Exploring the ‘Convergence’ approach in reduction of vulnerabilities and enhancement of livelihood options

Strengthening of rural economies and livelihood bases of the poor, especially marginalized groups like SC/ST and women depends on the provision of public investment across diverse sectors. With devolution of powers to rural local self governments, effective utilization of public investments depends upon a community based understanding of the available financial resources and the existing mechanisms for its utilization. Due to a lack of awareness among elected representatives and weak design and implementation capacities, the resources under the various ongoing programs of the Government are presently under-utilized, hampering the process of development of local communities.

Convergence of Agricultural Interventions in Maharashtra (C-AIM) is an initiative of Government of Maharashtra through Maharashtra State Agriculture & Marketing Board (MSAMB) with the financial support from IFAD & SRTT for six distressed districts of Vidarbha region in Maharashtra. An integral component of the program is convergence of various ongoing schemes of the Government with the needs which have emerged from the targeted villages.

For 10 villages in Yavatmal block, it is not the paucity of natural resources which is limiting potentials. Rather, it is the inadequacies in effectively managing them. With average annual rainfall between 900-1100 mm, it is more the absence of water conservation measures than limited rainfall itself that is restricting agriculture. Also, delving deeper one will find the absence of any collectivization system, as a reason limiting incomes earned. Ignorant of differential market values based on categorization of the quality of produce; and smaller marketable produce; farmers fail to fetch fair market prices.

‘Convergence’ was taken to the field through implementation of water resources development measures. Tapping fairly good rainfall patterns, a series of farm ponds have been constructed across project villages. These irrigation systems will supplement crop water requirements from rainfall, to meet demands of critical irrigation.

We have attempted to assist farmers in receiving fair market prices for their produce. Able to scientifically assess quality of their produce, small and marginal farmers have been equipped with their first bargaining tool with buyers. Overcoming smaller marketable produce, collectives in the form of Producer Groups are aiding farmers in reducing costs incurred due to inefficiencies associated with operations at smaller scales. Also conscious efforts have been made through the project to develop linkages between buyers and suppliers.

Legalizing these groups has been an initiation of the process of Agri-business clusters. Efforts are being made to establish Producer Companies, registered under the Companies Act. Strengthening of these Producer Companies have been initiated by maintaining of crop production based farmers database on one hand; while detailed data bases of local suppliers etc is being maintained on the other.

CAIM represents a unique model of convergence from both Governments, national and international funds, directed towards a reduction in vulnerabilities and enhancement in livelihoods. Participation of local communities from project inceptions have ensured all convergence has been directed towards achievement of community demands.

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