This month, the newsletter brings you stories of empowerment of smallholder farmers – through training, as well as adoption of regenerative farming, technology and advanced farm equipment. We also focus on sustainability initiatives that promote a circular economy.
‘Waste to Value’ Grabs the Spotlight
In a double win for Solidaridad’s leather project in Tamil Nadu, backed by EU, our sustainable and eco-friendly interventions were showcased at Asia’s largest leather fashion show at ITC Chola, Chennai, on 1 February, and at the India International Leather Fair (1-3 February) at the Chennai Trade Centre.
Our ‘Waste to Fashion’ intervention under the ongoing EU Switch Asia project “Promoting Circularity in the Tamil Nadu Leather Clusters for Solid Waste Management” drew loud applause from 750 attendees at the show. At the leather fair, which saw 400 exhibitors in attendance, our sustainable interventions in tanneries received interest from various local and global industry stakeholders.
Empowering Women Dairy Farmers Digitally
Digital literacy is key to women empowerment. Solidaridad has been organising digital literacy training for women dairy farmers in five districts of Uttar Pradesh, making them confident to use smartphones not just for calling and messaging but also financial transactions. Post-training, these farmers are able to make online payments and access information and advisories on good dairy farming practices even from social media, such as YouTube videos.
Saving Costs by Taking the Mechanised Route
Tulshi Upadhyay, 52, cultivates tea on a 2-hectare land in Bishnupur village of Kakapathar block in Tinsukia, Assam. Besides tea, Tulshi also grows vegetables and rears cattle. His spiralling expenses, including manual labour costs, meant Tulshi never had enough to save. In September 2021, he received training under the Smart Agri Project (VI SAP) of Vodafone Idea and Indus Towers – Solidaridad is the implementing partner – on improved agricultural practices and was provided with advanced farm equipment.
“Previously, pruning was done manually, doing it with a machine has reduced my cost, saved time and ensured the tea leaves are not damaged while plucking, thereby improving quality. Similarly, use of power sprayers has reduced cost and the amount of chemicals sprayed while also saving time."
Promoting Healthy Habits in Children in Mining Areas
‘Swachh Aadat Curriculum’, a 21-day hygiene behaviour training, was organised in November 2022 under the CORE (Code of Responsible Extraction) programme. It was facilitated by Gayatri Seva Sansthan, a local community-based organisation, with the support of Solidaridad and Hindustan Unilever Limited, at a government primary school in Sonaria, Udaipur, Rajasthan. The objective of the initiative was to bring a change in the basic hygiene behaviour and adoption of clean habits among children living near the mines.
The training programme, aligned with SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), reached out to 290 children from five primary schools.
Training Lead Farmers in Castor
Pragati, the Sustainable Castor Initiative, organised a lead farmers’ training programme on 19 January in Mehsana, Gujarat. More than 140 lead farmers participated along with initiative leaders and technical experts in agriculture. The day-long training began with the agenda to build on the learnings from sustainable castor farming and good agricultural practices, as well as sharpen the understanding of the castor market, for the benefit of new lead farmers in the four project districts. Special emphasis was given to the upcoming verification audits by certification bodies, to prepare the project farmers who will be certifying their produce under the sustainable castor standard this year. The training was conducted in a TOT (training of trainers) model to guide the new castor producers in the programme to become model castor farmers from their villages.
Building Capacity of FPOs on Market Strategy
Under the Central government’s ‘Formation and Promotion of 10,000 New Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs)’ scheme, Solidaridad has formed 10 FPOs in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. To build the capacity of the leadership teams of these FPOs, a series of training programmes are being organised at the Chaudhary Charan Singh National Institute of Agricultural Marketing, Jaipur, focusing on critical issues like business opportunities and marketing strategies for FPOs, small business and rural entrepreneurship and agripreneurship development programmes. To make these FPOs more efficient, training on subjects like vision and mission of the company, basic knowledge of company affairs, types of companies, shareholding, capital outlay, equity, Corporate Identification Number (CIN) etc. are also being imparted.
A Win for Lata and Good Agricultural Practices
Lata Vilas Patil is a 46-year-old woman farmer from Shittur Warun village, Kolhapur, Maharashtra who meticulously followed good agricultural practices (GAP) and reaped the benefits – a significant jump in the sugarcane yield and a sharp fall in input costs. She had heard about farmer field schools in her district and decided to attend one where she was told about the benefits of GAP. Lata took a chance and offered her field as a demo plot. By changing her irrigation and harvesting practices, she was able to increase the annual crop yield from 83 metric tonnes/hectare to 127 metric tonnes/hectare.
“I am very happy to see the results from my sugarcane farm. At first, I was reluctant to give my farm as a demonstration plot but after listening to the benefits, I agreed. Now I think this is the best thing I have done for my farm. The training and exposure visits helped me a lot in achieving higher yield.”
Recognising Eco-Entrepreneurs in Maharashtra
In Manegaon village of Nagpur, Maharashtra, Sudhakar Kohale’s name is synonymous with sustainable farming. But not long ago, Sudhakar was uncertain about his future.
In 2022, Sudhakar attended a training session by Solidaridad on vermicomposting. Equipped with a vermi-bed and guidance from the Solidaridad team, Sudhakar decided to prepare vermicompost and used it in his farm. Additionally, he was encouraged to use organic pest repellents like jivamrut, nimboli ark and dashparni to reduce dependence on chemical pesticides.
In the harvest season, Sudhakar saw the change. Against an average of 15 quintals every year, Sudhakar got 20 quintals of cotton, and his spend on chemical pesticides reduced – his farm income increased from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh/year. He also started a vermicompost unit and is now selling 300 quintals of vermicompost annually, earning Rs 2 lakh.
“Agriculture is an uncertain profession, the adverse impacts of climate may lead to crop loss. Youngsters in farming must have an option of earning a supplementary income, like selling vermicompost, to be able to continue as a farmer.”
Pallavi Keshri is a post graduate from TERI School of Advanced Studies, Delhi, Pallavi has joined us as a Programme Officer- Bridgestone Project. She was working with HCL Foundation as a Project Associate in ‘Samuday’, a rural integrated development programme in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh. Her area of interest in the development sector is planning and implementation of projects.
Prasad Vitthal Mirajkar has joined us as a Field Coordinator in our sugarcane project at Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Previously, he was working with Shri Dutta India Pvt. Ltd. as an agriculture assistant. He has done his agricultural engineering from Dr D. Y. Patil College of Agriculture Engineering &Technology.
Nimesh Patil has joined as a Programme Officer-Field, in our Sugarcane project at Kolhapur, Maharashtra. He has been working in the development sector for the last six years, with extensive experience in programme implementation. He holds a master’s degree in social work from Shivaji University, Kolhapur. Previously, he was associated with Arya Collateral Warehousing Services Pvt. Ltd. as Deputy Manager.
Ganesh Garud has joined us as a Field Associate in our Sugarcane project at Baramati, Maharashtra. Earlier, he was associated with Amazon Kisan as a Field Associate. He has done his B.Sc. in Agriculture from the College of Agriculture, Pune.