The Pathways program has collaborated with the Odisha Government’s Department of Agriculture Engineering to provide improved agriculture tools at a subsidized price, and CARE has further provided a weighing scale from its own funding to support farmers. These tools have been provided to female members of 148 self-help groups in all Pathways project villages in the Kandhamal and Kalahandi districts. These agri-tools are owned and managed by members of the self-help groups.
A visit was recently made to three project villages, namely Dandikia, Adasuga and Dupepada in the Kandhmal district, to better understand the present conditions and power dynamics in use and management of the agri-tools. Focus group discussions were held with members of the Uday group in Dandikia, Trisakti Maitry and Janani groups in Adasuga, and the Anand group in Dupepada. The key findings of the focus group discussions are as follows.
Female members of the self-help groups are managing agri-tools in the project villages. Farmers use these tools for agricultural operations such as weeding, application of pesticides, harvesting and weighing of produce. Members of the self-help group unanimously decide whom to rent to. The renter deposits the fees either in group meetings or with the president and secretary of the group. It was found in all the groups that all the women members jointly take the decision and are aware of the person to whom they are renting. No instances were found where husbands of the self-help group members made the decision or interfered in the decision of the women members regarding whom to rent out the tools. Groups maintain a separate notebook in which they write the details of the rental. The income received by renting out the tools is kept in group fund savings account which is used for maintenance of the tools.
In addition to saving time for the women farmers, the focus group discussions revealed that introduction of agri-tools in the project villages decreased labor costs and improved mechanisation in agriculture thereby increasing the agriculture productivity in general. Moreover, the tools have also helped in increasing the self-esteem of women and enhanced their reputation in the community, as male members have appreciated their efforts in this regard.