Young entrepreneur empowers her village
Sangeeta Kumari is an Agri-Entrepreneur (AE) in a remote area of Bihar. She is 26 years old and a mother of two. Sangeeta started her enterprise in August 2018. By March 2019, she had already earned over 54,000 rupees. 200 local farmers now have easy access to banking services and high-quality inputs.
Sangeeta’s village is over 7 km from the nearest town. Poor roads and little access to transport put the farmers at a significant disadvantage. They were forced to pay unfair prices for inputs in town, or do without. They also found it hard to access banking services. After the 7km trek, long queues would prevent them from being served. Farmers would often return empty-handed.
Now, however, Sangeeta Kumari is providing financial services through Spice Money and runs an input store in her village. She trained on the AE Enterprise Program run by Jeevika (the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society) and Syngenta Foundation India (SFI). This program has created a network of over 165 AEs across five districts in Bihar.
Each AE provides key services to 150 - 200 farmers from his or her village. They include farming advice, access to high-quality inputs, markets, and financial services. Young rural people who apply for the program first complete a rigorous screening process. The selected candidates then receive 45-day residential training.
Before the AE program, Sangeeta worked as a Skill Extension Worker (SEW) with Jeevika. She earned a monthly allowance of INR 3,500 plus INR 30,000 annually from her farm. However, it was difficult to make ends meet. Soon after training, Sangeeta started her two enterprises. She provides inputs at a lower price than retailers in town and has carried out transactions of over INR 4,000,000 for the farmers through Spice Money.
Sangeeta is the only woman entrepreneur in her village and has made a mark for herself. Her income has doubled in the last six months and is poised to increase further through expansion into other services.
“When she applied for the AE program, Sangeeta did not even know how to use a smartphone. Now she has bought a laptop and is independently running her business”, reports Chandramani, an Agri-Entrepreneur Mentor at SFI. “For future growth, we want to strengthen her financial business with value-added services such as debit card withdrawals and a POS machine. We are also exploring ways for her to start a nursery.”
Sangeeta’s success is based on an established relationship with farmers. She first developed this trust as a Jeevika SEW. The AE training and regular guidance from SFI help her use this good basis to the full, supporting farmers and her family.
Her increase in income has enabled Sangeeta to invest in better education, including for herself. “Before, it was very difficult to send my son to school”, she says. “Now he is enrolled in a private residential school, where the education is better.”
SFI is currently working on the following initiatives:
- Market-led extension (MLE) in vegetables
- Seed production in hybrid rice and vegetables
- Promoting allied services such as keeping goats, dairy and farm machinery
- Agri-entrepreneurship for scaling-up MLE in vegetables
- Facilitating credit to farmers and agri-entrepreneurs through the IDBI Bank
- Undertaking pilot projects on new insurance solutions
- Community-based irrigation projects