RPSs advise farmers on sourcing the best saplings; identify the best plant protection methods; take up maintenance of rubber plantations; process latex and augment income for members through secondary activities.
Honey is not what you normally associate with natural rubber. But in the nooks and crannies of the rubber plantation in Kerala, farmers are harvesting thousands of kg of honey from their holdings, thanks to their collective action cemented and formalised by an idea — the Rubber Producers' Societies (RPSs).
Farmers like V. Babu in Palakkad, and George Philip, Pala and K. E. Chacko in Kanjirappally, swear by their RPSs
Mr. Chacko's Chirakkadavu RPS, which just won the triennial best RPS award, had a turnover of Rs. 11.75 crore last year in activities ranging from sheet supplies to bee-keeping. Farmers in self-help groups under the Elavampadam RPS, headed by Mr. Babu, harvested eight tonnes of honey last year. No mean feat these considering that RPSs were meant to be extended arms of the Rubber Board.
They are today the engines that drive rubber production, said the Rubber Production Commissioner, J. Thomas, who described them as miracles of ‘Responsible, Participatory Synergy.'
RPSs advise farmers on sourcing the best saplings; identify the best plant protection methods, take up maintenance of rubber plantations, process latex and augment income for members through secondary activities.
RPSs are solely responsible for what is today an astonishing farm gate price — 95 per cent of the market price for natural rubber. Former chairman of the Rubber Board, P. C. Cyriac, recalled how exploitative traders were before RPSs came into operation. RPSs also took India to the top in global productivity at 1,806 kg a hectare.
RPSs are central to the model of rubber cultivation in India, said the Chairman of the Rubber Board, Sheela Thomas, on the benefits that have accrued to small and marginal farmers, who account for 93 per cent of the Rs. 20,000-crore worth of natural rubber production.
RPSs, registered under Charitable Societies Act, are made up of 50-200 farmers. There are 2,449 RPSs across India, representing more than a million farmers, cultivating over seven lakh hectares of which the average holding is 0.54 hectares.
On their silver jubilee, being celebrated by the Rubber Board from December 13, RPSs are held up as models to be imitated for other crops. Nothing less could do for such a successful idea.