The farmers from most villages of Bandipora and Baramulla were severely impacted by the massive floods in the year 2014. The loss of standing crops and subsequent damage to farmlands had disillusioned farmers, subjected them to huge losses and complete loss of livelihood in some cases. All hope was lost but the farmers remained optimistic. They were determined to start afresh. Being a victim of a disaster to becoming shareholders in a Farmer Producer Company within a span of just 4 years only shows their sheer hard work which propelled them to these new heights.
In subsequent years after the 2014 flood, the farmers of 30 odd villages from Bandipora and Baramulla were supported by IGSSS and mobilized into farmer groups. The major aims of this mobilization were to:
- Strengthen farmer capacity through agricultural best practices for enhanced productivity
- Ensure access to and usage of quality inputs and services for intensive agriculture enhancing cluster competitiveness
- Build Producer Organization of farmers which can plan and implement product specific cluster/ commercial crop cycles
- Facilitate access to fair & remunerative markets including linking producer organization to marketing opportunities by market aggregators
In the year 2019 around 320 farmers from these villages have come together and incorporated Shejaar Vegetable Producers Company Ltd. The company is in its formative stages and is being supported by NABARD and IGSSS by providing support for capacity building. This accompaniment has emboldened the members to envision the potential in a Producer Company.
Due to the COVID lockdown, the members of Shejaar were in despair given that the agriculture season in Kashmir starts around March. They were apprehensive about the beginning of their new business cycle as in the previous year also they couldn’t do much business due to security lockdown in Kashmir.
However, such challenges also present opportunities which Shejaar Producers Company rightfully grabbed. Given that, enough investment was made in envisioning of directors and their exposure to various exhibitions and training programmes, the directors of the Shejaar Producers Company has turned this challenge into an opportunity by exploring various channels to sell their products. They have not only started building an inventory of products which their members can supply but also started marking other rural products as their potential sale products. Given that the lockdown has hampered the aggregation of rural products by contractors, middlemen and commission agents, the Shejaar has tried to plug this gap and has tried to help these rural producers to get better price of their products. They are teaming up with various departmental stores to provide healthy rural products like polished rice, local spices, eggs, honey and cereals. The notable business which Shejaar is doing right now is with the government designated departmental store in Habak, Srinagar. Shejaar has done a business of around 2.57 lakhs in April itself and is working hard to fulfil orders of various other retailers. Apart from doing business, it is also a great service in the trying times of COVID-19 to provide quality supplies. Shejaar is receiving good reviews and feedback to their products from customers.
The aggregation of farmers can show how to unlock opportunities even when the world is under lockdown.
Contributed by: Yasir Qureshi, Regional Manager – Jammu & Kashmir