Are Government Schemes Meaningful in the Absence of Land Rights?

    AgricultureAgri-businessAre Government Schemes Meaningful in the Absence of Land...
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    Are Government Schemes Meaningful in the Absence of Land Rights?

    It is evident that the effects of the project are not uniformly distributed, as certain villages experience benefits while others continue to grapple with fundamental necessities like access to water. But the absence of land rights remains an underlying issue.

    The Agriculture Production Cluster (APC), a project designed for the tribal region of Odisha, works to promote synchronized farming practices and collective marketing. The project targets hilly, undulated, and topographically challenging areas with low crop productivity and limited irrigation, often leading to migration. In these areas, farmers lack organization and market connections. The APC project seeks to address these issues by focusing on capacity building, improving resource availability, connecting farmers to markets, and enhancing infrastructure.

    Its functioning involves organizing small and marginal farmers at the grassroots level into producer groups. Each group consists of around 130 women farmers. These producer groups then form producer companies, with 28 to 30 members from different producer groups. These producer companies play a central role in decision-making. They determine the choice of crops, market strategies, and product pricing. The core purpose of the APC is to create an organized structure for collective farming and to facilitate access to markets where farmers can sell their products at favourable prices.


    A distinct landscape emerges in the Paikbori SC colony, housing an exclusive enclave for the Scheduled Caste community in Lanjigarh Tehsil in Odisha’s Kalahandi district. The boundaries of this enclave are sharply defined, serving as a poignant reminder of social divisions within the village. A conspicuous pattern surfaces among the women farmers – the absence of individual land ownership. This void necessitates their engagement on lands owned by others for their agricultural pursuits.

    The significance of caste-based separation is underscored, reflecting an enduring adherence to purity and impurity rituals woven into the fabric of village life. During the course of data collection for a study on women farmers, an incident surfaced, illuminating the deeply entrenched nature of these caste-driven norms. For instance, a woman farmer named ‘Kulapi Nath’ denied to join a discussion already in progress within a household. This resonates as a stark example. The resources person says “ye ander nahi aa sakte” (they can’t entre in the house). Despite persistent entreaties, her non-participation underscores the unwavering grip of these norms, casting light on the omnipresence of concepts such as purity and impurity. The dynamics of communal fieldwork offer insights into paradoxical isolation. While working collectively in the fields, the scope for personal interactions remains constrained, signalling the pervasive solitude that permeates their experiences.

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    Influence far from uniform

    Within the boundaries of Harihar Pur, a village underscored by its OBC demographic, an intriguing tale unfolds. In contrast to certain other village settings, the sentiment within the women farmer community here remains less than sanguine towards the APC initiative. A recurring refrain is that the programme has fallen short in nurturing its development trajectories.

    Delving deeper into their perspectives, it becomes evident that the absence of a robust knowledge and technical skillset for effective land cultivation serves as a stumbling block. These women voice grievances concerning inadequate financial resources, revealing that microfinance credits levy interest rates ranging from 10 to 15 per cent. The landscape of governmental policies and schemes further compounds their challenges, with a lack of favourability towards their aspirations.

    Unlike their sisters from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, these women farmers face an uphill battle to secure fertilizers and seeds at preferential rates through the APC channel. The village’s shortcomings are not confined to this sphere; a glaring absence of adequate irrigation facilities stands as a poignant testament to their predicament. In dissecting the impact of APCs across different villages, it becomes resoundingly clear that the influence is far from uniform. Despite these inadequacies within the APC program, the village is marked by its density and educational infrastructure, encompassing both public and private institutions. This distinct dynamic contrasts with the context the tribal villages of Khaman-Khuti, Kandha-Bori, and Sanjamkeheju.

    Kandha-Bori village

    Within the fabric of Kandha-Bori village, a distinct geographical tapestry unfolds, distinguishing it from its counterparts. Perched atop mountains, this locale inherently diverges from conventional settings. A notable facet emerges – a dearth of formal education among women farmers. The village’s unique terrain is mirrored by the distance that separates it from essential amenities such as schools and markets. A poignant illustration of the village’s character is encapsulated by the image of children journeying considerable distances on foot, signifying the village’s distinctive socio-spatial context.

    The perspectives and experiences of women within KandhaBori village, ensconced within the realm of the APC project, cast a positive hue on their journey. This project has a transformation in their decision-making agency, epitomized by their adeptness in bargaining for better prices, rendering them more assertive and responsive to external engagement. Notably, their cultivated crops have evolved into commodities with market value, thereby fortifying their social support network. Amid this narrative of transformation, challenges persist. A veil of insufficient financial resources shrouds progress, compounded by limited access to markets. These issues are emblematic of the nuanced landscape these women traverse. In the midst of this evolution, a fundamental question emerges – has their value as tribal members been recognized? Has their dignity witnessed an elevation as a consequence of this transformation?

    Khaman-Khunti village

    In the village of Khaman-Khunti, predominantly inhabited by the Schedule Tribe population, a prevailing sentiment of disappointment regarding the effectiveness of APC (Agriculture Production Cluster) development is evident. The community’s daily struggles to access basic necessities stand out prominently. The insufficiency of drinking water and irrigation facilities amplifies the challenges, significantly hindering agricultural pursuits and obstructing progress.

    Women in Khaman-Khunti village share compelling narratives, recounting the hardships brought about by the destruction of their brinjal crops. This unfortunate occurrence disproportionately impacts the farmers, who bear the full weight of losses without any mechanism for compensation from the overseeing nodal agency, as emphasized by the APC project manager. Thus, the fallout from such setbacks rests squarely on the shoulders of the farming community. Amid this backdrop, the women farmers of Khaman-Khunti find themselves at the periphery of APC development and government support. Their expressions of discontent and the prevailing sense of neglect underscore the intricate and multifaceted realities that shape their agricultural journey within the framework of APC initiatives.

    Sanjamkeheju village

    In Sanjamkeheju village, women hail from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community, and are engaged in a dual spectrum of livestock and agricultural activities. In the wake of APC implementation, the transformative impact on the lives of women within this community becomes apparent. A distinct narrative emerges, painting a portrait of empowerment catalyzed by the APC project. Notably, the women of Sanjamkeheju village have embraced a trajectory of development through their association with the APC initiative.

    The journey of these women of Sanjamkeheju village is epitomized by their engagement in training facilitated by cluster coordinators, equipping them with enhanced skills and knowledge. As a result, they navigate the terrain of agriculture with an adeptness that transcends mere subsistence. The ripple effects of APC’s intervention are palpable. Women in this village command better prices for their produce, a testament to the positive shifts in their economic standing. Their access to essential farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, now available at minimal cost, further solidifies their newfound agency within the agricultural landscape.

    Absence of land rights

    It is evident that the effects of the APC project are not uniformly distributed, as certain villages experience benefits while others continue to grapple with fundamental necessities like access to water. To attain a more comprehensive understanding, the subsequent emphasis will be placed on the household survey to elucidate these patterns.

    A remarkable revelation arises from their narratives – despite their landless status, these women farmers resoundingly affirm economic uplift stemming from their association with the Agricultural Producer Company (APC). The collective discourse during focused group discussions brings to the forefront their access to credit, loans, and skill enhancement, the fruits of training imparted by APC cluster coordinators.

    Yet, a pivotal concern comes into focus – the stark absence of land rights. A divergence is evident when contrasting with the OBC and ST segments, which command ownership of their own lands and the autonomy to cultivate varied crops for self-sustenance. In stark contrast, these women farmers without any land rights find themselves dependent on the lands of others for their livelihood, painting a landscape marked by economic fragility. Their journey unfolds within the overarching quest for equitable land rights, a pursuit intricately interwoven with the complex caste dynamics that shape their reality.

    Jyoti studies at JNU. This piece has been extracted from her research report following her stint as an Abhijit Sen Research Intern with the National Foundation for India.

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