Bangalore: To improve rural livelihoods of small and marginal farming households, especially women farmers in the tribal regions of eastern states of the country, Walmart Foundation and PRADAN today announced the implementation of the ‘PROWFIT’ project. PROWFIT, that stands for the ‘prowess of organized resources & women-farmers for transforming FPOs into independent institutions’, intends to support 60 women-led Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) over a period of 30 months.
The project will be supported by a grant of $2 million from the Walmart Foundation, and will aim to empower nearly 120,000 women to create viable smallholder businesses with a total cumulative annual turnover of $32 million. As part of the project, the FPOs will receive assistance to develop business plans, build necessary systems and processes, and implement governance systems for their ventures. In addition, they will also be provided technology and financial support through access to service partners and linkages with relevant national or state government programs to avail complementary aid. For example, under the Government of India Scheme ‘Formation and Promotion of 10,000 FPOs’, 29 FPOs from the project will be able to benefit with access to improved technology, credit, better input, and more markets to enhance quality and value realization of their produce.
PROWFIT builds off PRADAN’s previous project ‘LEAP’ (Livelihoods Enhancement through market Access and Women Empowerment). LEAP, a two-year project, was supported by $1.9 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. This project impacted the livelihoods of 45,000 smallholder women farmers across Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. The program focused on creating opportunities for women smallholder farmers (SHFs) to build capabilities to sustainably double their income over a four-year period, with a goal to take them irreversibly above the poverty line by establishing sustainable farm businesses. These women farmers were already mobilized into Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and collectivized into informal production clusters, to take up agriculture and allied activities through synchronized production and market interface. These informal producer collectives have since evolved into 13 formalized FPOs, and interventions to strengthen these institutions are underway.
While elaborating on the new grant, Julie Gehrki, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Walmart Foundation, said, “PRADAN’s projects like PROWFIT and LEAP align well with our efforts in India to strengthen FPOs by helping them increase volume, quality and sustainability of production, while building and deepening their connections to markets. The latest investment in PRADAN will expand reach to even more rural women, while also deepening impact through sustainable yield growth and through unlocking income sources.”
Muni Heprika, a woman belonging to the Kandha tribe in Odisha, joined Maa Gangeidevi Producer Group (PG) in 2021 which was a part of the Mahila Pragati Farmer Producers Company Limited, promoted under the LEAP project, to grow brinjals in the monsoon season.
“I had a sense that I was going to succeed with PRADAN’s help. They had already started arranging various trainings on nursery raising, crop care, how to protect crops from pest-attacks (IPM or Integrated Pest Management) and organic medicine preparation conducted under the LEAP project. Without the support from the FPO, it would never have been possible for me to take the plunge into brinjal cultivation and enhance my income”, shares Muni.
Avijit Choudhury, Integrator at PRADAN said, “Our work through the LEAP and PROWFIT projects is very significant, not only for creating the identity of marginalised, rural women as ‘women farmers’ but also helping establish them as business leaders and entrepreneurs, with the support extended to more than 60 women-led FPOs.”
As with LEAP, PROWFIT will also look to transform lives and livelihoods and create inspirational stories of empowerment and change. However, to maintain and grow the momentum created through social mobilization and the formation of economic groups like Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), efforts are required to ensure that these FPOs become self-sustaining business entities, who can interact and negotiate with various market actors, community institutions and the local administration on their own.