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  Social Responsibility

Rural Development
Published on: Feb. 13, 2020, 6:31 p.m.
Marico's Parachute Kalpavriksha helps coconut farmers to increase their yield
  • Parachute Kalpavriksha helps farmers increase their yield

By Business India Editorial

onsumer goods company Marico works towards the upliftment of communities and to transform the lives of farmers in India. With an objective of supporting farmers beyond traditional agricultural practices, Marico trains them in the gamut of agricultural management.

Launched on World Coconut Day, Parachute Kalpavriksha is an initiative for supporting coconut farmers. It supports coconut farmers to increase their yield by training them on aspects of farm management like nutrients, pests, diseases and water. This enables higher and sustainable crop yield and provides training to farmers to handle their farms independently. The Kalpavriksha programme has Farm Care personnel (agronomists) that interact with farmers, help them understand the programme and also provide on-field support. They provide training modules which comprise of scientific farm practices for nutrient and disease management. This is further amplified through the farmer trainings’ digital library comprising 35 videos developed in five languages – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and English.

Agronomists can only reach farmers on the planned route and on the planned day of the visit. But many other farmers need help. With an aim to provide instant support to them, the programme has built a Care Centre (toll-free number) that farmers can call to seek support. This is again available in multiple regional languages. This centre has provided assistance to over 72,000 farmers so far.

Adding more layers of digital augmentation, the programme has a dedicated Facebook page specially developed to support the farmers. Platforms like blogs and YouTube are also chosen to create awareness among the coconut farmers. So far, the estimated impact through digital promotions is 1,60,000 followers on Facebook, and over 10 lakh YouTube views. The programme is also telecast at a dedicated timeslot on local TV channels for educating farmers.

Visuals and demonstrations are the most impactful means of inducting new practices. The creation of Parachute Kalpavriksha Knowledge Centre, enables Marico to invite farmers and demonstrate various aspects that can help improve productivity. As a first step, a master demo farm is planted which is designed to demonstrate yield variance with varying inputs. The demo farm consists of six varieties (tall, dwarf and hybrid) trees planted across three panels treated with different inputs. Marico invested Rs4.6 crore in this initiative in 2018-19.

The company has worked with agencies like Coodu & Dhan Foundation on propagating water conservation initiatives. Water is the most important factor for enabling higher yield. Marico has made 72 farm ponds in water-scarce areas of Tamil Nadu. It is also building trenches, bunds, mulching and has developed two farm field schools for training farmers on water conservation initiatives.

Marico faced initial challenges in educating and convincing farmers to become a part of its programme. After one set of farmers enrolled with the company, recruitment gained pace. Recruiting and training 50+ agronomists and managing their performance had its own challenges. The company used technology (app, geo-tagging) to address these challenges.

Marico has now enrolled 10,262 farmers working on 72,609 acres in its Kalpavriksha programme. Farmers enrolled have experienced 16 per cent increase in productivity post six months of support from Kalpavriksha. This increase will enhance their income by 30-35 per cent. Post the pilot project success in the Tanjavur district, the Kalpavriksha initiative was expanded across multiple districts in Tamil Nadu. It is present in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Future efforts will cover the remaining potential areas in Tamil Nadu and grow exponentially in the three others coconut producing states (Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh). The aim is to impact 20 lakh coconut farmers and make a difference in their lives by enhancing their income. The programme will continue its journey and enrol around 10,000 to 15,000 farmers per year via the agronomist route. Through the initiative, Marico is working on other models like deploying agriculture entrepreneurs for expanding this programme at a faster pace.

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