What if I told you that a lot of traditional farmers and many remote farms in India are actually quite productive? We have actually met many farmers during our long stay in the Indian countryside, and they basically fall into two camps. The larger, of course, are impoverished farmers. These are people who have no access to land or often access land in a very unfair way. For every ten things that they harvest off the land, they only get to keep two.
At the other side of the equation are farmers who are actually productive. Maybe they own their own land, or they are really good at producing yields. Whatever the case may be these people are blessed, and they are able to make the land, as small as it may be, produce a lot of food. In fact, some of them are really good producers. We’re talking substantial yields. However, the problem is they are still poor.
Well, it’s too easy to why. They are located in such remote areas that it takes a lot of money and resources to get their produce to the market. Now, it would be great if they are greeted with a tremendous payout when they successfully get their crops from point A to point B.
Unfortunately, that’s not happening. They go through all the hassles of getting the crops harvested, load it up and going through many messed-up and badly maintained roads. By the time they get to the market, the market rewards them with rock-bottom prices. The great paradox here is that the consumers pay really high prices while the farmers are paid rock-bottom prices. What happens?
Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. It’s the middle man who make a lot of money, and really it all boils down to lack of access to markets because if these small-time producers were only able to access markets closer to larger metropolitan areas, they would have made more money than their costs.
However, that’s not possible because of the lack of farm-to-market roads. In many traditional countries, the phrase “farm to market” is actually quite popular especially around campaign season. Politicians make a lot of promises regarding the latest and greatest farm-to-market road, national politicians running for senator or upper house would always talk about budgeting money for a lot more farm-to-market roads.
Nonetheless, interestingly enough, election cycle after election cycle, decade after decade, people conveniently forget after the elections are over. Once all the votes have come in and the dynasties get elected, they forget about the farm-to-market infrastructure, and this is the key if we are going to solve rural poverty because there are people there who are willing to work. There are people there who already have the knowledge. There are people who have the resources.
The problem is even if they produce bumper crop after bumper crop, they’re still poor because getting the output to where it needs to go takes so much money, and the problem is there are people who go up there to where they are, and these are called traders, but they basically nickel and dime them.
For example, a farmer would know that his crop is worth $100, but he will gladly take a dollar because nobody else would buy the stuff from him, and he cannot bring the stuff to market. That’s the harsh reality in modern agriculture in India and Southeast Asia. This is a serious problem because NGOs cannot fix this.
We at ASSEFA Italia located here in Milan, Italy cannot fix this. This is an issue that is purely local. Until and unless people stand up for their rights and demand to elect the right people, this is not going to change any time soon.