Enhanced focus on last mile for marginalised farmers is key

Enhanced focus on last mile for marginalised farmers is key

Fri, Feb 03 2023 16:00:00 PM

Palat Vijayaraghavan
The slew of good news for the agriculture sector is increasing day by day. The enhancement by 11% in allocation for agriculture credit to Rs 20 lakh crore, announced by Union Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Seetharaman, during her Budget speech, will have a wide ranging positive impact on the lives of farmers.

Parallel during the last year we have been witnessing the sharp focus on private funds being pumped into the agricultural sector. The sector is gearing up neat and square and it’s time we push forward our efforts on the momentum which is being built.

The most critical aspect of this large and complex canvas is the lives of marginalised farmers. They don’t own land, manage to eke out a living on leased tract of land, usually half an acre, and trudge along. We need to get all our combined wealth of knowledge and efficiency, along with all available resources and dovetail, to make the lives of these marginalised farmers better. After all, 85% of the farmers are in the bracket which own less than two acres of land.

Another important cog in this whole puzzle is how we can mainstream financial services to the agriculture sector. It is high time we bring a slew of organised financial services to the marginalised farmers which can bring about significant improvements to the livelihoods of the marginalised farmers. There is pain for the marginalized farmer in each step. Right from soil preparation to choosing the various inputs for better cultivation of the crops and till the last mile of liquidating the harvest, the farmer’s lifecycle is under strain.

Given the fact there is no authenticated trail of transactions, the process of securing organized financial offerings is tough. We need to work sharply on making the farmers credit worthy to wean them away from prohibitively high cost of unorganised financing. There are many options available for farmers to access finance. In various situations, one does not know whether the funding is being put to effective use for agriculture or for some other purposes. The model we need for further innovations is that which ensures that the support we bring to the marginalised farmers, is actually put to use for the purpose it is intended for, which is agriculture.

The added support which the Union Budget gives to the sector is that of the Agriculture Accelerator Fund to spur innovations in the ecosystem. We need to drive transparency through technology platforms which brings in complete visibility and makes the farmers credit-worthy for organized financial services. The intervention through partnership with a wide range of NBFCs and banks, opens new doors for farmers and empowers them to lead their lives with dignity.

To handhold the farmers and for efficient use of organised and cost-effective financial support, we need corporates to closely work with farmers with a scientific data driven approach. We should ensure that they use only the right amount of crop protection and crop nutrition products, and this step will ensure that the harvest is Safe-To-Consume without overdose of chemical enhancements.

There are a lot of contributions which organised sector can bring for the benefit of the farmers and uplift the sector. There is an immense knowledge base and capabilities in the organised sector. However, these capabilities, which can be transformational, are not reaching the farmers enough. We should comprehensively address this gap for the benefit of the farmers and consumers.