Value Addition

Small and marginal farmers constitute the farming majority. They are categorised as small producers. They are faced with diverse challenges. Invariably, these challenges impact their livelihoods. The typical challenges these farmers face include unpredictable climate as well as market challenges – consequently, they suffer crop failures and reduced farm incomes.

Generally, the strategies suggested to overcome these limitations are processing and value addition.Very often, this is stated simply. We need to recognise that it is not simple as it is believed to be.However, it does work well if efforts are put and certain basic principles are operationalized.

Some of the questions which come to mind include, how the farmers could be guided on technical and other aspects, how they could be guided to face the realities of inadequate working capital, the technical abilities and the scale required. Some of the lessons learnt by several agencies highlight the possible working strategies.

One of the key requirements is keeping the farmers in the centre while exploring options and strategies. To begin with, when interactions happen with farmer groups through Participatory Rural Appraisal and Focus Group Discussions, farmers do highlight lack of opportunities for storage, processing and value addition as one of the constraints they face in getting good returns on investments. (Anitha Kumari, p.32).

The first challenge faced is in identifying suitable produce – be it from seasonal crop, minor forest produce, horticulture crops like fruits.For instance, Sesamum was identified as a ‘niche crop’  and sesame oil as a viable product through a programme involving large number of women SHGs. Farmers experimented even in finalising the sesame variety they want to cultivate. The choice for right produce to invest in value addition is invariably backed by intensive study and assessment  of various factors. These include production practices, the skill sets available and gaps to be addressed and importantly, the existing or non-existing marketing practices, for a potential value added product.It could give raise to an emerging market demand like sanitiser which could be made from diversification of existing product range. (Yogranjan et al., p.15). It could be based on projected demand for nutri rich foods which could be prepared from minor forest produce through processing and value addition.When linked to sustainable livelihoods of tribal communities, in case of minor forest produce, the aim could not just be commercial viability but also fair pricing, improved shelf life and expanded livelihood opportunities. (Archana Bhatt and Vipin Das, p.21).

Simplicity of technologies is a key factor for easy adoption and acceptance. For instance, marketability of coconuts could be improved through identifying correct harvesting time. (Anitha Kumari.p32). Similarly, Central Agro-Forestry Research Institute (CAFRI) provided guidance on simple techniques for gum extraction, drying, and cleansing which included making more cuts and not the deeper cuts, and cleaning the bark before making cuts. These resulted in appreciable difference in the production and quality of gum. (Niraj Kumar et al.,p.11). A misconception that limits technology adoption is the notion that processing technologies require huge investment which prevents farmers in taking up processing operations. ICAR supported initiative inspired small farmers to take up litchi processing by convincing that their home (kitchen) could be their processing unit (Alemwati Pongener et al., P.11).

Training and skill development agencies play a critical and important role – firstly in understanding the current limitations as well as providing solutions to address them. For instance, this could be, the unhygienic collection and storage methods of Mahua flowers and fruits.(Yogranjan et al., p.15). The training is not just technical aspects alone. It includes guiding communities on importance of other key factors like quality, food safety regulations and market requirements and agri business. (Niraj Kumar et al., 11)

Scale is a very difficult challenge faced by small producers. Invariably, they struggle with required product volumes – be it in terms of allocation of land resources or to deal with markets.  Context specific strategies have to be evolved. There is no one perfect model fitting into all contexts. One way forward is through land consolidation– a very tough proposition involving diverse stakeholders. Similarly, another is systematic social organisation to enable intensive collectivisation. Both need patient and empathetic handling of communities by experienced agencies. For instance, land consolidation was achieved in Kerala through mutual agreement and consensus by consolidating in public places (temple premises, government office etc) as well as individual farmers plots to obtain a contiguous area of cultivation with a minimum of one to 2 acres, thus, making 250 ha of fallow lands productive.(Anitha Kumari, p.32). Led by vast experience of Srijan in social organisation, Women Producer Groups (WPG), were formed in each village. Respective SHGs continued to patronize WPGs and coordinated with other SHGs to establish village-level collection centers (VLCC) in each village. WPGs, in their respective meetings, agreed on a minimum price and quality of gum to be bought from the members. Members decided to distribute 50% of the total profit immediately among the members who have sold their gums to VLCC and keep 50% with the group to meet its expenditure. (Niraj Kumar et al., p.11)

In processing and value addition, with their natural abilities to organise themselves, if an opportunity is provided, women farmers take lead and emerge as experts. For instance, women farmers in Pathiyoor panchayat in Kerala, emerged as local experts in sesame cultivation, processing as well as effective farmer to farmer knowledge dissemination. (Anitha Kumari, p.32). Similarly, the women-led Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Madhya Pradesh were active in identifying women members, later were instrumental in emerging as Producer groups and collection centres while successfully dealing with scale and new markets. (Niraj Kumar et al., p.11)

Value addition and processing creates new hope for the youth who aspire to be entrepreneurs. Like every other place in the country, tilling and toiling in the fields is not an occupation today`s youth prefer to take up, and Sarovar`s son was no different. Within three years, the Sarovars have gone from being first time processors to sourcing litchi fruit from nearby growers to match their growth and ambition (Alemwati Pongener et al., p.11).

Emergence of Farmer Producer Organizations has created a new hope for the vast small holder majority. Value addition has been a proven strategy for many FPOs, to reduce post harvest losses as well as better incomes. There are several examples of such efforts from diverse contexts. Some of notable examples are banana in Meghalaya, fish in Tamil Nadu; Mangoes in UP.They offer many benefits to the farmers like increase bargaining power, enable better and easy access to inputs.(Ayyagari Ramlal et al., p.25).Some of the FPOs have created credible brands too which require multitude of competencies, preparation to sustain excellence backed by business acumen and strategies. For instance, Pathiyoor Farmers brand markets products like Virgin Coconut oil (VCO), turmeric powder,  sesamum oil etc. (Anita Kumari,p.32).

COVID pandemic has created several challenges for rural communities and farmer groups and FPOs. While adhering to protocols required they have to survive and succeed. The resilient farming communities are keeping the success of the sector alive by ensuring timely and adequate production. Indeed they are also the true warriors by ensuring timely and nutri rich foods battling all their usual challenges like climate, decreasing productivity, labour shortages, uncertain markets as well as life threatening pandemic.

Recently Published Articles


Farm Women - Breaking barriers Rural women traditionally have been entrepreneurial. Women as a part of their...


Farmer Producer Organisations Small holders face three major challenges – climate, markets and lack of suitable...


Women and Agroecology With growing rural to urban migration by men, there is ‘feminisation’ of agriculture sector,...


Call for articles

Share your valuable experience too

Share This