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Targeting self-help groups for rural development -- IDE offers drip irrigation systems for small far

Rukmini Priyadarshini

``Since formal credit structures, especially banks, are unwilling to offer loans for such programmes, we find that SHGs are the ideal mechanism to promote the use of enabling technologies,''

BANGALORE, March 31

INTERNATIONAL Development Enterprise (IDE) is launching a range of affordable gravity-driven drip irrigation systems in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

These systems are targeted at small/marginal farmers who have access to but not own a water source, according to Mr Ravishankar, its Chief Operating Manager. IDE is involved in identifying, developing and mass marketing affordable, appropriate irrigation technologies across the country to small and marginal farmers.

``For three months now, we are working in Mysore and the surrounding areas as well as in North Karnataka -- Chitradurga and Bellary,'' Mr Ravishankar said. The process involves tie-ups with manufacturers, distributors and end-customers for the products — the small and marginal farmers.

For drip irrigation projects, IDE is mainly targeting women's self-help groups (SHGs), as also dealers and rural youth. "We hope women will become the vehicles for dissemination of technology, its installation and after-sales service,'' Mr Ravishankar said.

In the case of the Krishaka Bandhu range of drip irrigation systems, the kits are suited for areas of 10 square metres to more than 200 sq metres be it for a kitchen garden, vegetable or horticulture crop, floriculture, mulberry and cotton or a small nursery.

``Since formal credit structures, especially banks, are unwilling to offer loans for such programmes, we find that SHGs are the ideal mechanism to promote the use of enabling technologies,'' according to Mr Ravishankar. Although the kitchen garden-type of drip irrigation system could cost just Rs 220, a quarter acre system could cost Rs 4,000-5,000, he added. Most SHGs have money and few avenues for the utilisation of these funds, according to IDE. That meant the funds could be channelled for consumption.

``As a result, when we approach the women through the SHGs, not only are they able to fund their members but also utilise their savings,'' Mr Ravishankar said. In areas where SHGs are absent, dealers offer credit although that could come at a premium of 20 per cent of the cost of the product.

``As a not-for-profit organisation, we use our funds (from donor agencies) for marketing... as a tool for development,'' Mr Ravishankar said. IDE does not believe in subsidies as "they may not reach the target, are often not warranted and the beneficiary may not realise the value of the product or service that is subsidised.'' Its reliance on free market forces means that unless the technology or product that "we are marketing is really useful, it will fail. That is an indication to us to re-evaluate our assumptions and the direction of our efforts,'' Mr Ravishankar said.

The development and marketing network involves small-scale entrepreneurs such as manufacturers, distributors, agri-input dealers, kit assemblers and self-employed mechanics and spans non-governmental organisations and village-level systems.

IDE will withdraw from a project after it reaches critical mass, as in its sericulture project in Karnataka for instance, which is 5 years old. IDE plans to exit in a year after setting up user and dealer associations, and leave it to the market forces to continue.

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