India is a global frontrunner in agriculture – the highest producer of milk, pulses, spices and bovines. Although the contribution of agriculture to overall GDP has reduced steadily (it is currently less than 15%) its importance in India’s economic and social framework goes way beyond this statistic.
Nearly three-quarters of the population in India is poor and derives its income from rural occupations. That being said, nearly 70% of the poor or BOP population is found in the villages. These numbers pose a grim picture of the current state of farmers living in rural pockets of India.
Where is the Problem?
The problem lies on various fronts.
- Scattered Holdings
The average size of land holdings has steadily decreased from 2.8 hectares in 1970-71 to less than 1 hectare per farm owner. These scattered holdings pose a concern to the farmers with respect to growing crops as well their frequency. Less land leads to less productivity and less frequency.
- Lack of Sufficient Knowledge
Science and technology have led to advancement in agriculture by leaps and bounds. But what is the use of this knowledge and know-how if it fails to reach the farmer in the deepest rural area? Farmers lack access to information on best practices in agriculture, adding to their apathy. Productivity is restricted and so is the required finance to grow cash crops.
- Smaller Role in Value Chain
Wholesalers, distributors, supermarkets, small retailers and then the consumer – the list goes on. Food processing units and restaurant owners are alternate additions to the value chain. What a farmer earns on selling his produce (x) is a mere fraction of the cost that the consumer pays, giving him a smaller role in the value chain.
Although the government has rolled out various initiatives to address these issues, major lacunae still exist. Some innovative agriculture startups are filling up the gaps, with farmers at the center of their impact matrix.To understand these problems better, I spoke to a couple of entrepreneurs who are creating disruption in the field of agriculture.
Small holding farmers that rely on subsistence agriculture have less or no means to earn any extra livelihood. They lack information on methods to increase productivity and have no access to high-value markets ( markets where customer pay a good price for organic and superior quality product).
eKutir’s Operating Model
A for-profit social enterprise, eKutir tackles the pressing problems of small holding farmers using a digital-human platform creating a 2-fold impact. Through their network of micro entrepreneurs, information is made available for free to the farmers. That way, both – the farmers and the non-farming community at the BoP level are positively impacted.
“Knowledge should be imparted without any cost. eKutir’s micro-entrepreneurship business model works across agriculture, Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WaSH) and food & nutrition to fuel job creation, prosperity, and livelihoods for the poorest communities.”, says Suvankar Mishra, CEO of eKutir.
What started as an exploration and research based trip, ended up as a social good enterprise for the farmers. Bryan Lee’s Krishi Star works on a business model that emphasizes and increases the farmers’ role in the value chain. Krishi Star procures and processes vegetables in processing units owned by farmers and sells the products directly to restaurants, deleting the middlemen that are generally involved in the food chain.
Krishi Star’s Operating Model
“Krishi Star’s vision is to improve the economic condition of the farmers by giving them entrepreneurship opportunity. Our broader goal is to alleviate poverty among farmers.” – Bryan Lee, CEO, Krishi Star
Like eKutir and Krishi Star, there many other agriculture startups viz, Cattlemettle, Oorja and Under The Mango Tree, innovating and finding long-term solutions to the problems at hand. ( I shall feature them soon 🙂 ) The farmers don’t need relief. What they really need are answers and alternatives to improve on what they are good at.
References for Figures and Statistics: