Up Scaling through local entrepreneurs

J P Tripathi and Kirit Jessani

Technological interventions to be successful need to be supported with human resource development. AKRSPI adopted a model of preparing rural entrepreneurs in handling and maintaining water saving devices towards conserving ground water.

Junagadh a coastal district of Gujarat is known for intensive agriculture practices, mainly cultivating water-intensive crops like groundnut. High pressure on groundwater resources has led to coastal salinity ingress and drinking water scarcity in parts of the area.

Micro Irrigation Systems (MIS) has many advantages for the region, be it water saving, which meant less draft from ground water resulting into improvement in ground water levels or financial gains for the farmers through increased production and reduced irrigation costs. However, the way the technology was implemented in the region could hardly help farmers to reap the intended benefits. MIS was highly subsidized by the government and was largely a target driven exercise for the private companies. The installation is not accompanied by training farmers in maintenance of the system. Elaborate procedures to acquire one system along with dependence on the company staff for maintenance were the factors that did not motivate farmers to adopt this system. The adoption rate was therefore very low.

AKRSP (I) Intervention

AKRSP(I)’s work in the semi-arid regions of Saurashtra, Gujarat had largely focused on water harvesting through percolation tanks, check-dams etc. Field experiences showed that with an increasing population there was no way that supply could always meet the growing demand. In most villages, farmers increased the area under irrigation after constructing water harvesting structures, and hence, water levels came down to the earlier levels. Salinity levels, which had come down, returned and in fact increased as extraction increased.

By 2000-01, the organisation felt that there was a need to focus on groundwater management as a whole rather than just promoting community managed water harvesting structures. In Junagadh district, where groundwater overuse was very high AKRSP(I) decided to pilot groundwater management with two objectives:

  • Revive the Meghal river, which had become dry,
  • Arrest salinity ingress along the coast in Mangrol Block, where groundwater overuse was leading to increased ingress annually.

With these objectives in mind, AKRSPI started working on groundwater management in 64 villages of Malia block in Junagadh district, which were part of the Meghal river basin.

Various options to reduce water use in agriculture were looked at. These included promoting crops that use less amount of water, appropriate agronomic practices and promoting the use of water use efficiency devices like drip and sprinklers. AKRSP(I) felt that farmers would be willing to explore options where the current agricultural income would remain the same or increase and where they could see an immediate result in terms of water saving and/or increased productivity. Research and field trials showed that the most substantial savings in water end use is through water efficiency devices like drip and sprinklers. It was well understood that mere use of such devices by farmers does not reduce groundwater extraction, as farmers use the water saved to irrigate larger areas and earn more income. The  idea was that with widespread adoption of drip and sprinkler on larger areas, there would be overall decline in ground water extraction.

 Alternative approach

AKRSP(I) reflected on the inherent weaknesses of the present approach and felt that the only hope for large-scale expansion of MIS was to identify an alternative low cost drip system which was user-friendly and a delivery mechanism that was sustainable. To achieve these objectives, AKRSPI collaborated with International Development Enterprise (IDE), an NGO which works on low cost technical solutions for the poor. IDE had been experimenting with low cost drips in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Though generally IDE promotes bucket and drum kit systems which are useful on small size garden or vegetable plots, AKRSPI was interested in systems that could be used on larger areas. Since AKRSP (I)’s main objective is groundwater management, it was interested in promoting this technology for large farm sizes and crops like groundnut, banana etc which are the main groundwater guzzlers in Junagadh. Therefore, AKRSP (I) adapted the approach with its own system of extension and financial support.

Micro tube based system, a more appropriate drip irrigation system was available with IDE. It was cost effective (Rs.12000- Rs.16000 per hectare), as compared to the government subsidized drip systems (Rs 40000/ hectare). More importantly it addressed the problem of salinity. The new system used material which was locally available and therefore was much cheaper. The system could be easily assembled by the local villagers, thus providing gainful employment to them. The system was user friendly and flexible and could be installed and maintained by farmers on their own.

 Promoting local entreprenuership

One of the extension volunteer was trained as an ‘assembler’ of drip systems. He became a key figure in expanding the adoption of drip irrigation. He earned good money, and soon became a model for others in the area. And, he also started employing fitters of the drip systems.

Promising local youth were selected as para-workers/ volunteers. The para workers were selected based on their zeal to grow along with their community and having good communications skills. They were trained on technological aspects of good entrepreneurship, customer service, etc. Frequent sharing sessions help them to update themselves on new technologies and kept their motivation levels high.

The Assembler/ Entrepreneur is a person with ‘Social commitment” which is generally found less in traditional local traders. The basic motivation for them is their development along with the community, growth in social-stature, and increased income potential.

Because the first assembler was a person of credibility, the technology could spread fast and farmers were willing to pilot the new technology. Thus “villager as an assembler/ entrepreneur” model, was a success.

 Initially, support to entrepreneurs establishing independent shops, was subsidized by AKRSP(I) over 4 years. Later it was decided to modify this to 2 years on the basis of the initial experience gained by the team.

The outreach has been very impressive with these local entrepreneurs. Previously, it took AKRSP(I) staff two years to reach out to about 200 farmers. Now the local entrepreneurs were reaching far more numbers in the first year itself.

Table 2: Number of farmers serviced by the entreprenuers

Year Item Mangrol Maliya Talala Veraval Keshod Total
2006 Sprinklers 520 450 0 970
Drip 160 95 255
Seed 200 70 270
Accessory 142 90 232
Organic Manure 200 100 300
2007 Sprinklers 392 325 100 817
Drip 168 144 10 322
Seed 210 111 30 351
Accessory 250 300 15 565
Organic Manure 145 30 50 225
2008 Sprinklers 39 225 70 140 210 684
Drip 190 120 3 70 6 389
Seed 310 198 90 45 20 663
Accessory 350 410 10 35 40 845
Organic Manure 150 30 20 11 15 226
Alternate Energy 35 35
Farm Forestry 20 30 60 110
Total 3446 2728 493 301 291 7259
Villages covered 69 60 20 40 30 219


As it is not possible for any entrepreneurs to grow with a single product, these entrepreneurs also have diversified services to customers based on the needs. Currently, they have dealerships of reputed manufacturers of MIS, seeds, pumps and harvesters. In addition, the entrepreneurs also supply organic manure and tree saplings to farmers.


Organizational Experiences show that after initial support for two years on shop rent, salaries and recurring expenses which comes roughly around Rs. 40000 – 55000/- per entrepreneur, on the other hand entrepreneurs are earning a net profit of more than Rs. 120000/-per annum; sufficient for sustaining himself and para-workers team. There is an increase in profits as the business grows.

As the para-workers are part of the local communities from villages where they work this model has enhanced the livelihood options of the communities. By this, supply of quality agricultural inputs is ensured along with dissemination of relevant information to the community.


The impacts have been many. In the last five years, around 7000 farm households have been enabled to access affordable and appropriate technology. The irrigated area increased by about 8000 acres. The staff time on travel was reduced as the village communities were able to promote and also manage these systems on their own.

Beyond the organizational advantages there are some additional and noteworthy impacts for the agriculture development of the region

  • New area under MIS
  • Increased area under winter cropping
  • Increased incomes of farmers
  • Water efficiency increased
  • Time and cost saving for the farmers
  • Local employment generation
  • Old idle MIS re-installed

Sustainability Factors

The model is sustainable for the following factors:

  • Enterprise once established generates its own funds through services provided to the farmers
  • Increasing trends among farmers for installation of MIS
  • Appropriate policy environment facilitating promotion of Micro-irrigation systems and also access to formal institutional forms of credit
  • Close monitoring and evaluation and live contacts will help in assessment and guiding the entrepreneurs
  • Farmers have easy access for repairs and maintenance of MIS 

This model has good potential of being replicated. Based on the success of this model, a number of such entrepreneur models in alternative energy, organic pesticide production etc., have evolved. Other factors  which are in favour of this model are

  • Low fund requirement; even banks can finance the businesses;
  • Highly qualified human resource nor required.
  • Use of drip and sprinkler is going to increase as ground water levels are depleting in most parts of the country. Hence this model directly or with modifications can do wonders for the programme.
  • Above all, this being a business model that is a viable model for service delivery to rural communities over the long term
  • Other companies working on MIS installation do not have appropriate post-installation services providing mechanism; these existing service gaps are being used to the advantage of the village entrepreneur model who provides follow-up maintenance.

Risks/challenges and Mitigation

There are some risks and challenges in scaling up this programme. There are also ways of overcoming them.

  • Our present entrepreneurs are doing major work with Gujarat Green Revolution Company scheme (a company established in 2005, to promote MIS, with components of Government subsidy and loans); any change in policies of GGRC will affect the annual turn over of the enterprise. Diversification of products is reducing this risk, and is an ongoing strategy and process
  • Change of National Policies on agriculture input can affect the programme, although this risk is low. AKRSPI is staying informed about the policy environment and will continue to support entrepreneurs to be informed and react accordingly. Diversification is also the mitigation strategy to reduce dependence of entrepreneurs on a single product.

With the promotion of the MIS, entrepreneurs in the above mention blocks of Junagadh district, coverage and acceptance of MIS has increased. Now, every season, one can see loads of pipes and sprinklers sets moving towards the villages. This model could see the light of the day as there was a basic shift in the approach of the programme “doing it to getting it done”. Being a market driven programme, it has the potential of growing much beyond the present levels, and over a period of time, market driven changes will help in further improvement and development of this model.


  • Oza A; Jasani K and Dungrani S, (2004): AKRSP(I)’s Experiences in promoting Micro Irrigation Devices in Saurashtra, Gujarat.
  • Sharma R S (2008): Study on Socio- Economic Impact of Drip Irrigation System on The Farmers of Junagadh District of Gujarat


J P Tripathi and Kirit Jessani

AKRSP(I), 9th Floor, Corporation House

Opp. Dinesh Hall, Ahmedabad

Email: angadu@akrspi.org

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