Arvi Taluk has a population consisting of 190 households, of which 90% are tribal farmers with small land holdings. They depend solely on agriculture for survival. In recent times, labour costs have risen considerably, especially during the peak season. Mechanised equipment is therefore much in demand even among these small and marginal farmers. But who was going to provide the finances to buy them?
This is where the Sukhi Baliraja Initiative (SBI) of the Trusts stepped in. In 2012-13, SBI set up 10 agricultural equipment banks, each consisting of a thresher, a multi-nozzle spray and a seed drilling machine, in the project area. These banks function as village-level enterprises run by Village Level Committees (VLCs) formed by the members of the various community-based organisations such as Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Producer Groups (PGs) and Kisan Vikas Groups (KVGs).
The implementing agency, which assessed the demand for various equipment in the project villages, proposed the establishment of one of these equipment banks at Gaurkheda in Arvi Taluk since the VLC there agreed to contribute 20% of the total cost of setting up the bank. Contributions were collected from member SHGs, KVGs and PGs, and deposited in a bank account that was opened under the name of the VLC. The implementing agency then facilitated the purchase of the required equipment and trained the VLC on its maintenance, servicing and accounting.
The VLC provides the equipment to the farmers at a fixed price, records usage, maintains accounts, and ensures the safety of the equipment. In the one year since the equipment bank was set up, 56 farmers in Gaurkheda have used the agri-equipment bank and saved Rs9,700. Initially, farmer Rajesh Babarao Budhabaure rented the thresher to process 5 quintals of soy bean and 7 quintals of wheat at Rs150 and Rs250 respectively. However, after consultation with the farmers, the rental was brought down to Rs150 per quintal of wheat. This meant that another farmer, Chandrasen Narayan, saved an additional Rs600 in processing six quintals of wheat.
The VLC also provided spray services at a discount in order to popularise the practice amongst the farmers. Despite that, the VLC earned a profit of Rs14,075, which has been divided in a 60-40 ratio, with 60% deposited in the VLC account and the remaining distributed to the member groups.
Due to the ease of approachability and lower prices charged by VLCs, the response to these agri-equipment banks has been heartening. (Refer to table for operational statistics.) The project has so far benefited 528 farmers in the Ralegaon (Yavatmal), Morshi (Amravati), Washim (Washim), Nandura (Buldhana) and Arvi (Wardha) clusters. Beneficiary farmers have saved a total of Rs62,600 due to price differences to the tune of Rs50 per quintal of threshing.
At the same time, this past year has been a learning curve for the VLCs. For instance, the VLC at Mahalungi village in Nandura cluster purchased a tractor on loan for their agri-equipment bank without financial support from SBI, but lost one cropping season because the tractor could not be used to earn enough profits to offset the loan costs without a trolley which the VLC could not afford. These learnings will serve as the foundation to upscale the initiative to all 15 clusters of the project area. At the same time, SBI also intends to improve the participation of women members in the equipment bank's operations and accounting, as well as find innovative solutions for smaller villages like Panjara in Arvi cluster which, with a small population of 40 households, does not make establishing an agri-equipment bank financially feasible.
Agriculture Equipment Bank Economics
|No. of agri-equipment banks||Quantity processed* (quintal)||Area covered by spray (acre)||Gross income (Rs.)||Expenditure (Rs.)||Net profit (Rs.)||Farmers benefitted||Farmer savings (Rs.)|