By Litul Baruah, Analytics Officer (Global), Sustainable Raw Material, C&A Foundation
At a time when it seems like the world is falling apart, success stories that illustrate how small efforts can make a big difference feel like balsam for the soul. I am lucky enough to be a part of a small team working to make an impact in the lives of cotton farmers in my home country of India.
Farmers in India, especially smallholder farmers, are facing unprecedented challenges. Issues like water scarcity and the growing risks associated with climate change, poor soil fertility and loss of biodiversity, and farmer poverty are threatening the very fabric of rural Indian life.
Recognising this threat, and in particular that of water scarcity, the Government of Gujarat created a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called “Gujarat Green Revolution Corporation” (GGRC) to provide subsidies to farmers to install drip irrigation. This modern agricultural technique that irrigates crops with tiny droplets of water, helps farmers save time, money, and water. The GGRC subsidy, which can vary from time to time, currently covers about 70% of the cost of installation, with the remaining 30% left to be borne by farmers themselves.
Sounds straightforward. The problem is that smallholder farmers usually do not have the resources to pay the remaining amount for drip and they cannot obtain formal credits because they often lack documentation and collateral. Without formal credit institutions to service them, farmers are left with no choice but to borrow money at exorbitantly high rates from informal moneylenders. So, despite the GGRC subsidy, drip irrigation remains a luxury that only medium and large-scale farmers can afford.
To bridge this gap, C&A Foundation in partnership with Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan Rural Support Programme India, established a community funding mechanism to provide interest free loans to smallholder cotton farmers in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. With their loans, farmers have been able to pay the remaining amount, avail the GGRC subsidy, and install drip irrigation on their cotton farms. As farmers repay their loan, within a period of two years, the amount goes back into a “revolving fund”, which is managed by the community farmers groups and is used to give further loans to other farmers.
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