Farmer organisations are the cornerstone of scaling efforts of the SRFSI project in West Bengal

In a field visit to Malda, Coochbehar earlier in the month, Dr Kuhu Chatterjee from ACIAR SDIP saw first hand the progress being made through the development of farmer organisations in the district.

Scaling out of conservation agriculture based sustainable technologies has shown great promise in the state of West Bengal, India. In the northern districts of Coochbehar and Malda, approximately 40,000 farmers are using these technologies to improve production and enhance climate resilience. The key to this success are the Farmer’s Clubs and Organisations (FC, FO) supported and mentored by researchers from the Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya (UBKV) and the West Bengal State Department of Agriculture as part of the SRFSI project.

The Satmile Satish Club O Pathagar (SSCOP) has been designated as a training centre and promotion of Farmer Producer Organisations by the National bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD). During the last four years of the project they have developed from a social club to an NGO who offer a range of input services to the farmers including machinery, seeds, technical support and training. Recently they trained a group of farmers from Nepal in conservation agriculture-based technologies.

Whilst the larger and more established organisations like the SSCOP are developing very rapidly, there are also smaller FOs which are active and have the potential to grow. Bidyanandapur Sabuj Bahini Farmers’ Club (BSBC) in Malda has over 120 members and is actively involved in training and providing services for sustainable agricultural technologies to the farmers in their region. They have motivated women farmers to come in good numbers and get involved in non-conventional farming activities like driving machinery, using zero-till farming, poultry rearing and fisheries. They are also developing a training centre in their village so that groups of farmers from nearby areas can attend trainings. At the beginning of the SRFSI project, very few women farmers came out to participate and that has changed due to project interventions.

In Coochbehar, the Sabuj Mitra Krishak Sangha (SMSK) group in Dinhata has over 200 members. They have registered themselves as a Farmer Producer Organisation and have a substantial proportion of women as members. They are providing services on CASI technologies as well as implementing a small-scale business model they have developed to promote maize and lentil production using conservation agriculture techniques. The group provides insurance for 60 days until the crop is established to the farmers. This helps smallholder farmers to manage risks and has encouraged smallholder farmers to adopt new technologies.

There has been active support by the state Government of West Bengal in the form of funds, use of their agricultural extension agencies and changes to state policies on agricultural mechanization to support the scaling of CASI approaches, which is evidenced by the progress being made in the state.

For more information, please contact Dr TP Tiwari (t.tiwari@cgiar.org).

Dr Kuhu Chatterjee (left of centre) with farmers at the BSBC Farmers Club in Malda, West Bengal.

Dr Kuhu Chatterjee (left of centre) with farmers at the BSBC Farmers Club in Malda, West Bengal.

NewsKuhu Chatterjee