Bagappa Chininti was featured in the Logical Indian earlier this year and his story represents a tale we have heard all too often.
“These are times when I feel like crying… when my heart breaks. All that hard work, all that back-breaking effort of digging, hoeing, weeding, cutting, hefting… all we want to see is a decent return,” he told Radha Kunke from Dharani, a Rang De field partner (he has since fared better).
Small farmers have seen declining productivity on their land and are often cheated by middlemen in terms of cost for inputs, under-weighing, low prices and have a dearth of affordable credit.
It was primarily to ensure that people who want to help the farmers of India get a chance to do so that Rang De was born on Republic Day, 2008.
A total of 4523 farmers have received Rang De loans or 10 farmers every week in eight and a half years. Nearly one out of every 10 Rang De loans has gone to a farmer.
These farmers grow paddy, banana, gram, mushroom, pineapple, maize, millet, cashew, chilli and many other vegetables in over a thousand villages across India.
Here is a look at the breakdown of that figure and why we chose to give them <10% loans so they can get a start towards a better future.
Social Investors, the people who have chosen to lend to these farmers, have had the opportunity of impacting men and women from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
With their help, a total of Rs 4.18 Cr has been disbursed to small-scale farmers from the four main categories (paddy, banana, gram and vegetable cultivators).
On a regular basis, we also support producer companies like Dharani — organisations of farmers from a certain area that seek to bolster their collective bargaining power and facilitate their marketing and related needs in urban markets.
Dharani’s parent organisation converted 32 acres of barren land into a forested one over two decades.
In Telangana, we have tied up with Access Livelihoods Consulting who have linked us up with two women’s producer companies in Mahbubnagar. In the past, these women farmers used to sell what they could as they did not have storage facilities. Now, ALC ensures that warehouses are rented so that they can store and sell their produce at a time when the price is fair.
Similarly, Just Change has taken four loans to empower the farmers of Gudalur in Tamil Nadu.
We are most active in the state where the income of the farmer is the lowest — Orissa. We consciously ensure that it is the most marginalised farmer that gets affordable credit as can be seen by the average income figures of the farmers in the various states where we have disbursed Rang De loans.
Not only do we keep our focus on small and marginal farmers, we also tailor our loans to suit the occupation.
In many cases, we have accepted that repayment can only begin at time of harvesting and we try to ensure that disbursals are carried out in time for the purchase of fertilisers and other necessary inputs.
Rang De is also gearing towards a greater number of producer companies focused on organic farming initiatives as we are aware that soil depletion in the short term can have devastating long-term effects for many farmers.
Is there an alternative to farming?
In many areas, it is very difficult for these men and women to switch to a different profession. Not only do they lack any other skills or educational qualifications, the village economy cannot support many vocations.
In the case of Droibar Chiru, Sukrensingh Chiru and Amuchung Chiru (pictured above), these men regularly take on alternative jobs when the weather does not suit the pineapple crop and they even have to trek many miles to get work as manual labourers in other parts of the country.
These men and women do not want to stay away from their families and just need a little bit of help at the right time with mentorship and advice provided by an Impact partner like Dharani or ALC so that they can slowly increase their standard of living.
A long road to freedom (from debt)
We are aware that it will take a long time for these farmers to be completely free from debt but right now, Rang De social investors offer them a source of funds that have really made a big difference in their lives.
We call upon everyone to contribute to our Dependence Day campaign where we are looking to support 900 women farmers from Kodangal.
We all want our farmers to lead a better life. We can do exactly that with just one click of a button.
As our Dependence Day campaign succinctly states, “those who feed us, need us”.
For any further information on data required on Rang De’s activities in the farming sector, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are in Hyderabad or Bangalore, do head to Lamakaan or Rangoli Metro Art Gallery to glimpse the lives of women farmers of Telangana during Independence Day week. More information can be found at Matti Manushulu — People of the Soil, A Photo Exhibition for The Women Farmers of Telangana.