Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre (SREC) is driven by its vision and mission, through which it seeks to address the challenges posed by India’s rapidly increasing population and an equally rapid reduction of its poverty, putting pressure on its land and water resources. Today, consumers want more food, more fibre for cloth and more feed for their animals. SREC believes that this ever-growing demand can be sustained only if the agricultural sector makes a transition towards smart and sustainable land and water use, increase its production by adopting efficient processes, coupled with less pollution, greater precision in the use of fertilisers and pesticides, and a reduction in the use of water and energy.
SREC is working together with small farmers, workers, local authorities, private sector and research institutes as a catalyst for improved food production, a safer workplace, access to clean water, and a better income.
SREC Centre is a Charitable Trust established in December 2008, registered under the Indian Registration Act, 1908 and 80 G & 12 AA of The Income Tax Act, 1961. Wherein we,
Sixty-five-year-old Kanwar Lal of Narwal village in Agar Malwa district of Madhya Pradesh had been practicing chemical intensive farming on his 8-acre land for several years read more
How one of the largest leather clusters in India is turning to sustainability, one block at a time, with Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre’s ‘Waste to Walk’ read more
Forty-two-year-old Indira Kadam is an anganwadi worker in Munoli village in Belagavi district of Karnataka in southern India. A single woman, she read more
The new year heralds new beginnings! The start of 2024 sees Solidaridad foray into the rural tourism sector, extend help to farmers for the upcoming summer crop cycle, champion the cause of women’s financial and digital literacy and empowerment in farmer's conferences, train farmers in entrepreneurial skills, and enable fruitful collaborations between FPOs and shareholders. This month’s newsletter also takes a step back to look at Solidaridad’s key achievements in the final weeks of 2023.
Here’s wishing everyone a fulfilling and prosperous new year. Happy reading!
Stakeholders from Tamil Nadu leather clusters gain insights on waste-management solutions
As part of the ‘Promoting circularity in the Tamil Nadu leather clusters for solid waste management’ project, supported by the European Union, a knowledge expedition for stakeholders from Tamil Nadu’s leather clusters was organised. It entailed a visit to Tata International’s leather facility in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. During the visit, a roundtable discussion was held between the Solidaridad team, representatives from Tamil Nadu leather clusters, and Rajasekaran Padmanaban, Head of the Finished Leather business, Tata International Limited. This key discussion and other conversations between participants focused, in detail, on topics such as the utility of chrome shavings for production of biogas, biofertilisers, protein fillers, production of tanning agents, conversion of sludge from effluent treatment plants (ETP)/common effluent treatment plants (CETP) to solid blocks, and the scope for collaborations between industrial partners for the implementation of sustainable practices. Educational visits to sustainable, state-of-the-art leather-production facilities in Indore, one of India’s cleanest cities, were also organised, and a knowledge-sharing forum was instituted to explore possible synergies.
FPO’s leadership teams get training on management and enterprise skills
A farmer-producer training session and workshop was organised at the State Institute of Agriculture Extension and Training, Bhopal, to improve the management and enterprise skills of CEOs and board of directors of FPOs. The event aimed to address the challenges faced by FPOs on backward and forward market linkages, and highlighted the role of banks in financially supporting FPOs. The event also featured discussions on training modules and strategies needed to set up market linkages, and the development of FPOs formed under the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), and the State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM).
Solidaridad-supported FPC wins big under sustainable agriculture category
In early December, the Torus Farmers Producer Company Limited, an entity supported by Solidaridad, was awarded the Times Exemplary Leaders Award in the category of sustainable agriculture practices. The award, handed out by actor Kabir Bedi, was received by Vishwas Jadhav, CEO, Torus, in Aurangabad district, Maharashtra. Torus, established in 2019, has been working with over 20,000 farmers, training them in sustainable farming practices and providing them with state-of-the-art input, processing, packaging, storage and collection facilities and centres. Apart from ensuring that farmers are able to procure inputs at discounted rates, Torus also provides a better price to farmers who sell their produce (cotton, grains, pulses, oilseeds, fruits, vegetables and flowers) through them. Solidaridad is collaborating with Torus for a number of farmers’ welfare schemes and programmes, as well as on Smart Agri Project and regenagri certification. Besides providing expert guidance and farm guidance, Solidaridad has also set up a farmers’ training centre for farmers linked to Torus.
Medical camps set up for castor farmers and their families in Gujarat
Under Solidaridad’s sustainable castor initiative, Pragati, medical camps were organised in the project villages in Gujarat to monitor the health of the farmers and their families. Medical professionals monitored blood pressure, sugar and haemoglobin levels of the participants. Awareness campaigns on observing a healthy lifestyle, through proper diet, regular exercise, yoga, and meditation, were also held as part of these camps which underscored Solidaridad’s commitment to ensuring occupational health and safety of farmers.
In Telangana village, Solidaridad & agriculture department train farmers on good practices
At the grassroot level, working closely with government departments is an integral part of Solidaridad’s capacity-building activities – it is an approach that has been supported and praised by government officials in project locations across Maharashtra and Telangana.
For instance, Solidaridad has been working with the agriculture department in Jainad block, Adilabad district, Telangana, to train the farmers of Khapri village in good agricultural practices (GAP). In the event, which was also attended by the agriculture extension officer, farmers received guidance on pressing issues such as eliminating attacks by pests like the pink bollworm, and scheduling irrigation for rabi crops.
Cotton farmers in Wardha receive guidance on safe storage, pest management
Earlier this month, Solidaridad organised a farmer field school in Donduda village, Wardha district, Maharashtra. The farmers attending the school primarily received guidance on the safe storage of cotton. Additionally, the cultivators who grow wheat and Bengal gram after harvesting cotton were instructed in insect- and pest-management. Demonstrations of yellow sticky traps and resting stands for birds were also held. At the end of the session, the Solidaridad field team addressed the queries of the farmers on related subjects.
Castor farmers get lessons on smart agricultural practices from senior scientists
The Solidaridad team working with castor farmers in Gujarat recently organised a training for lead farmers, in collaboration with Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Kherva, Mehsana district. More than 120 farmers from the project districts participated in the classroom and practical sessions.Senior scientists and experts instructed the participants on how they can address agricultural challenges (caused by climate change), by adopting scientific, sustainable and smart practices such as integrated nutrient management (INM) and integrated pest management (IPM).
Transforming mustard farming in Varanasi, the Smart Agri way
Under the Smart Agri project, 250 mustard demonstration plots have been set up in five clusters of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The programme has introduced the farmers to in-line sowing, a technique that ensures the optimal placement of and uniform spacing between mustard seeds, leading to maximum land usage and healthier plant development. The farmers have also started using strategically-placed, eco-friendly yellow sticky traps to eliminate insects and pests, reducing their dependence on chemical fertilisers. With their newfound exposure to modern, sustainable practices (from seed treatment to nipping and topping), the farmers now hope to maximise their yield and income.
At this farmer's training in Maharashtra, women’s issues take centre stage
75 participants including women farmers and self help group members attended a melava (meeting) of farmers in Mangrul Dastagir village, Amravati district, Maharashtra, in December 2023. Organised jointly by Solidaridad, the agriculture department in Dhamangaon block, and the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission (Umed), the meeting promoted livelihood activities, financial literacy, and good agricultural practices among women who play a major role in the agriculture sector and the rural economy. The key speakers shared their insights on multiple topics, including allied agricultural activities (such as mushroom cultivation), government schemes for women and self-help groups, financial and digital literacy and mobilisation of revolving funds for income generation, internal and credit linkages with non-banking financial companies, crop advisories and weather-related missed-call alert services for farmers, disease and fertiliser management, among others.
Climate change in focus at National Farmer's Day celebration in Gujarat
National Farmers’ Day 2023 was observed in Banaskantha district, Gujarat on 23 December 2023. More than 100 local farmers participated in the celebrations. The event included a discussion about climate change and its impact, and how farmers can mitigate them by adopting localised, smart and sustainable practices.
Farmers in Varanasi gear up for summer cultivation with training on advanced techniques
In preparation for the upcoming summer cultivation season, the Solidaridad team in Varanasi, in collaboration with the Department of Horticulture and Food Processing, Uttar Pradesh, organised a training session on advanced nursery techniques for vegetable cultivation in summer. The session was conducted at ICAR-Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR), Varanasi.
Jyoti Kumar from the Department of Horticulture and Food Processing facilitated the session as the lead trainer. He provided hands-on training to farmers on high-tech nursery practices, including the creation of controlled environments that facilitate optimal growth conditions. Participants were also informed about the strategic use of climate-control technologies to shield seedlings from adverse weather conditions. They also visited the IIVR campus to witness, first-hand, modern techniques of vegetable cultivation.
Farmer's conferences in Rajasthan spread awareness on activities undertaken by FPOs
Together with the Small Farmer's Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), Solidaridad conducted a series of farmer's conferences in Nainwa cluster, Bundi district, Rajasthan, between 12 and 24 January 2024. The aim was to spread awareness regarding the activities of FPOs among farmers, and to encourage new shareholders. During these conferences, certificates were distributed among 310 shareholders of the Chouth Bhavani Farmer's Producer Company. The conferences, which were attended by the agriculture supervisor of the Department of Agriculture, Rajasthan, and gram panchayat sarpanchs, saw several board members of the FPOs commit to involve more shareholders in the activities.
Smart Agri workshop highlights the importance of good practices, advisory services and SMEs
Earlier this month, the Smart Agri Project organised a workshop in Cuttack, Odisha, which saw the participation of block-level government officials. It stressed upon the importance of good agricultural practices, the effective use of technology, as well as crop and weather advisory services. The convergence of government programmes with the Smart Agri Project was also discussed, and a consensus was reached on the need to transform SHGs into small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The event was attended by Sobhan Kar (Chairman, Sarat Kar and Anima Kar Foundation) and Suresh Motwani (General Manager, Solidaridad).
A collaborative effort to strengthen and scale up FPOs
In a step towards strengthening FPOs formed under SFAC, Solidaridad has collaborated with the Department of Agriculture and the State Institute of Agriculture Extension and Training, Madhya Pradesh, for capacity-building of the members of the FPOs and cluster-based business organisations. A series of programmes are being held across 22 districts of the state till February 2024. The objective is to empower farmers and farmer producer organisations by providing them with the necessary skills, knowledge and resources. The focus is on building sustainable agricultural practices, improving productivity, and developing entrepreneurship within the farming community.
Solidaridad takes first steps towards rural tourism
Recently, Solidaridad stepped into the rural tourism sector, marking its entry into an exciting venture that holds promise for both farming communities and tourism enthusiasts. The new venture was kicked off with the inauguration of the Nav Varsh Sanskrutik Harit Mela, organised by a village committee and supported jointly by the MP Tourism Board and Solidaridad, in the village of Khari in Sehore district. At the mela, the Solidaridad-supported Khalihan Farmer Producer Organisation exhibited and sold out its soy and amla products, while the Good Farming – Good Food – Good Health team set up a live stall showcasing a diverse range of soy-based products. Through this initiative, Solidaridad, the MP Tourism Board and the farming community hope to actively contribute to the holistic development of the region.
Nutritional health and wellness for women and girls gets a boost
To elevate the nutritional status of women and adolescent girls in Cuttack, Odisha, the promotion of nutrition gardens has emerged as a transformational initiative. Under the Smart Agri Project, 50 nutrition gardens have been developed in the city to support communities with a high level of food security, healthier diets, and a culture of self-sustainability. By advocating the cultivation of a variety of vegetables (such as tomatoes, cauliflowers and beans), the ‘Circular Model’ of nutrition gardens has especially proved to be helpful in addressing specific nutritional deficiencies and improving the overall health of the targeted communities.
Awareness workshop for students focuses on benefits of soy
The Agri Nutrition Resource Centre (ANRC) in Bhopal organised a comprehensive workshop on soy food processing with the students of Sant Hirdaram Girls College, Bhopal. The workshop spread awareness on the benefits of soy and its role in promoting overall health, and provided a hands-on experience for the students in exploring processes such as soy-milk extraction and okara production. The participants also visited the ANRC to understand the various interventions under the Good Farming – Good Food – Good Health programme that promotes good agriculture and community wellbeing.
Continuing commitment to environmental protection and worker's safety
Under the aegis of the European Union–SWITCH Asia project, ‘Promoting circularity in the Tamil Nadu leather clusters for solid waste management’, Solidaridad initiated an afforestation drive with the plantation of 660 saplings of indigenous trees, in association with the Ranipet Tannery Effluent Treatment Company. The drive has expanded, with another 550 saplings planted in the cluster tannery and another 500 at the premises of Sara Leather Industries, Ranipet. The move has been supported and appreciated by the forest department officials of Ranipet.
December also saw training programmes for tannery workers in Ambur and Ranipet. Featuring demonstrations on the use of hydrogen sulphide gas masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and fire safety measures, the programme sought to train workers in the safe handling of chemicals and leather safety protocols (for workers, users and the community at large). This occupational health and safety (OHS) module (implemented among 75 workers from Ambur, and 85 in Ranipet) also involved the distribution of eyewash bottles, first-aid kits and sulphide gas masks.
Farmers and entrepreneurs learn valuable lessons regarding smoke-house facilities and quality rubber-sheet production
With the support of Bridgestone India, Solidaridad’s team overseeing the Unnati programme (the organisation’s sustainable rubber initiative) organised an event to help farmers and entrepreneurs learn more about the smoke-house facility and about quality sheet production at Pathippally Tribal Rubber Producer Society, Moolamattom, Idukki district, Kerala. At the event which took place towards the end of January 2024, the selected entrepreneurs assisted farmers in setting up fabricated smoke-house facilities to improve the quality of rubber sheets. The entrepreneurs also provided their sheet-roller machines to the neighbouring farmers, thus supporting the rubber farming community. The session was inaugurated by M Vasanthagesan IRS, Executive Director, Rubber Board India, and the keynote address was provided by Monika Khanna, Country Manager, Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre (SREC). This was followed by a field visit to the rubber farmers in the intervention area.
The versatile tea grower
In the Barekuri block in Assam’s Tinsukia district, Girish Chutia comes across as an inspirational figure. Leading from the front, Girish, a small tea grower, has initiated the Trinitea programme in his block, to turn his fortunes around, as well as that of his fellow villagers. Girish used to earn a limited income from the small tea plantation that he had inherited. He overcame this challenge by diversifying his produce, introducing ginger, black pepper, and marigold flowers, opening up more channels of income in the process. His once-exclusive tea estate now showcases the versatility of his agricultural pursuits – and is one that the community considers to be a model of sustainable farming.
Girish now runs a small tea manufacturing unit producing different varieties, including orthodox, green, and purple variants, among others. He has also installed vermicompost units through which he produces around 50 tonnes of the biofertiliser every year. He now plans to increase trade – a goal which Solidaridad hopes to support, every step of the way.
Sunandan Kumar, joined us on 04 January as Manager-Finance and Compliances. He comes with more than 18 years of overall experience including thirteen years in the development sector. He has proven expertise in developing financial policies, ensuring adherence to statutory compliances, budgeting and grant management. Before joining SREC, he was working with SAATHI as a Regional Finance Manager. He holds a B.Com degree from the University of Delhi and MBA in Finance from Vinayak Mission University.
Edwin P, joined us on 03 January in our EU funded leather project at Chennai as an Administrative Officer. He has twenty-five years of work experience in accounting, procurement, finance, logistics and auditing. He was previously working with World Vision as a Sourcing Manager and has done his MBA from NIBM University.
Jaimol Thomas, joined us on 10 January in our EU funded leather project at Chennai, as a Senior Programme Officer. She has more than ten years of experience in programme management, team management and stakeholder management. She has done her MBA in Social Work from Rajgiri College of Social Sciences, Kerala and previously she was working with Pacific Consultants Ltd. as an Administration Manager.
Assistant Manager- PMEL Vodafone Project
Rama Mishra Shukla
Assistant Programme Manager-Sugarcane