‘Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.’ This oft-quoted statement is not just hyperbole. The first occupation of humankind, agriculture is the foundation of civilization and industry. And even today, a thriving farm sector is a prerequisite for a stable economy and has immense potential to combat poverty and maximise human capital.

To trigger growth in the farm sector and empower struggling farmers in the backward tribal highlands of Orissa, BRLF signed an MoU with the Department of Horticulture, Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment, the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM), Government of Odisha and PRADAN for the promotion of agriculture production clusters (APCs) in November 2018. Based on the APC model, 17 civil society organization are working to establishing 650 micro-APCs producer groups (PG) aggregated to form 30 producer companies (PCs) in 40 blocks in 12 districts. The aim is to sustainably double the income of 100,000 small and marginal farmers, especially women. Of these, about 64 per cent of households belong to the ST and SC communities.

In this four-year project, BRLF envisages the cultivation of high-value crops across 20,000 acre of land; ensuring irrigation in 16,000 acre with existing and new irrigation infrastructure; introduction of non-pesticide management (NPM) practices in 40 per cent of the areas; establishment of 750 market-linked agri-entrepreneurs as value chain enablers; and development of market routes around identified commodities. The focus will predominantly be on horticultural crops (vegetables, fruits, spices) and 40 per cent of families will take up livestock rearing as their primary source of income.

With the establishment of block, district and state level co-ordination committee and tremendous capacity building efforts by our lead partner PRADAN for the CSOs engaged in the project, progress on ground has been rapid.

In just few months (Dec 2018 to Sep 2019), the project estimated to cost Rs. 401.60 Cr. was able to mobilise revenues of Rs. 5.25 Cr. Further 548 PGs have already been formed with a membership of 57,998 poor households; 11,640 acres has been brought under high value crop cultivation benefitting 35,495 households; 1808.5 acres of total irrigation potential has been created and 10,563 households are practising NPM on 2838.2 acres of land. In addition to this, the project has been able to identify 88 aggregation centres and process of identifying Udyog Mitra has been started for entrepreneurial assistance.

Indeed, the project has been such an implementation maximiser that it received the prestigious SKOCH Governance Award 2019, which recognises people, projects and institutions that ‘go the extra mile to make India a better nation’.

The award reinforces our conviction at BRLF that sustainable income generation and social mobilization can go hand in hand, given an enabling environment created by the expertise of CSOs working in concert with Panchayati Raj institutions and government—building bonds and achieving results, in complete trust and transparency.

To learn more, go to https://www.apcodisha.net/