In a first, Himachal women farmers form company to market organic vegetables & fruit

In a path-breaking development, a group of women in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district, which is known for its off-season vegetables, have ventured into organic farming and formed a collective company to market their produce.

It is for the first time in Himachal Pradesh that an all-women Farmer Producer Company (FPC) has been registered for marketing of certified chemical-free natural farm products.

The women have not only switched over from harmful chemical fertilisers and pesticides based farming to organic cultivation but also have expertise in low-cost and climate resilient natural farming techniques.  The initiative has been driven by the state government’s umbrella project — Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana (PK3Y). The women farmers have taken a significant step ahead to transform their identity from farmers to entrepreneurs.

The first all-women FPC comprises farmers from three Panchayats– Jabal Jamrot, Haripur and Deothi in Solan district.

To begin with, the Solan Natural Farmer Producer Company has ten primary shareholders –five women farmers on Board of Directors and five others as promoters and 60 more women farmers are ready to be part of this FPC for marketing of natural produce, including a range of vegetables, fruits and milk products.

So far, four FPCs in all—-Chopal, Pachad and Karsog apart from one all women FPC in Solan have been registered in the state for marketing of natural produce, giving a push to enable Sustainable Food Systems Platform for Natural Farming (SuSPNF) said Rakesh Kanwar, secretary, agriculture.

The SuSPNF is aimed at working out mutually beneficial producer-consumer linkage with agricultural universities also set to play a significant role in value addition of the natural produce in collaboration with farmers.

Most of the women farmers associated with natural farming in Solan block are educated up to matric, but are spirited enough to make a difference.

Chairman of the newly registered Solan Natural Farmer Producer Company, Radha Devi, 41, said, “A shift to natural farming technique was the first important step to save our agriculture from chemical-based farming. There is a huge input cost involved and production had also become stagnant, besides these chemicals can cause many diseases in those who consume the products.”

Coming together on one platform by forming a Farmer Producer Company for collective marketing of our natural produce is the second step that will help to get better prices and personally grow as entrepreneurs instead of remaining as just farmers, she says.

Hailing from village Koti, Radha Devi said, “The women are raising multiple crops in the same field without using any chemical fertilizer or pesticide. I also got the training under PK3Y and adopted the technique,”she said.

She is doing natural farming on 5 bigha of land, which includes a lemon orchard, with turnip, beetroot, onion and garlic growing in the same field. It has reduced the cost of cultivation by roughly 70-80 per cent and above all her produce is now chemical- free, healthy and nutritious.

Another women farmer Seema asserts that by marketing collectively through an FPC, they can target specific buyers for the natural produce and negotiate the price.

Seema is head of  Jabal Jhamlot Panchayat and member of the  FPC board of directors.

Chopal Naturals is another FPC to be registered for natural produce under PK3Y soon . The first consignment of its natural apples was flagged off for market recently by Rakesh Kanwar from Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry. The FPC also sent one consignment of apples for processing to the varsity.

Says Rohit Sauhta, 36, the initiative of forming FPC is quite innovative .”I really thank Dr Y S University of Horticulture and forestry vice Chancellor Dr Rajeshwar Chandel ,who sold this idea to us .We got a good opening for marketing of the naturally grown apples,” he says.

Himachal Pradesh is the third state after Gujarat and Sikkim that is now showing the way to the nation in cultivation and marketing of the chemical-free healthy farm products.

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