Creating inclusive markets for farmers through sustainable agriculture: Learning from Dharani FaM Coop Ltd

Joseph Satish V, C Shambu Prasad


In 2006, Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, India was identified as one of the 31 distressed districts with increasing agriculture related suicides. With close to 90% of all farmers in Anantapur being small and marginal and 80% of the district’s rural workforce engaged in agriculture related activities, it was evident that the inclusive growth policies of the State had not yet reached the people who needed it the most. To add to the complexity, inadequate policy planning led to the introduction of unsustainable farming practices not favourable to the region. Subsidies for planting cash crops which do not suit the soil and rain conditions and for using fertilizers have led to a drastic reduction of area under food crops since the 1960s with uncertain yields of cash crops as well.

Identifying that inclusive growth of the farmers can only be achieved by adopting sustainable agricultural practices, Timbaktu Collective, a voluntary organization working in the region since the early 1990s, assisted these farmers through organic farming and strategic market intervention. The Collective helped the farmers organize themselves into an enterprise called the Dharani Farming and Marketing Mutually Aided Cooperative Society Ltd., in 2008 to procure, process and market the farmermembers’ produce. While the primary objective of Dharani was to enhance the food and livelihood security of smallholder farmer families, it has managed to do this by promoting a market oriented yet organic value chain.

This paper tracks the story of how these farmers have adopted sustainable organic agropractices and innovative marketing approaches to regenerate their own livelihoods through inclusive engagement in the markets.

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