The Ginger Women of Koraput

The Ginger Women of Koraput

A group of women farmers in the Pottangi and Semiliguda blocks of Odisha’s Koraput district are marketing ginger and doing a good job of it!

With support from Oxfam India, and other organisations such as National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI), the women farmers have been able to create their own system for processing ginger, resulting in higher incomes and better market access.

In the Pottangi and Semiliguda blocks, small farmers rely on tuber crops for their income and sustainability. However, marketing these crops has been a major challenge. Oxfam India partnered with Prastutee to initiate livelihood initiatives with support from the Sita Devi Malhotra Charitable (SDMC) Trust to address these issues.

At the preliminary stage, we focused on preparing the community for market-driven agriculture and promoting improved agricultural practices. The community members were trained to transform agriculture into an enterprise with an emphasis on digitisation, innovation, and technology. The focus was on crop planning as per market demand and season, as well as preparatory work such as sorting, grading, and safe packaging.

More than 1000 members visited Market Facilitation Centres, where they could weigh their produce before selling, enquire about the price, and meet vendors. This step was a significant milestone in building the community's collective strength, as it opened up the possibility of joint marketing efforts.

A three-way strategy was adopted for piloting marketing: retailing in major townships; farmers forming a collective and working together to market both their raw and processed ginger crops to external markets; and approaching large institutions.

The Sweet Potato Story

This they had done with sweet potatoes in the past where the strategy resulted in successful direct sales of sweet potatoes to industries, local food processing, and marketing of processed food products.

The success of the initiative was apparent when the members sold about 1500 quintals of sweet potatoes at Rs 1100 per quintal (a total of Rs 16.50 lakh), which was a significant increase from the local market's price of Rs 800-900 per quintal (Rs 12 lakh to Rs 13.50 lakh). This additional income of three to four and a half lakh rupees helped 100 members from three villages, while 25 farmers from another village sold about 240 quintals of sweet potato for an additional amount of Rs 36,000.

The members were also trained in food processing by ICAR-CTCRI, and they sold sweet potato chips at the silver jubilee of Parab (in Koraput), which received an excellent response from the public. A vendor from Bhubaneswar purchased sweet potato chips and millet products worth Rs 10,000 for the Hockey World Cup.

Value-Adding Ginger

Vendors are now exploring possibilities for joint ventures as they see a large market in the Women Farmers Producers Organisations (WFPOs). Recently, the vendors installed a ginger cleaning and slicing machine in the village of Lingamguda. The Sanidei Women Farmers Producers Group of Lingamguda took care of the operational works. Four families were engaged in sorting and slicing the ginger, which took more than 15 days, and they earned about Rs 30,000.

The small-sized ginger, which generally gets the least price, was used for value-addition purposes. It was washed, sliced, and then dried on a polythene sheet before packing. Three kilograms of dry sliced ginger was extracted from ten kilograms of raw ginger. An oral agreement was made between the vendors and the members, stating that the members would receive a higher price as agreed, and the vendors would sell the processed products at their discretion.

The installation of the ginger cleaning and slicing machine was a significant success, and 76 members sold their ginger, which weighed about 8 metric tons, for more than Rs 2.5 lakh at Rs 30 per kg on average. This helped nearby villages get better prices too. The larger-sized ginger was stored for seed purposes and was sold at a higher price.

NABARD provided financial support to establish a set of machinery in Pottangi Block with technical assistance from the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI). The CTCRI is a constituent of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) that is dedicated solely to researching tropical tuber crops. Machines are useful for all tuber crops, including ginger.

The machines include an electric power-operated slicer, a blender, a solar/electric/manual dryer, a pulveriser, an oil extractor, a digital weighing machine (with a 100 kg capacity), and a packing machine. The volume of tuber crop production is so high in this area that it requires multiple activities such as timely production, collective marketing, and locally feasible processing.

While the initiative has ensured higher income for the farmers this year, the price of ginger in Odisha is still determined by the influx of ginger from other states. This means that the Women Farmers Producers Organisations (WFPOs) have to find suitable vendors for processed ginger in bulk quantities to ensure higher income regularly.

The partnership between Oxfam India and Prastutee, with support from the SDMC Trust, has brought significant change to the lives of small farmers in the Pottangi and Semiliguda blocks of Odisha. Through community training, market-driven agriculture, and collective action, these farmers are now able to market their crops effectively and earn a sustainable income.

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