Farmer's notebook Agriculture

Small growers join forces to build their own warehouses

Germalam in Erode district, Tamil Nadu, is covered by thick reserve forests. Agriculture and livestock are the key livelihood for the people there. The land holding of each farmer is about one to three acres of dry land where cultivation predominantly depends on the monsoon. Maize is the main crop grown extensively apart from ragi, lablab, tapioca, black gram, horse gram and french beans as minor crops.

Like paddy in the delta regions, in this region, maize was the major sustenance crop and as usual marketing the produce was a big bottleneck.

Private lenders

“The small farmers used to borrow from moneylenders at 3-5 per cent interest per month for purchasing seeds and fertilizers and the moneylenders usually arrived at the farm during harvesting season — and took away from the farmer a volume of produce equal to the loan principal and interest.

“Being indebted, farmers did not have much control over the rates the moneylenders fixed. Besides, the moneylenders used their own faulty weighing scales,” says Dr. P. Alagesan, Programme Coordinator, Myrada ( Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency), Gobichettipalayam, Tamil Nadu.

Farmers therefore lost out both on rates as well as the weight of their produce. Since they had no idea of the market availability or the prevailing rate for maize they did not have much choice. Some of them tried to market the produce themselves but the high cost incurred on transportation (especially, since they had small volumes each) forced them to sell the maize as soon as it was harvested.

And the market was a buyers’ arena.

Traders offered low prices for the produce taking advantage of the fact that the sellers were not locals and had come from faraway places. Farmers were often forced to agree to the buyers’ rates as they wanted to go back home early and there were costs involved for storing their maize in warehouses.

Not enough place

Stored grain also lost moisture and its quality deteriorated. There was not enough place in Germalam to store all the maize.

A decade back when this problem was being discussed among the local community one of the ideas that emerged was the construction of community warehouses in their own areas.

Accordingly they approached Myrada institute in their region to see whether this was possible. Based on the area of maize grown and the number of farmers who would directly benefit from this project, it was decided that two warehouses could be constructed in two villages.

Management

Both the warehouses would be managed by the self-help groups in the respective villages. Since it was community managed and maize being a seasonal crop, both the warehouses did not require year- round management.

“The model cut labour costs as farmers themselves brought in their produce from their farms to the warehouse. No full time staff was required. Members from the local self-help groups volunteered to work for free. Therefore the annual maintenance costs for the warehouse was as low as Rs.1,000 — mainly for whitewashing and cleaning and this was paid out of the warehouse account,” explains Dr. Alagesan.

The warehouses charge different rentals for those who have contributed to its construction — chiefly self-help groups and outsiders.

The groups pay a rent of Rs.1 per bag stored per month. Other individuals pay Rs.1.50 per bag per month. No additional charges are levied as the transportation, loading and unloading costs from the farm to warehouse are borne by producers themselves.

After deducting all the expenditures, the warehouse committee bank account currently has a balance of about Rs.30,000.

Governmental support

Based on the success of these two warehouses the government has also come forward to support setting up of two more warehouses with active support from Myrada.

Presently the four warehouses constructed by the Myrada Germalam Project have proved their worth and the government is rapidly replicating the programme. Apart from the three already supported by the government, six more are being build in the Kadambur and Thalavady hills in collaboration with the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).

For more information contact Dr. P. Alagesan, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kalingiyam P.O., Gobichettipalayam, Erode district-638 453, Email: myradakvk@dataone.in, azhagujanani@yahoo.com, mobile: 09443897654.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 1:59:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/small-growers-join-forces-to-build-their-own-warehouses/article7081844.ece

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