Skilling more than 281,000 farmers within 18 months
The Government of Maharashtra (GoM) identified agriculture as a crucial sector to focus on enhancing Maharashtra’s future productivity and economic competitiveness. It was identified that triggering new employment and market opportunities across agricultural value chains were critical to achieving socio-economic growth across rural Maharashtra. For this to happen, the state would require investing in skill development and certification on a large scale for its farmers.
The Agriculture sector is one of the major contributors of the Indian economy, accounting for 23% of the country’s GDP and representing 59% of the country’s workforce. However, despite the significant contributions of the agriculture sector to the Indian economy, majority of the Indian farmers are still struggling to utilise agriculture as a sustainable source of income. It is estimated that around 52% of the farmers in rural India are indebted with INR 47,000 with annual average income of just over INR 77,000 per household. However, the cycle of low income, debt and high expenses has put the individual farmers at a great risk and rendered them incapable of changing the status quo by themselves. Therefore, it is critical for the farmers to unite, build on their collective strengths and work towards a shared goal to be able to grow. It has been established that when farmers come together to form a Farmer Interest Group or establish a Farmer Producer Company, they are able to leverage their collective expertise and bargaining power to break out of this circle, strengthen their position within the agri value chain and achieve financial growth.
In October 2018, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the Maharashtra State Skill Development Society (MSSDS) launched an ambitions agri-skilling programme, under the guise of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 2.0 (PMKVY 2.0). The Maharashtra Agri-Skilling Programme (MASP) was one of the first Special Projects being implemented in India under Recognition of Prior Learning scheme to be implemented at massive scale and speed, with the aim of training and certifying 281,000 farmers across rural Maharashtra by March 2020. This innovative intervention by the GoM goes a step beyond certifying the farmers, and facilitates farmers to express their interest to form Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) while also offering them guidance for company registration, Business Advisory Services (BAS) for business planning, support in submission of their business plans to concerned financial institutions for credit/capital building. The MASP also comprises an individual skilling component, with its focus on enhancing skills and employability of youth in agriculture sector to drive the FPOs established by participants of the mass skilling intervention.
The programme was funded by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and implemented by the Maharashtra State Skill Development Society (MSSDS) in the state as the Project Implementation Agency (PIA). The Agriculture Skill Council of India (ASCI) developed the curriculum and assessment framework for the programme and the Maharashtra State Council for Vocational Training (MSCVT) was entrusted with farmer assessment and certification.
The MSSDS appointed a consortium of SIMACES Learning LLP and Palladium Consulting India Pvt. Ltd. as the offcial Training Partners to design and deliver farmer training and facilitate undertakings for Farmer Producer Organisations, combining the synergies of both public and private sector to achieve optimum positive impact for farmers in Maharashtra.
"Our efforts were finally rewarded when 281,000 farmers got certified in the programme despite a stringent passing criterion of 70%".
Bobby Nimbalkar, Director at SIMACES Learning LLP
The actual training activities under MASP commenced in December 2018, and the programme has since created more than 2,500 direct employment opportunities for youth across Maharashtra, employing more than 70% local agri graduates for programme implementation. MASP has been successful in reaching its ambitious goal of certifying 281,000 farmers across Maharashtra, with 166.995 farmers being trained and certified across 16 districts in Marathwada, Vidarbha, Konkan, Western Maharashtra and Northern Maharashtra (Khandesh) by November 2019. Training and assessment activities are currently ongoing in 9 districts, where 17,251 farmers have been assessed and 12,076 participants have been certified as ‘Group Farming Practitioners’ by 15 January 2020.
The MASP has not only been recognised for its performance by stakeholders at state and central level, but national and third-party organisations have recognised the mass skilling intervention as well. The MASP was awarded the record for ‘Maximum Farmers Assessed on Skill Development Programme in a Single Day’ by the Asia Book of Records (ABR) and the India Book of Records (IBR) on 15th 2019.