Helping Farmers Pedal Out of Poverty
Friday, February 19, 2010
He has reached over one million small and marginal farmers — those owning less than one acre — in India with his low-cost irrigation tools to meet their water needs.
But ask Amitabha Sadangi, CEO of IDE (International Development Enterprises) – India, how we are treating these farmers and he says: “Pretty badly. Agriculture has seen investment for the last 25 years but the Green Revolution has completely bypassed the small/marginal farmers. It has helped people who can invest big money in fertilisers, pesticides, etc. So these people are totally isolated.”
I met the soft-spoken Sadangi last week at the Tech4Society conference in Hyderabad where 75 social entrepreneurs/innovators, supported by Ashoka and The Lemelson foundations, were sharing their experiences.
Like other social entrepreneurs, Sadangi too doesn’t believe in subsidies and charity. Over 8 lakh small Indian farmers have given the thumbs-up to his treadle pumps costing Rs 1,200-1,500 each. Another 3 lakh-odd farmers have bought his drip irrigation system costing Rs 4,000. “Over a million farmers are still using this technology because they have bought it at full cost. Had I given them away free, or subsidised them, probably only 20 per cent would be using it now. That is the beauty of our programme.”
The 52-year-old innovator from a remote area of Orissa battled poverty in his childhood, and after completing his post-graduation in social development from Barhampur University in 1982 did not opt for a “guaranteed government job as an assistant labour welfare officer. It was considered a premium post, but with my background I wanted to help poor people.”