Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
The project partner of GRANITE in Uttar Pradesh, Network of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (NEED) and the GRANITE team, organised a daylong outreach meeting in association with Indian National Consumers Federation (INCF), Lucknow, a grassroots pro-poor driven non-government organisation (NGO) at Banda, Shahjanpur district on June 15, 2006.
The objective of the meeting was to bring farmers and other producer groups to a common platform, to discuss the opportunities and challenges in agriculture and to share and to be apprised of information and opinions with reference to their livelihood. Besides, after having gathered information and views from the grassroots, the meeting also enabled to place the documents before the State Government for their active consideration.
Methodology of the Outreach Meeting
The meeting began with the inaugural remarks of AK Mishra, Director, INCF. Ajay Kumar Singh, Block Pramukh, Buta Singh, leader of Bhartiya Janta Party and social worker, Sanjay Awasthi, Member District Panchayat, Ram Beri, social and political leader, and Smita Mishra, Development Manager-GRANITE, also addressed the gathering. This was followed by an active group interaction with the resource members on affirmative clarifications related to the global scenario on agriculture, trade and economics.
The meeting was attended by grassroots level marginal farmers, craft persons, artisans, weavers, local handicrafts producers, labourers/workers of the local sugar mill and organic disposable utensils makers as well as local media, other NGOs, government functionaries and other concerned stakeholders like panchayat members, block pramukhs and members of self-help groups (SHGs).
Most of the farmers of the area can be categorised as marginal farmers. The major agricultural produce is sugarcane and to a lesser extent, wheat and rice. Due to paucity of capital and marketing avenues, farmers are compelled to sell their produce to middlemen. Even though they produce in large quantities, yet their economic condition remains poor. This often leads them towards working as labourers rather than entrepreneurs. The poor are also involved in the sugar mills or any other local mills to earn their daily bread.
The basic problem is of high cost of inputs, which exacerbates the condition of the local community. Lack of updated knowledge (e.g., value addition through processing and packaging) and skills in marketing and infrastructure (particularly electricity) and the alliance of middlemen further compound the problem.
Highlights of the Discussions
- Arun Mishra reiterated the objective of the meeting and described the detailed role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the relevant areas.
- Smita Mishra discussed the objectives of GRANITE and impact of WTO on marginal producers.
- Abhishek shared the relevant implemented government schemes, which were found to be beneficial for the marginal producer’s trade.
The following needs were raised from the floor specifically for the agriculture sector:
- Awareness on the value added products and skills
- Availability of fertilizers at reasonable prices
- Soil testing centres
- Good variety seeds at rational prices
- Awareness on rural credit and insurance schemes
- Increase in the rate of return
- Infrastructure and technical skills
- Curtailing role of middlemen
- Marketing avenues and technology centres
- Export procedure awareness
- Demand and supply implementation mechanism
- Advertising to promote trade
- Fair wages and other environmental and health safety measures.
- Awareness on trade and economics
- Kanti Lal, a farmer, felt the need for adequate electricity, high quality inputs at low prices including development of bio fertilizers, empowerment of Farmers Unions and improved product quality, soil fertility and irrigation facilities.
- Buta Singh rued the diesel price hike saying that it would further add to the poverty of farmers. He also touched upon the prevailing corruption.
- Ram Ganga wanted the developed countries to stop subsidies before asking India to do so.
Summary of the Suggestions
- Self help groups to be formed to support themselves out of their collective peer pressure leadership.
- Functional education fitting into their daily life practice may eradicate many of the bottlenecks.
- Awareness for direct penetration to the market by the farmers.
- Women must be involved in small-scale works to support livelihood.
- Collective farming to maximise productivity should be introduced.
- Group of farmers be formed to carry their voices to the officials.
Rajaram Sangale, a grower exporter of the grapes and pomegranate informed about:
- varieties of pomegranate preferred by the European consumers.
- competition faced by Indian pomegranate from the other foreign suppliers.
- potential for export.
- potential for export processed fruit like pomegranate juice and powder.
- economics of export.
A total of 125 participants attended the workshop, out of which 120 appended their signatures on the Uttar Pradesh document under the project.