Lucknow: A two day OFPO conclave was held at at BIRD, Lucknow (Bankers Institute of Rural Development) on 27-28 June 2022.
Chairman NABARD Dr. G.R. Chintala was the guiding force behind this largely attended event. Addressing the conclave, Dr Chintala underscored the FPOs and OFPOs are interlinked as they will together contribute to doubling the farmers’ income.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), which began spearheading the Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs) in the country in 2017, has launched the formation of Off Farm Producers Organisations (OFPOs). This year, 58 OFPOs have been sanctioned in various parts of the country from Meghalaya to Mizoram, Ladakh, Sikkim, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Varanasi, and Telangana, to name a few.
CGM, OFDD (Off Farm Development Department), NABARD, Devasis Padhi, who has been working in the OFDD Department since last 5 years, conceived the OFPO Conclave to create a shared learning platform and cohort of the first batch of NABARD OFPOs.
Ms Susheela Chintala, MD and CEO NABKISAN Finance Limited, explained how NABKISAN, a subsidiary of NABARD, provides loans to POs at the lowest interest rate and the procedure to avail it.
Founder Director of Looms of Ladakh Ms Abhilasha Bahuguna, focussed attention on the importance of team building and said it is a crucial aspect of the strategy for the sustainability of the producer organisations. Sustainability of FPOs and OFPOs need emphasis on both turnover and rotational (Elected) participation of members in management along with young professionals. The members will not become leaders and have the know-how of management without active participation in it. At the end of three to five year funding, the professional grant support weans leaving the dependent producer board off-track. She emphasised the importance of involving elected directors and producer owners in the day-to-day management for the purpose of capacity building and true ownership and know-how in management of producers. Otherwise a professional CEO will work for the project single-handedly until the funding is available. After three years of funding, the OFPO or FPO will be left fending for itself without understanding the business and market. Due to this reason, there was a demand from participating of POs to raise the grant period from 3 to 5 years. Responding to this, DMD NABARD K.Shaji suggested that OFPOs have to come out from the grant mindset and think business-like. The extension of the grant will be conditional and on need-basis.
Ms Bahuguna, during her speech on day-2, the concluding day of the conclave, agreed with Mr. Shaji and said that instead of giving the 3 year grant to Implementing Agency, 2 year grant to the Implementing Agency along with 3 year follow up grant to the OFPO should be given. She went on to observe that extending the grant period might still not contribute to the sustainability of the OFPOs, if the team metrics and participation of elected producers in daily management is not worked upon. She suggested that for the first 1 to 2 years a small grant should be given to the Implementing Agencies for team building, product range development, brand building and market exposure through exhibitions and mobile “haats” (markets). A bigger grant should be given to the OFPOs team in the third year for the next three years for the scaling up push. Currently, implementing Agencies and NGOs are given a three-year grant to form an OFPO.
Ms Bahuguna also proposed a pilot project for NABARD by underscoring the idea of BBA Rural Management Students and Regional Officers NABARD working as co-workers for participatory project planning with the community for three years. This to be done in partnership between NabFoundation, a subsidiary of Nabard, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) or other rural development institutions. The students to get BBA Rural Management degree on successful completion of the 3 year period. Successful projects working for simultaneous achievement of Multiple SDGs to also get NABARD funding for FPO or OFPO formation with the students as the Founder and Facilitator. She also talked about the importance of turnaround and forging ahead like a businessman with a Development heart.
Ms Bahuguna went on to assert marketing is not about concocting a story or narrative but about identifying the values that your OFPO and the brand will strive for and will never compromise upon. The values that will be instilled and brought out from the innate goodness of each member owner of the OFPO through the journey of OFPO building. She suggested that OFPOs have to reflect on their value systems and advocate for them through all communication channels for the growth of the OFPO.
Ms Astha Ratan, CEO, Kraftribe OFPO, Jharkhand, enlightened the audience with her insights on Digital Marketing. – Ms Umang Shridhar of Khadigi, who specialises in Product innovation in the Handloom sector talked about capacity building of OFPOs in product innovation and how it is not a few months task but an ongoing process. Sharing her own experiences, she talked about the 3-year journey involved in developing her private company’s product range.
During the Two Day OFPO Conclave, teams were also formed to solve case studies discussing issues in the OFPO growth.
Devasis Padhi, CGM OFDD, NABARD advised the Regional Officers of his organisation that they should not only study the proposed Detailed Project Reports strictly against the guiding schemes but also meet the stakeholders, understand their needs and help them frame their needs well and fit them into an appropriate scheme or guideline or into different schemes. Rather than obstructing, they should act as enablers.
Mr Jagirdar of OFDD NABARD, presented the analysis of the performance and learning outcomes from the first cohort of OFPOs. He also highlighted the different aspects that the upcoming OFPOs should consider in their DPR to make their projects wholistic and help the OFPOs in becoming sustainable. He shared that the DPRs should be made after careful assessment of needs rather than copy pasting a set format to ask for grants.