Across India, small-scale producers (SSPs) lack information and agency to access and negotiate competitive market prices, often receiving as little as 25% of their crops’ final sales price. Gender inequalities around literacy, digital confidence, access, and ownership of information widens the gap further, limiting their potential to build sustainable and resilient livelihoods. This divide only becomes more nuanced and exacerbated within tribal communities and tribal women in particular. Tribal majority areas have the highest poverty levels in the country as livelihoods depend on forests, agriculture, livestock, and wage labor. There has been a major push, supported by the Department of Agriculture and led by the Small Farmer Agri-Business Consortium, and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), to aggregate individual SSPs to FPOs and Farmer Producer Groups to unlock the benefits of group purchases and sales to improve livelihoods. Women-focused and gender-segregated farmer producer groups, in particular, can empower women’s agency, decision-making abilities, and bargaining power thereby increasing income and reducing gender inequities.
On 26th August 2021, Digital Green signed an MoU with Jharkhand State Livelihoods Promotion Society (JSLPS) to jointly implement the ATLAS (Advancing Tribal Livelihoods and Self-reliance) project in the state of Jharkhand over the next 18 months. This project will enhance the capacity, resilience, and self-determination of over 50,000+ tribal women farmers to help improve productivity, understand market value chains, and improve livelihoods.
Digital Green has been working in partnership with JSLPS since 2014 to introduce and institutionalize the ICT-enabled community-based approach with audio-visual extension in over 15 districts across the state. Over the years, Digital Green has successfully integrated the video-based extension – training over 1500 FLWs on video dissemination and facilitation, and 4 teams on community video production module and production support to develop 60+ community videos. Some thematic support areas have included sustainable agriculture best practices, technical knowledge on over 30 crops and practices, including a handbook CMSA (Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture) practices, and an NPM-based (Non-pesticidal management) annual crop calendar.
On this partnership, Krishnan Pallassana, Country Director India at Digital Green stated – “Agency and leadership of women farmers is critical to build resilience and sustainability in agriculture. Our partnership with JSLPS, based on our shared vision, will pilot and deliver digital innovations and solutions to empower tribal women farmers.”
ATLAS pairs scalable, high-quality agricultural and post-harvest advisory services and coaching with a mobile application – Kisan Diary Enterprise, an intuitive digital tool that enables transparent data sharing to improve FPO performance and support buyer discovery and aggregation of commodities for sale. These digital advisories on select commodities targeting tribal women farmers will equip them with information to meet market demands. This project will build the capacities of frontline extension agents on video production, and dissemination – our proven community video approach will help women get access to information needed to prepare their harvests and forest products. Further, FPO interventions and leadership capacity building will enhance their skills to manage group dynamics and confidently navigate market opportunities to improve collective sales by tribal women.
Ms Nancy Sahay, IAS, CEO of JSLPS concluded – “JSLPS team is grateful to Digital Green for their support in enhancing the capacity of our women farmers and helping them earn a better livelihood. We look forward to a fruitful engagement with them in the coming days.”
This project is generously funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of an initiative to support racial and ethnic justice globally. Digital Green implements this project with the support of various state and district-level agencies.