[VoxSpace Life] ISAP : The Backbone Of Thousands Of Indian Farmers

The State Of Farmers In Our Country

India is predominantly an agriculture-based economy. Agriculture in India accounts for approximately 18% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while more than 50% of the country’s workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. Despite this, when it comes to the empowerment of the farmers, India seems to be lagging way behind other economically deprived countries. Farmers constitute one of the most deprived classes in India.

While the country’s government (since India’s independence) uses the farmers for their vote bank politics, when it comes to helping them, to make their lives easier, they fall short of fulfilling their promises.

Thankfully, there are few professionals who have extended their aid to these farmers, helping them with various faculties to empower them. One of the foremost organizations working to empower the Indian farmers is the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP).

Indian Society Of Agribusiness Professionals

Operative since 2001, the ISAP is a non-profit organization, which is relentlessly catering to the farmers by providing them with different agricultural and business solutions, that they might need to make their crops more profitable. Sunil Khair, the mastermind behind ISAP, was a professional in the agribusiness industry of India before he visualized the concept of ISAP.

Being in the industry for over 15 years, he knew that the Indian agricultural scenario was extremely vast, with a lot of potential. When he first started out, he did not have any idea how to be of help.

All he knew that he had to bridge the gap between the farmers and the agribusiness experts. After a lot of turmoil, he came with the idea to mitigate this gap with information. And thus, the idea of Kisan Call Centre was born, wherein Khair and his team with supply the farmers with ICT or Information and Communication Technology.

How ISAP Forms A Bridge Between The Experts And The Farmers

The Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals started by implementing projects across farming groups across the country. From educating the Rajasthani farmers about an integrated farming system to helping out farmers in Karnataka with the help of a project on agriculture extension system, ISAP is literally going to all the nooks and crevices of the country to help build and solidify the agricultural scenario in the country. The best part about them is, instead of implementing similar kinds of projects across the country, they have been aiming targeted intervention, which in turn helps in rural development.

Since this task of reaching out to the grassroots level sometimes tends to get extremely difficult, requiring meticulous approach, ISAP has segregated the farmers into various groups. For example, in the beginner level, the farmers have been grouped under the Farmer Interest Groups (FIG). Whereas, at the taluk level, they form the Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO).

Talking about their meticulous planning, Chandrasekhar Maradi, the Karnataka Project Head, said to The Better India, “We believe that there is strength in numbers. When the farmers are organised into groups, they have more bargaining power. For instance, because they purchase seeds as a group, they get them at wholesale prices.”

The farmers are not only helped with various newer technologies that might double their yield but are guided on the best selling practices of the day. ISAP also trains the farmers on the various harvesting methods (and which one works best for them depending on the climatic condition of the particular area) along with providing them access to their warehouses.

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For example, the Agriculture Extension Project – a pet project of ISAP – was started in Karnataka in 2010. It aimed at improving the quality as well as the production of pulses. Hence, the farmers had to be helped by providing basic scientific knowledge about nutrition and soil management. Apart from this, after harvesting, the farmers were also helped with marketing their produce – a technique which many farmers in India are simply unaware of.

The Indian Society Of Agribusiness Professionals Are Changing Lives In Rural India

A little story about a farmer in Karnataka might be able to explain ISAP’s aid better. Gundappa is a farmer in north Karnataka. Before being a member of ISAP, he used to cultivate only red gram. Now that he is educated in ISAP’s integrated farming system, he cultivates not only red gram but also pulses, apart from raising cattle in his farm and growing vegetables.

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With this expansion, Gundappa has increased his chances of surviving a bad cultivation season. In case one crop fails, he knows it is not the end of life. He has other means to survive and prepare for the harvesting season next year. Gundappa’s change has been an inspiration to many farmers, who have for all their lives stuck to only a single crop. In fact, nowadays he is often invited to give lectures to the farmers in the nearby villages.

Not Just The ICT, ISAP Is Involved In Numerous Other Projects

Manually going to each and every village in a vast country like India to bring in change is not possible for any NGO single-handedly. So, ISAP tries to get involved with as many institutions as possible to aid the farmers with a better yield and a better lifestyle. For instance, it helps the youth from rural areas of the country to create independent micro and small-scale enterprises.

With the help of National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management in Hyderabad, ISAP has also been running entrepreneurship development programmes in 12 Indian states for unemployed youth. After successful completion of the training, the students are helped to set up their own ventures. So far, there have been thousands of youths benefitted from this programme.

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Knowing that farmers use radio to get various updates about the country, they also use community radio stations to bridge the gap between themselves and the farmers. Kisan Vani (90.4 FM), at Sironj in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh, was the first agriculture-based community radio station in the state – many more have been set up till date.

ISAP has not refrained women from joining their enterprises. The various self-help groups set up by the enterprise train the women in poultry farming, washing power production, vermicompost, and other relevant businesses so that they can be self-dependent and help the economy of the rural areas flourish. The members of the SGH’s in Rajasthan have also been helped with personal bank accounts through the NABARD-SHG bank linkage programme.Image result for Agriculture Extension Project rajasthan farmers

Not just this, according to Chandrasekhar, numerous retail stores have been opened in Karnataka, where the farmers can sell their produces directly. He said, “We have started Kisan Fresh, a grocery mart, in north Karnataka. Farmers sell fresh vegetables, organic jaggery, pulses, masala powders, and much more.”

If you are intrigued to know more about ISAP and their initiatives, you can visit their website here.