Punnu Lal Nanda, owns a 3-acre parcel of land in Mohaniya Patpara village in Madla, Madhya Pradesh. He uses about a third of the land to grow wheat, keeping the rest for vegetables. Like most farmers in India, agriculture is the only means of income and what he produces and sells every season determines the next few months for his family. Last year, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown had a brutal impact for Punnu Lal – no opportunity to sell his produce, no money to store them at granary or rolling capital to buy seeds for the next sowing season. This story isn’t unique to Pannu Lal. Over 80% of the Indian agri-sector comprises small and marginal farmers, who own less than 5 acres of land each.
Due to the size of their landholdings, they are under-represented and do not have access to a host of services like affordable credit, affordable warehousing, or access to government schemes, which the farmers with larger holdings do. In the case of marginal farmers, they don’t even own any land and may simply cultivate on leased land or may have landholdings of less than an acre. While the government has allocated Kisan Credit cards for farmers who own land, 20% of titled farmers (who legally own land) also do not have the agri credit cards and neither do the majority of small and marginal tenant farmers. Since many farmers are not eligible for bank loans, small and marginal farmers are usually the ones who are always in need of working capital and are dependent on proceeds from the previous season for the success of the next season.
Through the pandemic and lockdown, these were some of the challenges that were staring at small and marginal farmers.
Not able to sell their produce on time.
Distress sales due to the lack of access to markets.
No money to store away their produce in storage & buy inputs for the next sowing season.
Local money lenders, lend money at very high-interest rates.
Limited access to government schemes.
No money to run their families and even have the basic necessities.
While this is an age-old story, it has been made far more acute by the pandemic. Though there was some respite for a few months, the second wave has put not only their livelihoods, but their very lives are at stake. India has seen its urban healthcare system collapsing, one can only imagine what the situation is like in rural India. The lockdowns continue in many states, and the Kharif season for farming is just round the corner. The agony of the farmers this year was compounded by the attack of the cyclones in many western and eastern states. The farmers are amidst rising uncertainty and distress, and the credit needs of the community are urgent. This situation not just affects an individual farmers but also their families and communities as a whole.
Access to credit to marginal farmers in the current times is more important than ever before. With institutional credit becoming harder to access, Rang De aims to leverage its peer-to-peer lending platform to create a mass citizens’ movement in support of farmers. Last year, NDTV and Rang De came together for the first time to raise interest-free loans for these small and marginal farmers through a telethon. The campaign was able to provide interest-free loans to 5867 small and marginal farmers with Rs 8.2 Crore which was raised by more than 2974 individual social investors.
We continue to support these farmers but we need you to join in to revive the lives and livelihoods of these farmers. You can join in as a social investor and put a smile on the face of a farmer in rural India. To Invest: https://rangde.in/india