Collective agricultural and agro-processing models: A new pathway for agricultural intensification and rural cottage industries, Kolkata, India

Date(s) - 12/04/2022
12:00 am

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Rita Bhagat and Jharana Barman Karjee, leaders from the collectives in Alipurduar and Cooch Behar district respectively (West Bengal), share their experiences of the pilot research.

AGRUMIG steering group member, Fraser Sugden, was involved in the co-organisation of a workshop in Kolkata to explore the opportunities for collective agricultural systems to support farmers in coping with the agrarian stress which both drives and is further aggravated by migration. Farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, in particular West Bengal, Bihar and the lowland belt of Nepal, are facing a multi-layered crisis due to the combined pressures of a climate emergency, weak bargaining power, rising costs and most importantly, persisting inequalities in land and assets. This is consolidating migration as an important livelihood strategy. However, migration creates further challenges for farmers who stay behind, including labour shortages, and these are borne disproportionately by women. Land inequality was itself raised during stakeholder dialogue in Nepal as a critical barrier to harnessing remittances for agrarian growth at home.

Farmer collectives, whereby small groups of women pool land, labour and technology offer an exciting opportunity to both overcome land inequality and migration induced labour shortages. They provide a contiguous plot which overcome scale constraints to investment for smaller farmers, while high value technology costs can be shared. They facilitate a much more efficient use of labour, helping rural women overcome the labour shortages brought about by migration.

The purpose of this workshop was to disseminate the findings of research over the last 7 years and collect feedback from experts from relevant line agencies and development actors on the collective models themselves, their role in promoting climate smart agriculture and more resilient livelihoods amongst marginal and tenant women farmers, while opening up new opportunities to add value to agricultural produce through agro-processing. It was attended by members AGRUMIG’s working group in Nepal, and offered a valuable opportunity to look outside of the box when considering interventions to support communities experiencing high levels of out-migration.

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