Dantewada’s organic farming model promising for sustainable livelihood

Down to Earth | July 11, 2019

The district also plans to support forest-based livelihood through DMF in the coming months

Ramjatan is happy and surprised with the improvement in his finger millet crop productivity this season. He is one of the many farmers in Behnar village (Nerli Gram Panchayat) of Dantewada district and other nearby villages who adopted the Sri Vidhi technique to grow millets this year. This is an initiative by Bhoomgadi Organic Farmers Producer Company (FPC), which was established by the district administration in 2016 using District Mineral Foundation (DMF) trust funds.

DMF is a non-profit trust set up under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, with the precise objective to “work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining”. Among several socio-economic and human development issues of the mining-affected areas and communities that DMFs must address, the key matter is livelihood.

The Bhoomgadi Organic FPC is one such livelihood enhancing initiative that helps farmers affected by mining activities. Of the total 124 villages, where Bhoomgadi Organic FPC is working, 20 per cent are directly affected by mining.

Bhoomgadi works on registered membership. A total of 2,700 farmer members are currently registered with the FPC as shareholders. Further, as the FPC procures various agricultural produces from local farmers, it indirectly benefits many more farmers other than just the registered members. According to Bhoomgadi, around 10,000 farmers are directly or indirectly benefitting from it.

Bhoomgadi helps farmers at various stages — from sowing, to procurement of crops and marketing of products. It also operates an organic processing unit and has its own godown. The processing unit and godowns have been established using DMF funds. Besides, it has taken a Rs 53 lakh interest-free loan in the form of revolving fund and has to repay it in 10 years.

“The initiative is also targeted to create local ownership and a self-sustaining system,” said Akash Badave, CEO of Bhoomgadi Organic FPC. For this, the company is nurturing a cadre of Jaivik Karyakartas who help farmers adopt organic methods of cultivation.

In the coming days, the district intends to further extend the Bhoomgadi’s operation beyond agricultural products and include support for minor forest produces as well. This way, the forest dependent communities can also be supported through such initiatives.

Bhoomgadi is an important initiative to enhance local resource-based livelihood. In districts like Dantewada, which have various local grains and a variety of minor forest products, such initiatives are important in creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for local communities. Such livelihood enhancement initiatives are also more appropriate for tribal communities — 70 per cent of Dantewada’s population.

The Chhattisgarh government is also taking significant measures and is currently trying to amend the State DMF Rules to put more emphasis on livelihood enhancement, include forest-based livelihood, and identification of mining-affected people.