The state government launched an ambitious project – State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) – in 10,000 villages with an objective to achieve sustainable farming within the next three years.
The project, which is being undertaken on a mammoth scale, will cover almost one-fourth of Maharashtra. The state has 40,913 villages. The focus is clearly on villages which are reeling under the worst agriculture crisis compounded by lack of infrastructure and assured value chains to channelise the farm produce.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis launched the project, which was followed by signing of 50 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) between big corporates and farmers producer groups.
The project SMART will be assisted by the World Bank. Amongst the corporate houses which have pledged support and signed MoUs include Reliance Retail, Amazon, Walmart, Mahindra Agro, Pepsico, Tata Rallis, Big Basket, Patanjali, Tata Chemical, Happy Roots, Mera Kisan, Way Cool and others.
The objective of the project is to create and support the value chains in post-harvest segments of agriculture, facilitate agribusiness investment, stimulate SMEs within the value chain, support resilient agriculture production systems, expand access to new and organised markets for producers and enhance private sector participation in the agribusiness.
Fadnavis said, “The project is a giant step towards transformation of rural economy and empowerment of the farmers. The government is committed to sustainable agriculture. The aim is to ensure higher production of crops and create robust market mechanism to enable farmers to reap higher remunerations for the yield.”
While explaining the model of public-private partnership to develop agriculture, the chief minister said, “The welfare of the farmers is integral to the rural economy. The farmers will play an important role in the project. This project unites agriculture-oriented corporates and farmers by providing them a common platform. Through this meaningful partnership change will emerge across rural as well as livelihood of farmers across the state.”
The project, which will be implemented in 10,000 villages comprising 10,000 gram panchayats which were shortlisted by the state government based on multiple parameters of socio-economic backwardness in terms of development and growth.
World Bank country director Ahmad Junaid said, “We are glad to be partners with Maharashtra. The farmers are the backbone of any state or country. We will provide funds and full support for the project which relates to farmers prosperity, food security.”
Walmart India president and chief executive officer Krish Iyer said, “We have signed 15 MoUs with the government. We have identified eight cities. Currently, we operate in Auranagabad and Amravati. The expansion and investments in agri-food business will lead to generation of 30,000 to 35,000 jobs.”
The agriculture reforms, which have always been central to the state government, had begun with anti-drought mitigation reforms four years ago. The government had launched flagship project, jalyukt shivar. Almost five lakh water conservation projects have been completed under the jalyukt shivar in 16,480 villages. The target is to cover 25,000 villages.