Securing Livelihoods of Marginal Farmers amid the Challenging times of COVID-19 in South Odisha

Back in March, a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country became a cause for increasing concern. Perhaps a complete nationwide lockdown was the only possible solution to flatten the steadily rising curve. However, the sudden enforcement of the lockdown and subsequent travel restrictions tremendously affected the small and marginal farmers hailing from the remote areas of Koraput District in Odisha. Sale of vegetables at the weekly markets is the primary source of income for these farmers. For nearly two weeks, there was no movement of vehicles, and people were sceptical about heading out of their homes. Farmers found themselves in distress as they neither could reach the market nor could reach the local traders to sell their produce.

Tears of hopelessness swelled Harischandra Gadaba’s eyes as he saw the vegetables rot in his field. He is one among many tribal farmers of Jhilimiliguda village in Borigumma block. With no cash at hand and the fear of contracting the unknown virus, he estimated a loss of INR 4000 within two weeks as the tomatoes and brinjal cultivated by him matured for selling. Like Harishchandra, the mobility of several farmers in the district was curtailed.
At this critical juncture, Dangar Dei Farmers Producer Company (FPC), facilitated by Pragati Koraput, proved an angel in disguise for the farmers.

The intervention brought respite for Harischandra, as well as other 18 farmers of his village. During the lockdown, he could earn INR 19000 by selling vegetables through the FPC. It was quick, easy and a hassle-free process, as one or two farmers would gather the produce and brought it to the selling centre.

The FPC has created marketing opportunities for 2805 farmers from 32 villages. Stalls operate every day as per the schedule set by the district administration. Few farmers take the initiative to bring their vegetables to market. It relieves the pressure on farmers travelling from one place to another, especially at the time of COVID-19. While selling their produce, FPC members strictly ensure precautionary measures like the use of masks, social distancing and hygiene.

During the Kharif season, the farmers could access agri-inputs – seeds, organic manures, farm equipment with the FPC’s assistance. “I no longer worry for the marketing of my produce or purchase inputs as I am a shareholder of Dangar Dei FPC. I also got the opportunity to hire threshing machine at a subsidized price during the lockdown,” says Harischandra.

The success of DangarDei FPC has inspired and paved the way for 5 other FPCs facilitated by Pragati in Koraput District, Kotpad and Nandapur Block. As the country is still reeling under the COVID-19 crisis, the FPC model can be a successful intervention in addressing the hardships faced by small and marginal farmers.

About Pragati Koraput
Established in 1994, Pragati Koraput has been working in the remote areas of South Odisha with the base of pyramid population, the tribal communities and among them the small and marginal farmers for ensuring their nutritional food security and economic well-being. Pragati Koraput’s interventions are focussed on Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Agriculture, Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.
We believe in working with Community-Based Organisations and in collaboration with Government Departments and PRIs. In a wake-up call to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have responded to immediate needs like awareness of precautionary measures and distribution of essentials to families in need. However, we continue to focus on the livelihood of communities passing through this critical stage. 
EdelGive Foundation has been supporting Pragati from 2018 to ensure the nutritional food security of the small and marginal farmers in Koraput District of South Odisha through sustainable agriculture, climate-resilient farming systems and eco-friendly irrigation.
Visit http://www.pragatikoraput.org/ for more information. 
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