Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rural rejuvenation- let’s take the challenge

Taking stock - What is happening to village life?
The Indian villages, particularly, the rural youth are struggling to come to terms with the fast changing socio-economic reality of today’s India.  Urbanisation, migration, value conflicts and changing life styles are driving youth of today. In this context and village youth are left with two options:

Option-1Stay back in the villages and live in a chaotic atmosphere amidst poverty with no hope of dignified living. Be a potential target to be recruited by local political hooligans to serve their own cause and live with complete erosion of self dignity and self worth and struggle day and night to make both ends meet. Watch the idiot box and get worked up on what you think is missing in your life day in and day out and with a sense of deprivation all around. 


Option-2Migrate to the cities and live in most unhealthy atmosphere. Take to crime if need be. Be the cleaners, drivers, chaprasi, house maids, construction workers and what not and with no hope or skill to match their well educated and skilled city counterparts in wealth or lifestyle and same time bring back all kinds of diseases and problems to villages. Obviously a recipe for fatalism to set-in
Most of them seem to choose the second option!

The Result
Old Parents are left behind with nobody to care at times of need.  Agriculture is getting abandoned. Fertile fields are getting fallowed. There is food shortage everywhere. Government policies are not encouraging to work hard and earn livelihoods in villages. There is complete failure of the government extension mechanism to make agriculture based vocations attractive to village youth. Agriculture appears to be the last option if they can think of an alternative.

Agriculture continues to be a big gamble.  The money earmarked for agriculture development gets systematically siphoned off. Administrative decentralisation, with its lofty ideals notwithstanding, has helped only breed corruption in villages. Villages are divided on lines of caste and political affiliations making villages most wretched places to live.

Thanks to the poor educational standards, village youth cannot compete with their city counterparts. With their exposure to the outside world, they are also in no mood to return to agriculture with the perceived notion of drudgery and uncertainty associated with it.

The semi-monetised village economy cannot be allowed for long to struggle and coexist with fully monetised urban economy. This will annihilate the rural economy and livelihoods. This will be a too big a price to pay in the long run. Farmers subsidise food production through their unaccounted and cheap labour and other resources. The family labour is never counted. Agriculture prices (even the support prices) are not fixed based on cost of production. What a shame!

There is talk of open market mechanisms to encourage better competition within and outside the country. However, time and again agriculture prices get squeezed on one pretext or the other. Exports get banned, imports get subsidized to suit the popular mood in the country. If the onion prices go up, the parliament comes down. However, if a doctor charges a hefty fee in the name of consultation, medicine prices go up, a shirt gets sold at Rs 2000, nobody seems to notice. Farmers have no choice but to pay the market prices for whatever they want to buy such as books, soaps, tooth paste, medical expenses, clothes, shoes etc. Pricing mechanism for agriculture produce is in shambles. Even after so many advances in technology, farmers have to depend on the ubiquitous middle men for their favor to sell whatever is produced in the villages. There is very little regulation in the so called regulated markets.

Our own sons and daughters work for MNCs to device innovative and aggressive marketing strategies to exploit the villagers. Media plays along. Consequently, village shops are flooded with gutkha packets in attractive strips. Shampoos get sold in such attractive packages as if nothing else is missing in their lives. There are daily innovations to sell what is not needed in the villages, and not to speak if the liquor stream that flows in every village to feed the coffers of the Govt treasuries.

There is cynicism all around. Villagers have lost confidence on the government and outsiders. Worst still, they have lost confidence in themselves. There is callousness everywhere. A sense of despair prevails.  I am sure this is not the picture of the resurgent India that all of us hope for.

Beyond just a thought, can we do something in this regard?

Yes, a lot can happen if we mind.

The first things first
Let the villages become livable and create an atmosphere of dignified living for the deserving among the villagers. Let us create remunerative self employment opportunities and wean the villagers away from the money lenders, micro-finance sharks, SHG traps and mundy wallahs.

Attract the educated and the brightest back to villages with all their skills and dreams. Assist them to promote rural entrepreneurship to generate wealth in villages. Improve the local schooling standards and provide affordable health care facilities.

It is time that we realise that true wealth creation is possible only in agriculture sector. This wealth is not just paper money or the share certificates which do not have any intrinsic value.  A millionaire share holder can bite the dust the next day. We have seen the world over. True wealth creation is neither the balloon created out of share market boom nor public money is infused in billions to keep sick public sector undertakings, what a pity! It is time we realise that true wealth can come from only agriculture, year after year for ever.

It is time that agriculture is taken out of the mercy largesse of years of misguided policy directive. Let us provide the level playing field for the young and motivated farmers to prove their mettle.  What works for the cities and industry can also work for the villagers. They also need enough and timely infusion of fair priced capital, latest technology, skill up-gradation & market access. If this has not happened so far, it can only be termed as criminal neglect and the price to be paid for the same will be unthinkable. Let us wake up and take notice, and, take the lead.

Key to achieve this is to ensure that agriculture produce is not sold as raw material. Systems and infrastructure needs to be developed for aggregation and value addition at the point of production of the raw material. Simultaneously we need to build the skill level of local educated youth. Banks should be made accessible to farmers. Unwanted and non productive credit should be discouraged. Debt traps should be carefully avoided.

There is urgent need for infusing management expertise to manage agriculture sector. It will be too costly for the country to leave this important sector to the mercy of Government extension mechanism.

Let us take the challenge:
We at Akshayakalpa have taken a challenge to set up a replicable and economically viable rural entrepreneurship models and we invite you to join us in this exiting journey

The objective is to design an entrepreneurship model for the villagers by elevating the subsistence farming to an enterprise level and demonstrate that there is enough wealth to be created and owned by the farmer-entrepreneurs. Simultaneously we plan to build-in social and family value systems to enable the farming community to live in dignity and in harmony with nature.

We have initiated a bold experiment in an area of 30 KM around Tiptur in Tumkur District and Hassan districts in Karnataka. The new model will be demonstrated in dairy sector. This should be replicable across all the agriculture sectors as we go along.

To start with we plan to engage 300 farmers to set up integrated organic dairy farms to produce 300 litres of milk per day from each farm. The salient features of the proposal are as follows:

Farmers with 5 acres of land and water source are selected in the first phase. The selected families should be willing to stay on the farm and operate the farm preferably with the family labour. Only two persons are required for the complete farm operations as optimum automation will be achieved with the state of the art technology being employed on the farm. They need not lease out or hand over the land to anybody.

They will be assisted to obtain a bank loan to set up a fully automated dairy farm of 25 cows with latest IT integration to enable scientific management of the farms. About 6 banks will be participating in this unique venture to assist farmers to realise their dreams.

Each farm will be having fully automated milking system, automated chilling systems, ultramodern and environment friendly shed to ensure maximum cow comfort, a biogas plant, and biogas based generator, a bio-digester, sprinkler system, fodder harvester, fodder chopper and other mechanization options. Cow dung slurry filtrate will be distributed to the entire garden through sprinkler system there by reducing the drudgery involved in dung management.

Milking systems are integrated with sensors for measuring cow temperature, mastitis status, milk volume and the data so gathered gets automatically reported to the central office for veterinarians to act immediately.

Milk will be chilled to 4 degrees on the farm to avoid any bacterial growth.

All the family members will be trained in all aspects of managing the automated farms.

Animals are fed only the green fodders produced on the farm. Grass is grown only with organic manures. No artificial feeds and urea are allowed to be fed. No hormones are used in cow treatment. Milk so produced will be purely organic and will be rich in omega 3 fatty acids and very safe for growing children.

The dung produced on the farm will be approx 500 to 750 KGs/day. This will be very good manure for the coconut gardens. The coconut yield will jump from 50 nuts per tree per year to approx 250 nuts per tree as the cow dung will be applied as liquid manure on daily basis.

Milk will be lifted from the farm gate for further processing and value addition.\

The entire operations will be backed by a central team of veterinarians, fodder experts, service engineers and extension personnel. There will be 24/7 veterinary care facilities provided. Health of the individual animals will be remotely monitored.

A group of 9 IT engineers who  quit WIPRO are providing the end to end automation support for the venture.

Farmers will not buy any external inputs and the net earning per farmer will be approx Rs 50000 per month when the farms are fully functional.

What do we expect as an outcome?
The earning of farmers per month will not be less than any other high ended professional in the cities. They can send their children to best of the schools. They can afford a better health care for their parents. Complete family can be insured and health care can be sought form the best of the hospitals in the country. They can live in better houses and can afford better conveyance.  They can also afford leisure and will be able to travel far and wide.

More important, farmers will become creditworthy. Their status in society will improve. Inferiority complex will disappear. Sense of deprivation will not be there anymore.  Hopefully, there will be reverse migration of youth from cities to rediscover their fortunes in the villages.

Now, what are the pitfalls? It is likely that the new found wealth can mislead the youth to tread unwanted path. They may get addicted to social evils. Hence special training programmes are devised to ensure the youth are properly guided and hand held to ensure their new found wealth is not squandered away. They will be taught the need for savings and investments to build the rural economy. They should be able to wisely invest their money in similar farm related ventures to go to the nest level of rural entrepreneurship. There will be regular family gatherings and family counselling to build a new and rigorous village society which will be more liveable.

Can you identify and recommend the deserving families who can be included under this unique programme?

More important, what do we expect from you?
You can play a very critical and important role in this mission for rural rejuvenation

How can you help?
You can identify and recommend deserving families who can be included in this unique programme.
Currently we are operating 30 KMS in and around Tiptur, Karnataka
  • We are approaching you hoping that you hail from in and around Tiptur or you have friends and relatives in this area. Can you identify and recommend the deserving families who can be included under this unique programme? You can personally brief them on the concept and provide us the contact details. They should be located within 30 KM from Tiptur.
  • On hearing from you, we will approach such families and register them for the programme. If they are found to meet all our requirements, they will be invited for intensive training programme to train them on the new approaches and technologies. We will establish bank linkages for them following all the banking norms of leading banks in the area.
  • You will be doing a great service to initiate this unique movement in farming which will have a far reaching effect on the Indian agriculture. Dairy is only a starting point and we plan to extend the system to cover other sectors of agriculture.

Who are behind this movement?
We are a group of professionals with a common vision and common mission coming together to start this programme on professional lines. There are veterinarians, engineers, and management professional and extension officers associated with us either full time. The group is lead by Dr GNS Reddy based in Tiptur. 
For details, please contact Dr G.N.S.Reddy at, mobile: +91 9900092392 OR  Shashi Kumar at, mobile: +91 9845152359

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Agriculture Credit

plan to pen down comments on existing agriculture credit policies currently prevailing in India. This is based on the learnings from my existing assignment with Akshayakalpa Initiatives at Tiptur