Centre for Collective Development

Making 100 million small farmers prosperous

Lead Organization

Centre for Collective Development

Hyderabad, Telangana, India


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Project Summary

The World Bank estimates that there are 500 million small farms. Most live on less than $2 a day. In India there are over 100 million farms with degrading soil, a depleting water table, erratic rainfall, rising input costs and stagnant farmgate prices. The 86 million small farms also have high debt, no market access, and little or no irrigation.We have promoted farmer coops using principles of the International Cooperative Alliance since 2004. Sound business practices and value added branded products ensure sustainable profits. The soil and water problems mentioned earlier are solved using strength of numbers. We want to scale to 100 million non-dairy farmers, learning from the scale achieved in India for dairy farmers. But that will go beyond this project.Our intervention raises incomes by 100%, revives small farms, eliminates debt and suicides, and mainstreams marginalized people.

Problem Statement

Our aim is to create impact on small farmers in India and around the world, most of whom are poor. Reasons for the problem include (i) those intrinsic to small farms (ii) the natural environment and (iii) local market and economics. Small farms are largely not irrigated, rainfall is increasingly erratic, yields are low, prices are volatile and costs of farm inputs are rising. They often get into debt after a crop failure at high interest rates. Over exploitation of ground water has drastically lowered the water table, and overuse of chemical fertilizers has caused soil degeneration. Each farmer on average has less than a ton or two of produce which he/she sells to exploitative traders and don’t even realize the harvest price which is anyway low.The smallest change with the greatest impact is to aggregate the produce of all farmers and hold it till prices rise – which happens every year. This needs physical storage, working capital and ability to market at the right time in the right place. Two other big ticket changes are (i) to improve the soil and water situation as yields go up and net incomes more than double, (ii) lowering input costs by almost 50% through sustainable farming practices. Food processing, and value addition adds more value. Establishing consumer brands makes it sustainable in the long run as coops in India and around the world have demonstrated.

Solution Overview

The coops we establish raise incomes by more than 70%, lower input costs, improve water availability on farms, reduce risks and restore degraded soils. Small farmers get out of debt and accumulate savings instead. We use three metrics to measure progress (i.) increase in number of farmers enrolled, (ii) rise in net incomes, (iii) cost. This means that for every dollar spent, there is more than a dollar in benefits on a sustainable long term basis. If we are on target on these three we are making progress. We hope to enroll a million farmers by the end of 5 years and be in a position to reach the 100 million we aspire for after that. It will have a broad impact around India. We would have created long lasting sustainable brand(s) for value added food products and also established profitable coops. We expect that this will change the ecosystem around the country- specifically how consumers relate to farmers, greater transparency and information in markets, and influence the agriculture and Banking sector to come up with suitable products and services. Governments have already started taking note of our work. Small farmers, marginalized communities as well as other farmers will benefit, it will create local employment, create local wealth. If all goes well, we expect per capital incomes to increase by more than 100%, and be sustainable in the long run. We expect extra incomes to be about $200 million by the end of this project year on year.

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Project Funders

  • Ford Foundation 2008 - 2014
  • Infosys Foundation 2014 - 2018
  • Axis Bank Foundation 2011 - 2015

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