Out of the 1.2 Billion people living in India, 90 Million families are engaged in agriculture. Apani Sahakari Sewa Samiti, Milaap’s partner in Jaipur district lends to a majority of agricultural borrowers. Given to which, it partnered with National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) since April 2017 to promote NABARD’s unique Umbrella Program Natural Resource Management (UPNRM) program in rural Rajasthan. The program promotes Organic Farming in the wake of a chemical driven green revolution in rural Rajasthan. The program is now running successfully in over 6-7 villages like Jharla, Mandaliya Naveen, Ladana, Hatheli and Bhojpura of Jaipur district.
Why Apani? One would ask. To engage on the grass root level with the farmers NABARD needs a local approach and appeal; straight into a farmer’s mind. Due to the gigantic number of its agricultural borrowers and the seal of trust with which each Self Help Group(SHG) is formed and reared for years Apani Sahakari Sewa Samiti was of course the first choice. A compelling team of 30 determined field officers keeping near personal relations with each member of the SHG, there’s no denying the extent of approach of the organisation to gauge the actual impact of government schemes in reality.
Under this scheme NABARD has a target of providing 100 farmers with sustainable means of income from animal husbandry and agriculture and ridding poverty among the rural poor. While NABARD provides instruments and tools necessary to make organic farming a reality, it also provides separate budget for holding trainings every month. As a fellow I happen to be able to attend one such training wherein I learnt a great deal about Vermicomposting and benefits of using ‘AZOLLA’ to fulfil the protein requirement of the cattle and then using the cow dung to make natural fertilizers, hence making organic farming possible. Under this program, NABARD also insures the cattle, covering for the loss of life, in such an expensive investment for the rural poor.
Despite the best efforts, only a handful of farmers have opted for this scheme, given to their reservations about organic produce and the investment needed. They are sceptical of the quality over quantity ratio as they have no insight into the urban market, which is booming with organic produce now. Familiar to using HYV seeds and almost no source of irrigation or mechanisation, Jaipur district is hard hit, every time rains are even a little late. The Kharif crop such as Moong usually suffers like this year, and so do the farmers.
Does Apani provide any relaxation according to the defaulters, in case the crop fails or doesn’t fare well? Of course, the defaulters at Apani are not prosecuted in any way until the instalment is not paid continuously for 3 months. Farmers hit with drought or riddled with loans are treated with much humility and understanding and while maintaining a recovery rate of 98%. There is also extended seasonal relaxation to farmers, who are expected to pay when they cultivate the crop as per their convenience. While half the country is riddled with agrarian crisis, Apani’s initiatives provide the much needed ray of hope in agricultural villages of Jaipur, despite facing grave hardships for each Rupee that is earned or spent.