In Indian society, the caste system, or the class into which a person is born, is often a determining factor in that person’s access to education, decent living conditions, financial stability and overall quality of life. Suminter seeks to break down these social barriers and offer farmers, who often fall at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, an opportunity to advance to higher income and education levels. We help these farmers with the know-hows and farm inputs with an extended credit period.
Social Impact Through Fairtrade
We currently have projects in three Indian states which are registered under Fairtrade. Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. When farmers sell on Fairtrade terms, it provides them with a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers global consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday purchasing.
When a product carries the FAIRTRADE mark, it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade standards. The Fairtrade standards are designed to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade. To achieve their objectives, Fairtrade requires:
Fairtrade Standards of Practices to be followed to ensure that farmers and workers are given fair treatment such as acceptable working conditions.
Fairtrade Minimum Prices (determined by the Fairtrade standards and pricing unit) to ensure that producers can cover their average costs of sustainable production. It acts as a safety net for farmers during times when world markets fall below a sustainable level.
Fairtrade Premium – an additional sum of money that farmers receive for products sold on Fairtrade terms. This is in addition to the organic premium that we pay to the farmers. This money goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers for use in improving their social, economic and environmental conditions.
So far, approximately USD 1.5 million has been allotted for use in community development projects. These include a few of the projects mentioned below:
addressing the gender gap in education
The burgeoning gender gap in education is one of the key challenges that we intend to take head on. We began with an assessment of the real reason behind this. Most of the villages in our operational area have secondary schools up to 8th grade, which a majority of the girls attend. Beyond that, however, there is a considerable dropout rate. Our Focus Group Discussions with teachers and parents revealed that more than 90% of boys in 8th grade would go on to study further, in comparison to only 40% of the girls. The cost of commute, among others, was revealed as one of the major reasons behind this statistic. This led to the conception of Project Disha, where we mentor deserving girls for higher studies. This mentoring extends to financial assistance as we also provide scholarships to these girls. We also involve parents and guide them through regular counseling on education.
Through this project, we have mentored 551 girls so far and are assisting them in continuing education.
Project Nirmal Sansadhan
addressing water scarcity
Scarcity of water in general and drinking water, in particular, is a tough challenge faced by farmers in our project area. This problem affected women the most, who had to travel to fetch water for their families. Addressing water woes has been a leading priority for Suminter, we have done this in a dual-approach under project Nirmal Sansadhan:
- On-site water conservation and irrigation initiative
- Drinking water infrastructure creation
On-site water conservation and irrigation initiatives
We are facilitating the excavation of ponds and construction of check dams (small dams across a drainage ditch, gully, or swale) in various villages. This infrastructure helps in preventing erosion and the run-off loss of water. The preserved water further enhances the quality and moisture of soil and water-tables. So far, we have constructed two ponds and two check dams.
Creating drinking water infrastructures
Being a dry region, Saurashtra (a county in the state of Gujrat) faces severe water shortage. Unavailability of water for animals forces many villagers to migrate to green pastures in mainland Gujarat. During the summers, water become the single factor that affects day-to-day life. We have initiated several projects to address water problems faced by these communities:
Community-Based Drinking Water Projects
Suminter has undertaken a water-harnessing initiative combining bore wells and storage tanks in 16 villages. These projects cumulatively serve nearly 2,000 households. Apart from this, we have installed 10 RO water purifier plants with water coolers for community use in Solapur, Maharashtra.
Water Projects for Animals
Livestock are an important component of households in Saurashtra, Gujarat. To address the water crisis for animals, we created storage tanks (locally called ‘awado’) in 8 villages.
Water Projects for Schools
Water storage tanks have been constructed in schools in 8 villages across our projects.
Animal husbandry is an important source of secondary income in our project area in Gujarat. Almost every household owns livestock and sell the milk in the local market. This provides stability to incomes of rural families. However, raising livestock has its own risks; outbreak of diseases such as hemorrhagic septicemia and foot and mouth disease results in many fatalities in the area. A single farm visit of a veterinary doctor will incur a cost of up to Rs. 500/- for one family. With this in mind, we conceived and implemented Project Pashudhan with a focus on organizing animal husbandry camps in our project area. The camps reached out to more than 2200 families spread across 20 villages with the following initiatives:
- Immunization against hemorrhagic septicemia
- Immunization against Foot and Mouth Disease
- Counseling of livestock owners on nutrition
- Fertility treatment for animals
- Treatment of other ailments
These camps were organized in collaboration with the Veterinary Department, Government of Gujarat.
Suminter has been promoting drip irrigation over conventional flood irrigation for several years. We have encouraged and arranged an exposure visit of about 420 farmers from various clusters to successful drip irrigation projects. We continue to provide financial assistance of upto 10% of the project cost to farmers who participate in the drip irrigation project. Major impacts of drip irrigation include:
On-site application of water leads to a reduction in water requirements by as much as 75%.
Reduction in power / fuel needs by 75% (while a diesel pump takes 4 hours of running to irrigate a piece of 1Ha of land in conventional flood irrigation systems, it takes only 1 hour with the drip irrigation process).
Due to the on-site application of water, germination and growth of weeds are adversely impacted. This saves farmers a substantial amount of money that they would have otherwise invested in weeding.
Vermicomposting is the breaking down of organic material through the use of worms, bacteria, and fungi. Suminter campaigned for vermicomposting with the objective of effectively utilizing organic household and animal waste, and to promote its many benefits. Along with producing a nutrient-rich fertilizer through minimal drainage, vermicomposts also retain water very well and produce an exceptional soil conditioner – something Indian farm lands really need.
Suminter constructs the vermicompost pits for the farmers at zero cost and assists them with all other requirements to maintain the pit, including training on compost production. In the first phase, 3 permanent structures for mass production of vermicompost were built, supplying 200 farmers with manure. Additionally, 300 small, individual portable vermicompost pits have been distributed to farmers to produce their own on-farm vermicompost.
Distributing Farm Inputs
We assist farmers with farming equipment such as automatic weeders, harvesting bags, tarpaulins, tilling machines, spray pumps, automatic dryers, galvanized ladders, slicers, solar panels systems, and so on.
We focus on identifying obstacles that hinder communities to meet their developmental ambitions and enhance skills that are required to overcome these obstacles. We focus most of our energy towards capacity-building of member farmers and neighboring communities. These include activities such as regular training on organic farm practices, welfare schemes, and women’s participation and self-help group development, among others. We also encourage farmer participation in Krishi Melas, Exposure Tours, and learning activities at Agriculture University, with the sole objective of enabling farmers learn and replicate successful models.
Through these activities, among others, we have helped 5500 farmers so far.