Increased certainty for smallholders in India
On the road for Rabobank Foundation
By Matthijs van Dijk
In early 2017 my partner Linda Heerink and I had the opportunity of visiting various projects in India for the Rabobank Foundation and making a photo reportage. So it was that we found ourselves with camera, pen and paper in a field in the interior of Madhya Pradesh.
In this Indian state some 225,000 farmers are affiliated to Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs). These cooperatives help farmers to access high-quality seed and pesticides and ensure that they gain a good price for their crops. The cooperatives’ main aim is to boost the income of these smallholders and marginal farmers.
Economies of scale
To further improve the utilization of economies of scale offered by the individual producer organizations, Rabobank Foundation teamed up with local partner ASA in 2014 to set up an umbrella body. Its principal objective is to boost the effectiveness of the affiliated cooperatives. Thanks to support in the areas of IT infrastructure and the appointment of professionals, the Madhya Bharat Consortium of Farmer Producers Company Limited (MBCFPCL) started operations at end-2014 with 67 FPCs.
During our visit to Madhya Pradesh we met many different farmers. Some of them were members of the Khonds tribal community. These smallholders grow mainly rice and millet on fields smaller than two acres. The farming families work hard to keep their heads above water and because of the arid conditions harvests fail more often than not. That’s why these farmers are a needy target group for whom support can make all the difference. The farmers all told me that their membership of an FPC had brought many benefits. Not only have they boosted their technical farming expertise, they’ve also doubled their incomes. For farmer Santosh that means his dream of building a real cement house for his family has come a step closer, for now he still lives with eleven family members in a mud hut.
Between the mud huts
Wandering between the mud huts in the village we soaked up many impressions and sought to translate these into a photographic reportage. It was an engaging challenge, as we were reliant on a translator, which made it difficult to capture the emotions of the people. As expected the farmers were quite reserved. Linda and I found ourselves in photogenic surroundings where – after some persuading – I was able to take some fine photographs of the farmers. Thanks to the fantastic cooperation of the local partners we were able to do a good job.
On a personal level I was inspired by the way in which the cooperatives create a united front of farmers, based on the norms and values of their tribal background. It’s impressive to see the way in which Rabobank Foundation contributes to increased security for marginalized farmers deep in the Indian interior. What’s more I have benefited from an unbelievably rich experience that has afforded me much inspiration for the future.
Mathijs van Dijk worked for Rabobank Nederland from early 2013 through to end-2016, initially for IT Nederland and in the last few months as project manager for Rabobank Foundation. In late 2016 he shifted his area of focus and now works through Met Mathijs for social enterprises.