17 Oct 2014
No. 1645


Using agribusiness incubators to develop seed entrepreneurs

ICRISAT has been supporting farmer-owned enterprises to find a viable solution for the growing demand for quality seeds. A farmers’ federation in Tamil Nadu, India, ventured into seed production with the guidance of the ICRISAT’s ABI Program and farmers are experiencing additional incomes. Photo: Srujan Kumar

The agribusiness incubation concept has been successfully demonstrated in setting up a farmer-managed seed enterprise. A farmers’ organisation in Tamil Nadu, India, has set up a professionally managed seed enterprise with mentoring and handholding by ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program. Apart from investing in the venture, ABI also provided support across the entire value chain from introducing seed varieties to help with branding, marketing and promotion activities.

The Kazhi Kadaimadai Farmers Federation (KKFF) ventured into seed production in 2008 with funding assistance of Rs 0.75 million (US$12,283) under the ABI program. This support was for procuring seed processing machinery. ABI also assisted KKFF in obtaining a corpus fund of Rs 0.2 million (US$ 3,275) for operations under the Technology Development Board’s (TDB) funding scheme of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.

Under ABI’s guidance and training KKFF operates like a company governed by farmers and managed by professionals like executive director, technical officer, accountant, etc., who are engaged and employed by the federation. Every farmer member of this federation now earns an additional income of Rs 12,500 to Rs 17,500 (US$ 201 to 283) per hectare while KKFF generates a net profit of Rs 0.6 million (US$ 9,826) from an annual turnover of over Rs 12 million (approx. US$ 200,000).

Graphic: Rajkumar B, ICRISAT

“The lack of good quality seeds required us to start a seed business program. We collaborated with ICRISAT in 2008, and they helped us with business plan development, assistance in establishing our seed-processing unit, branding, and seed promotion activities. They also assisted us with selection of seed entrepreneurs and facilitated new seed varieties through the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), provided technical assistance and field exposure visits for our farmers,” said Mr AV Poomurugesan, Executive Director, KKFF.

In 2009, KKFF established its seed processing plant and registered its own brand of seeds ‘Pudhan’. Seed production was initiated in 15 hectares of land, which has now increased to about 100 hectares, resulting in the production and sales of over 300 tons of seed annually.

“This initiative has the potential to create a system which can be replicated among more farmers. It is a business proposition for the farmers and by the farmers to promote agricultural development with market linkages and to tackle the challenges faced by farmers, besides providing a model for others to emulate,” said Dr Kiran Sharma, CEO, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP), ICRISAT.

KKFF had also promoted the cultivation of ICRISAT’s groundnut variety, ICGV9114 early this year as a summer crop. This was well accepted and certified groundnut seed was supplied to the local farmers and to the government agricultural extension center (Krishi Vigyan Kendra) in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu.

Humble beginnings

KKFF started in 2006 as a post-tsunami response program to facilitate rehabilitation of the affected communities in Nagapattinam area. With 25 members, KKFF initially started paddy seed production by sourcing breeder and foundation seeds from TNAU, Coimbatore, India. The quantum of seed produced has grown substantially since 2006 and they are now able to meet more than 10% of the seed demand in Nagapattinam district.

KKFF now has over 900 farmer members, including more than a hundred seed entrepreneurs. This has spurred many more local farmers to turn into seed entrepreneurs, paving the way to Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD).

Commenting on the growth of KKFF, Mr SM Karuppanchetty, COO, ABI program says, “ICRISAT aims to enhance the capacity of farmers through promoting FPOs in agribusiness. The number of farmers involved by KKFF; area brought under seed production; quantity of seed produced; and revenue has increased tremendously ever since our intervention in 2008. Farmers have realized more revenue from seed production compared to normal grain production, thereby creating interest among fellow farmers to take up seed production.”

To ensure additional financial support and cater to the welfare of its members, KKFF also promotes crop insurance and the cultivation of crops like black gram as rice fallow, besides vegetables such as cluster beans, eggplant, and tomato.

ICRISAT’s interventions have helped farmers maximize their profits. Photo: ICRISAT

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Crop-livestock integration priority to mitigate climate change risk
Priorities for climate change adaptations in Northern Malawi

Scientists and stakeholders after the discussions on priorities for climate change adaptations in Northern Malawi. Photo: A Gama

Stakeholders at a recent workshop on climate change discussed the need for greater crop livestock integration and fodder production to reduce negative impacts of climate change. For increasing resilience to climate risks there is also need for changes in the policy environment, which still tends to favour crop production with insufficient attention placed on crop-livestock integration and market orientation.

The workshop participants foresaw the need for more drastic changes in future to support farmers to transition from subsistence to market-oriented agriculture to combat climate change. Key drivers for change will be increasing human populations and rapid expansion of cities in Northern Malawi; emerging opportunities for new agricultural products, especially livestock as livestock populations are expected to multiply six-fold.

At the inauguration, Dr Aloysius, Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Mining, Malawi, emphasized that climate change demands a greater effort to address vulnerabilities of smallholder farmers through context-specific mitigation and adaptation strategies.

“The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) multi-modeling approach is novel as it analyses impacts on the future of entire farming systems, including crops and livestock as well as possible socio-economic scenarios. The project will benefit planned government activities, especially the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to climate change,” said Dr Aloysius.

Ms Jane Swira, Country Climate Change Programs Manager, UNDP, presented initiatives, interventions and institutional structures for addressing climate change in Malawi, including the development of the NAP and National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs). Dr Timothy Gondwe from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) highlighted the potential and priorities for improving crop-livestock integration in mixed crop livestock systems in northern Malawi.

The workshop was held recently at Lilongwe, Malawi, by AgMIP and Crop-Livestock Intensification Project (CLIPs) under the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Scientist (Markets, Institutions and Policies), ICRISAT, and Mr Arthur Chibwana Gama (LUANAR) facilitated the workshop. The objectives of the workshop were to discuss vulnerability to climate change, future scenarios of economic development and possible options for climate change adaptation for smallholder farming systems in Northern Malawi.

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Spread the word on smart foods

Participants of the Pearl Millet Scientists Field Day. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Pearl millet is a nutritionally superior cereal. It has the highest folic acid content among cereals; lowers heart disease and cancer risks; and is recommended also for pregnant women. We should enhance consumption of pearl millet through a strong advocacy campaign for smart foods, said ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar during his keynote address at the Pearl Millet Scientists Field Day held at ICRISAT global headquarters in India.

Delivering the address, Dr Dar dwelt on the history of ICRISAT’s Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC) and chronicled its growth into a productive platform with currently 60 active members. He stated that its outcomes have been significant grain yield improvement and production stability of pearl millet crop in India.

“Public-private partnership is the way forward for successful translation of technologies for the benefit of small-holder farmers,” said Dr Dar.

In his message, Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General-Research, emphasized on the need to strengthen research on biofortification, herbicide tolerance, and also guided the group to work on new plant types amenable to mechanized harvesting to enhance the scope of crop in future.

The Field Day, held on 30 September and 1 October, was attended by 31 participants from the public sector and 38 from the private sector (including two scientists from Adriana Seed Company, Brazil) who are members of the Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (PMHPRC).

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