More than growing crops

FARMER entrepreneurs

More than growing crops

Farmers of Uttara Kannada district have been exploring new enterprises like value addition and direct marketing to sustain their profession, agriculture.

The variety of products — from papad, dry fruits and pickle to jam, fruit concentrate and herbal mix — prepared using locally available produce reflect the creative urge and enthusiasm of the people of the region. Value addition has also become a necessity to the present-generation farmers in the wake of fluctuating weather and market prices.

Though areca nut and coconut are the major crops in the region, subsidiary crops like banana, jackfruit, pepper, vanilla, sugarcane, coconut, cocoa, turmeric, cashew, clove, cardamom and pineapple, and non-timber forest products like kokum, uppage, shikakai and honey are equally valued, as they form the main sources of livelihood for many households. 

Many models

Take Rajeshwari of Halasinahalli village, for instance. Her family owns a very small farm of less than one acre and she always felt the need for additional income. After much thought and discussion with her husband and son, she ventured into jackfruit papad production. “For the people of this region, papad making is a much cherished activity during summer. I thought of developing it into an income-generation activity.” Friends and relatives, who took samples, gradually became customers.

Over the years, the fame spread and the good quality of papads helped her get an assured market. Without plunging into mass production at one go, she increased the quantity steadily and now, after 10 years, she produces over 5,000 jack papads a year. “Papad making requires minimum investment and a reasonable income is always assured. This activity is useful for small farmers like us. Moreover, raw jackfruit, the main raw material, is available in plenty in our backyard,” she opines. Though the work is tedious, they don’t find it difficult as the entire family is involved in the process. She has maintained an areca nut nursery as well.

Similar is the effort of Aruna of Ashisar village near Sirsi. Like most of the Malnad
people, she is well-versed in the art of papad making. After learning about the great demand for home-made products, she decided to explore the potential of papads made by her. She feels that melas organised by various institutions and associations provide a platform to exhibit their products and explore the market. She now produces over 20,000 jack papads every year. “Not even a single jackfruit in our farm gets wasted. In fact, the demand for papad is so high that I purchase jackfruit from other farmers also,” she claims.  

Vasundhara Trust in Siddapur taluk is a licensed producer of home products like sukeli or banana fig (dried banana) and majjige menasu (stuffed chilli). It procures these value-added items from self-help groups and individual producers. Venkatesha of Bengali village produces several value-added items under the name ‘Bengali Home Products’. The products include chyavanaprash, amla chat (a condiment with amla and chilli as main ingredients), amla candy and white kokum pickle. Apart from utilising the farm produce, he also procures some of the raw materials from outside. “I have established direct contact with consumers. It has proved useful as I get their feedback also,” he says.

Manorama Joshi is another farmer who has been leading the way through the production of many value-added products, the major items being sukeli and organic Holi colours. As a member of Vanastree, a women’s collective, she has been encouraging other women also to take up value addition. Vinutha Hegde Tumbemane, another farmer, is specialised in the making of jack bar (jackfruit candy). The demand is so high for the product that the entire yield of jackfruit from her farm gets utilised.  

More and more farmers are taking to value-addition, which, they feel, not only strengthens them economically but also socially. Statistics indicate that small farmers are more inclined towards value addition and have been pursuing it with great enthusiasm.
 
Building capacity

Quiz these entrepreneurs about factors that have helped them achieve success, the common answer one gets is, “good and reliable market facility.” Kadamba Marketing Cooperative, an initiative of farmers, in Sirsi has been facilitating these farmer entrepreneurs not only in terms of marketing but also through capacity building. Established in 2005, the cooperative did extensive market survey to find right buyers for different products in the first two years.

Over the years, it has developed a good network of producers and consumers. “Marketing has not been a problem at all, thanks to the quality products farmers provide. In fact, we plan in such a way that all the produce and products procured get sold at a good price,” says Vishweshwar Bhat, chief executive officer of Kadamba. Along with providing market to value-added products, Kadamba has also been purchasing farm produce and non-timber forest products collected by them.  

With the help of Kadamba, farmers have been tapping the potential of neglected crops like jackfruit. Tender jackfruit is one such produce that has caught the attention of both producers and consumers. This year, there is a demand for about 500 tonnes of tender jackfruit and Kadamba, with the help of farmers, is trying hard to meet the demand.

“I am a regular visitor to Kadamba retail outlet and am happy with the quality and price of the products sold here,” says Rekha Jaddigadde. Over the years, Kadamba has grown into a brand with over 40 products sold under its brand name. Some of the well-established ventures, who have their own brands, also sell their products at the Kadamba outlet. 

“Jack papad is a major hit among both producers and consumers. We sell about 2.5 lakh papads every year. Still, we are not able to meet the demand,” says Vishweshwar. Farmers get Rs 1.5 per papad.

To facilitate farmers, Kadamba has set up different processing units including a cocoa processing unit, a honey processing unit, a coconut dehusking unit and a copra drying unit. These activities are supported by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), National Horticulture Mission and University of Agricultural Sciences and University of Horticultural Sciences. The cooperative also provides certification facility for organic products. To procure and sell organic products, Kadamba has networked with six organic groups and more than 800 farmers in and around Sirsi.

Kadamba also organises various activities to provide exposure to farmers. Jackfruit mela, appemidi mela, grafting training, workshop on scientific harvest of honey, demonstration of advanced machinery to address the problems of labour shortage are some such activities. Jackfruit market, a fortnightly market organised in Sirsi during the jackfruit season, aims to facilitate the sale and purchase of jackfruit and its value-added products.

Apart from value-added products, this year Kadamba has purchased about 1,000 tonnes of coconut, 20 tonnes of turmeric, 40 tonnes of cashew, 16 tonnes of honey, 3,500 tins (each of 25 kg) of liquid jaggery. “Farmers here have creative ideas. We are just facilitating them by providing a proper channel,” says Shambulinga Hegde, president of Kadamba.

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