Sumati Dharua was one of the candidates shortlisted for setting up an agri-kiosk in the village of Amguda in India. There were two others competing for the same opportunity, but Sumati emerged the champion, as she has displayed exemplary leadership in the past in addressing social ills in her community. Sumati proudly and excitedly explains how she, together with other women in the community, had stopped the marriage of a 13-year old against the teenager’s will, even though it was in keeping with the traditions of the community.
Sumati explains that her agri-kiosk, opened in August 2015, was intended to provide seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers from the nearby villages. Since then, there has been no looking back. She has effectively implemented many skills she has learned in the trainings provided by CARE India. For example, she does indenting for seeds, primarily paddy, and collects information about the variety, quantity of seeds, and the time when they are required by a farmer, and procures seeds accordingly. For procuring these seeds, she often has to pay an advance to the trader, which she sources from her client farmers. Since the seeds meet the farmers’ choices they go off the racks in almost no time.
In the last Kharif season, Sumati procured paddy seeds at Rs. 1000 per 10 kg, against the marked price of Rs. 1105. This advantage was provided to her through linkages with dealers in Bhubaneswar established by CARE India. The transportation was provided by this dealer. Sumati sold at Rs. 1100 to the farmers. Even this was a saving for the farmers, in terms of opportunity costs saved – they saved a day’s wages that would have to be foregone for procuring seeds, transportation costs, and their own conveyance costs. They were also saved of the cumbersome process of traveling and going from door to door, waiting for hours, and possibly making multiple trips. What needs to be noted is that this was done very transparently by Sumati – she did not make a secret of the price at which she procured the seeds against the price at which she was selling. The farmers did not mind because they were being saved a lot of trouble. Besides, had they procured the seeds from the open market, they would not have got even the Rs. 5 advantage that Sumati offered to them.
The spread of her business and its potential has caught the attention of many traders. In fact, for the maize crop in the subsequent season, she was approached by a trader to sell 6 quintals of maize seeds. The quality of the seeds was reliable and also met the needs of the farmers. As such, she procured the seeds at Rs. 530 per 4 kg and sold the seeds at the same price to farmers from nearby villages including non-project villages. She sold the stock of maize seeds that she had purchased in about a week’s time. The maize crop that season made the farmers happy and strengthened Sumati’s reputation in the community.
Of course, the kiosk being a business venture in essence, needs to be profit-oriented to sustain itself in the long run. Sumati’s run with the maize seeds was so obviously impressive in potential that the trader, of his own accord, gave her a commission of Rs. 1000. A woman named Chikri Dharua, however, did not buy paddy from Sumati, but only maize seeds and fertilisers. Nirmati Dharua, too, had not bought the seeds from Sumati! These women explained that they were not aware of all of the farm inputs being sold at the kiosk. Also, it was a little late into the paddy season that this kiosk opened. In the coming paddy season all four women farmers are eager to buy from Sumati. As Arati explained, the kiosk was offering multiple services: information about fertilizers to be used and their recommended quantity depending on soil quality and land acreage, seeds in keeping with the choices of the farmers. All this was available at their doorstep. Arati insightfully shares another facet. The kiosk was offering an option – an option away from the exploitation of traders and mahajans, an option to have a few more precious rupees in their pockets, to invest in their land, to make their families lead better lives, to look to a better future.With Sumati, they knew that, being from the community, she understood the problems of the farmers and was willing to juggle the schedules, depending on the produce and sale.
Sumati is now so happy and excited as she says, “Earlier, I was afraid to deal with strangers or stepping out of home. Today, I am doing things to help my village.”