In Sidli Block of Chirang district of Assam, most of the households practice agriculture as their primary livelihood. However, there are various reasons due to which they are unable to practice it smoothly. One of the main reasons is that not every household has bullocks to plow the field in order to cultivate paddy, vegetable or other crops.
SeSTA conducted a study on issues of farm mechanization with the community. Three of the major issues that came up from this study were lack of information regarding recent farm mechanization practices, access to farm implements and no purchasing power with the overall result being that farmers were unable to go for second cropping. Chirang is also known for its ethnic clashes between various communities. This also has given rise to mistrust amongst different communities, as such if a particular community owns a tractor; the services of it may not be available to the other community. Even if the services are available higher rates are charged from users of other community. In order to address these issues, SeSTA considered establishing a one-stop solution for the provision of mechanized implements to the farmers of this area on a hire basis. Accordingly, an Agro Business Centre managed by Chirang Rural Women Agricultural Producer Company Limited, a Farmer Producer Organization was started in November’ 17. The Company owns a Tractor, Paddy transplanter, manual weeder, power weeder, winnower, marker, and thresher. It gives all these implements on rental basis to the SHG members at a subsidized rate of about Rs. 270/bigha which normally costs about Rs. 300 to 350/bigha if hired from private players. The Company has a total of 2000 shareholders. Presently, 1273 women, farmers have acquired shares of this company.
The cluster identified for the centre to start its operations was Bamungaon-Duttapur. Machines are kept at Jaoliabari village which is situated at the center of the cluster, to facilitate mobility and maintenance of these machines. Jaoliabari is a village of Santhali community, where most of the land is kept idle during Kharif season. A tractor along with a transplanter has been placed in the village, which will not only support the people of Jaoliabari but also cater to the need of the neighboring villages. After the Village Organization received the tractor and transplanter, there has been a lot of developmental changes in the community. They have been able to use the tractor at a subsidized rate. The people who do not have bullocks are also able to cultivate on their land now instead of leaving the land unused throughout the year or giving out in share with someone else. Though the paddy transplanter has been used very sparingly in the last year, but people have been apprised of its use and have understood its benefits as a time saving and an economic option. A paddy transplanter takes about 30-45 minutes to plant one bigha of land, which would otherwise take much more time if done manually. Also, the rent for paddy transplanter costs about Rs. 500/bigha as compared to manual labor for the similar activity that would cost about Rs. 900. Villagers have also started using Tractor for carrying paddy bundles from the field to the household, which was earlier done manually. This intervention by SeSTA has resulted in bringing in more efficiencies in the overall food chain as well as a reduction in drudgery as manual handling involved more time and resources given that a person could carry only two to three bundle at a time and hence its related constraints.
Slowly the lives of the people have been transforming from “ill-being to well being”. The driver and caretaker are also from Jaoliabari village. Elizabeth Mardi, the caretaker states that “People of Jaoliabari and the surrounding villages have been benefited in various ways. Earlier many people did not cultivate even though they had land as they did not have bullocks. Now those people have also started cultivating on their land. Also, the SHG members are able to hire the tractor at subsidized rates”.