ABOUT FARMERS ASSOCIATION
Farmers in India remain poor as they are not able to obtain better prices inspite of the hard work they do in order to reap harvests. They are not in a position to determine the price for their own produce. The need of the hour is to establish commodity groups, farmers interest groups and farmers federation so that they gain the confidence to fix price for their produce.
A Farmer Interest Group (FIG) is a self managed, independent group of farmers with a shared goal and interest. The members work together to achieve this goal by pooling their existing resources, gaining better access to other resources and to share in the resulting benefits.
Benefits of forming a group
• Access to technical and market information
• Improved buying and selling power
• Likely to maintain useful and relevant activities
• High motivation for sustainability
• Builds social cohesion
Activities of a group
• Conduct meetings
• Engage in information sharing (including networking with other groups)
• Receive technical training
• Conduct field trials
• Organise bulk selling and purchasing
• Develop market networks and make market assessments
• Support individual members on a needs basis
• Manage a 'revolving' fund for group activities
• Identify technical and product opportunities
• Invest in issues that cannot be covered by individuals
• Gain access to credit not available to individuals
Objectives of a group
• To address production and marketing issues
• To develop 'self-help' approaches
• To provide pooled resources
• To allow members to exploit an economy of scale
• To provide a forum for training and information sharing
• To provide a focal point for technical and training activities
Characteristics of a group
• Action focussed
• Single topic
• Limited lifespan
• Members with a vested interest
Pre requisites in forming a Group
Decide The Topic Of The Group
To decide on the topic of the group you can follow the following steps:
Identify a problem or an issue
You and your neighbours are experts in your businesses. You will notice problems and issues every day that people 'outside' don't necessarily see or understand, and most probably, you discuss them with each other.
Gain an overview of needs
You identify your needs by looking at the ways in which you can address your problems. This can be done by the group itself, or you can enlist the help of a facilitator such as the commune extension worker or someone else to help guide the process.
Common types of needs you may identify:
• Technical assistance to help you improve production or use improved technology
• Technical assistance for the introduction, trial or development of a promising new product or enterprise
• Technical assistance for deciding whether to implement a new idea
Identify the topic of your group
The topic of your group is the strategy that you develop to address these needs that are more effectively carried out in a group than as individuals. The most important factor in selecting a topic is that it should be market focussed. That is, it should not focus on an isolated production problem or need, but should have some basis in improving the ability to sell a product or improve the profit. If addressing your chosen problem or need does not improve your ability to sell or improve the price of your product, there is not point in forming a group to address it and interest in the group will quickly diminish. You may already have some ideas about problems or needs that should be addressed in your business, but the following process may help you if you are unsure.
• Brainstorm problems: eg low rice yields, grubs in mangos, maize harvest taking too long, - all which affect profit / income.
• Identify the type of need that will help address each problem: eg low rice yield =
technical assistance for production improvement or technology implementation.
• List needs: this list can be as short as one item or as long as you wish. Prioritise this list if the group thinks that it is useful to do so.
• Choose one need and make that the initial focus of your discussions, requests and
activities. This will become the theme or the topic of your group. You should focus on a single topic. If you wish to address other topics, you may need more than one group or deal with them one after another.
Responsibilities in the Group
Even though the idea of a FIG is that everyone works together to address their common issue, the group will probably still need to elect a group leader and to assign responsibilities such as bookkeeping and record keeping to other members.
When should responsibility be assigned?
During the conception of the group and the initial preparation, informal leadership is likely to form naturally. The people who come up with the idea for the group will automatically start the process. The activities in this process are likely to include gauging interest, initiating discussion, preparing and chairing the interest assessment meeting. During the group establishment meeting this leadership should be formalised by nominating and voting candidates into the required positions. The initial leaders do not necessarily have to be voted into the formal leadership positions.
What leadership positions should there be?
The actual leadership positions required will vary from group to group, but it is likely that each group will require at least some of the following positions:
||Chair meetings; represent group; overall management responsibility; spokesperson; co-financial signatory
|Deputy Group Leader
||Deputize when Group Leader is unavailable, share tasks with Group Leader when Group Leader needs support
||Receives, prepares and sends correspondence; takes and maintains minutes
||Keeps groups financial records; has responsibility for banking and petty cash; manages revolving fund; collects fees from members; manages credit facility if applicable; co-financial signatory
||Stores and maintains records and reference material
In addition, the group may have various activity specific leaders for group activities
Depending on the size and needs of the group, some of these functions can be undertaken by multiple people (For example the Deputy Group Leader may also be the Bookkeeper or the Secretary may also be the Record Keeper), but it is up to the group.
Preparation/Interest Assessment Meeting
If you think that there are enough people who may be interested in your idea, then you should hold an interest assessment meeting. This can be a reasonably casual meeting as its purpose is to determine whether there is enough such interest or not.
You cannot form a successful group if no one is interested. By talking with your neighbours or even holding a meeting to gauge interest you can determine whether it is worth trying to establish a group.
• Prepare initial meeting
• Invite those people involved in developing the original idea and also issue a general invitation to other village members who may be interested
• Choose a venue and a time convenient for most participants. A local communal building or a local person's house is best
Group Establishment Meeting
When you have determined that there is enough 'in-principle' support for the formation of a group, conduct your first meeting. The following is a list of things that should be done during the first meeting:
• Formalise topic/product of group
• Confirm membership list
• Choose leadership/coordination/management
• Develop operational plan
• Set and collect fees
• Discuss and begin to design of book keeping system
• Discuss and begin to design regulations
• Agree on meeting documentation including minutes and agendas
The details for forming an association can be obtained from the Department of Registration, Collectorate of the respective districts.
MEMORANDUM OF ASSOCIATION - A Sample