New $4 Million Project In India Links Rural Farmers to Urban Markets

Jan 21, 2010, 10:29 ET from Agribusiness Systems International

Agriculture-Business Support Aims to Double Indian Farmers' Incomes

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new $4 million Agribusiness Systems International (ASI) project aims to double the incomes of small-scale fruit and vegetable farmers in Uttar Pradesh, India -- including women -- using tested techniques that link rural farmers with various market outlets.

The three-year project, Sunhara India, which symbolically translates into "prosperous India" in Hindi, will provide a unique blend of farmer support and tailored outreach to women to meet specific marketing demands to increase farmers' competitiveness.

The goal: reduced poverty and increased food security in India's most populous state.

"India's flourishing middle class has a growing appetite for higher-quality fresh produce and processed foods -- demand that currently is outpacing supply in urban areas," says ASI President Bill Polidoro, who also is the chief operating officer of ACDI/VOCA of which ASI is an affiliate.  "If we can increase the productivity and reach of small farmers in poor, rural communities of Uttar Pradesh, we can use the urban markets to create incentives for farmers, bolster livelihoods and cut hunger in a way that reaps benefits for years to come."

ASI will implement the project through its two lead partners, the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) and BAIF Development Research Foundation.  IFFCO is known as one of the largest cooperative societies in the world, with a network of more than 55 million farmers in India, and BAIF brings the reputation of a nationwide nongovernmental organization that focuses on the empowerment of India's rural poor and women.

"Work with small farmers requires a two-pronged approach: improving food security to reduce vulnerability and increasing cash incomes to reach higher standards of living," says Girigh G. Sohani, BAIF president. "The latter can be effectively achieved through fruit and vegetable production, as well as by helping farmers move up the value chain and access various markets."

The project also will develop tailored outreach to women farmers to help ensure that the project benefits extend even further. Studies show that women are more likely than men to spend their income on their families' well-being, including more nutritious foods for their children and longer-term investments such as paying for school fees and health care.

"Helping small farmers access markets enables them to boost their incomes and improve their quality of life," says Tjada McKenna, a program officer in the Agricultural Development initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "The Sunhara India project will provide thousands of poor, rural farmers with the tools and knowledge to improve the quality of their crops and appeal to urban buyers."

Linking Local Farmers to Growing Markets

High demand for local, traditional and fresh produce provides an established marketing outlet for Indian farmers.  Based on recent developments and those planned for the future in India's primary urban markets, experts estimate that between 6,000 and 10,000 new supermarkets and specialty fresh produce shops will operate within the next five to eight years. That estimate implies that at least 1 million small-scale Indian farmers (working on an average of two hectares) will be needed to supply these retail outlets in the near future, according to ACDI/VOCA.

"The opportunity is tremendous," says Alex Pavlovic, Sunhara director in India. "But unless agricultural production practices for our farmers in rural areas change drastically to answer to specific marketing demands, we will not be able to see sufficient improvements in the lives of these people."

The project expects to stimulate substantial improvements in farm incomes through a targeted market approach, increased sales volume from reduced spoilage and waste, higher prices related to better information systems and higher-quality products, and reduced production costs. The project will build on the techniques and success of a previous ACDI/VOCA project in India, the USAID-funded Growth-Oriented Microenterprise Development project.

This grant is part of the foundation's Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain -- from seeds and soil to farm management and market access -- so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.

Project Snapshot

The Sunhara India project will invest $4 million over three years targeting 25,000 small farmers in Uttar Pradesh, including at least 20 percent women farmers. The project is based on three strategies to address farmers' constraints and leverage market opportunities:

  1. Farmer Outreach will increase farmer productivity and income using improved production and post-harvest practices tailored to end-market requirements.
  2. Business Linkages will develop more efficient and profitable marketing models using a variety of distribution channels.
  3. Women of Substance will attempt to address gender inequality in income distribution by providing women with better information, and access to finance and technology to create alternative sources of women-managed income through the processing of fruits and vegetables.

For more information, please visit the ASI and ACDI/VOCA websites, and

Founded in 1993, ASI provides tailored, market-oriented consultancy services and training to the private business and donor communities worldwide to create increasingly competitive and dynamic agribusiness industries. ASI facilitates socially responsible business innovation, investment opportunities and financial access to promote sustainable economic growth. ASI offers wide-ranging expertise, a record of achievement and a flexible structure oriented to private-sector agribusiness initiatives.

ASI is an affiliate of ACDI/VOCA and draws from that organization's more than 45-year history of expanding economic opportunities in 145 developing and transitional nations.

SOURCE Agribusiness Systems International