Laxman Chaundi, a farmer in Akoladev village in Jalna district of Marathwada, had adopted the group farming model to beat the higher investments and low returns. He is a relieved man now, with his chilli cultivation on half acre of land earning him Rs 2.5 lakh. “Agriculture department officials helped us with shednet. The protected crop cultivation technology was imparted to us by agriculture experts. We followed their instructions, and got good results. The production was higher and also the quality of chilli was better.”
After watching the positive outcome, the government has decided to extend the model to most vulnerable segments of the farming community — especially those in drought-prone districts with small and marginal landholding. The state has decided to bring 44 lakh farmers, who are debt ridden, poor with small and marginal landholding, under the group farming model. The move aims to make these farmers financially reliant in next two years.
The group farming model was announced during the Budget Session of March 2017. In July, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gave the cabinet approval for the project. The pilot project was launched in two worst drought-hit districts of Osmanabad and Yavatmal. Simultaneously, several villages replicated the model with the help of government officials in their respective districts.
The statistics provided by government officials show the farmers’ response to the project was positive, with 1,200 groups set up covering 40,762 farmers. However, the officials reckon that bringing 44 lakh farmers under group farming would require greater efforts both in terms of logistics and financial support. In group farming, the district agriculture officials often play an important role in guiding the farmers on technological know-how and crop patterns.
Group farming has become inevitable in Maharashtra as 78 per cent farmers have small and marginal landholding. There are 1.36 crore farmers in the state. Of them, 44 lakh are debt-ridden and have been out of the institutional credit system for the last five to seven years. The state government’s loan waiver scheme will help these 44 lakh farmers. But the larger question debated in the meetings to address agrarian crisis was how to financially strengthen these farmers.