmers into successful business entrepreneurs as well as promoting sustainable agricultural practices amongst them for a better future for all,” says Vinay Jaju, Managing Director of SwitchON Foundation.

“After joining SwitchON Foundation as a FIG member, my livelihood was improved and my source of income increased”, says Punam Sharma from upper Namphing Village in Temi Block of South Sikkim. Earlier she used to do farming on a small scale but now she engages in group activities to make chili paste.

SwitchON Foundation is promoting 5 FPOs in two districts of Sikkim with support from SOFDA and Govt of Sikkim.