Agri Business

Raising the chips for women potato farmers

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on November 09, 2020 Published on November 09, 2020

500-odd women farmers in Bengal have been trained so far

PepsiCo-USAID pilot project aims to train Bengal’s women on potato cultivation

Thirty-eight year old Shamima Begum’s eyes shine with pride. The housewife who informally helped her potato-farmer husband in the fields is now an “agri-preneur” in her own right. Along with six other women, she cultivated chip-grade potatoes on one acre of land for Pepsico India, and together the women have earned a tidy profit of ₹14,000.

Split seven ways, the amount may seem small; but for Shamima, it spells her first independent earnings and feels empowering.

That’s one of the intentions of the Pepsico-USAID (US Agency for International Development) pilot project to impart potato production training to women in West Bengal. It hopes to raise female participation rate in agriculture in the State, which varies from an abysmal 1-15 per cent from district to district, as well as skill them to be independent.

Shamima is among the 500-odd women farmers in West Bengal to receive the training. “We were taught a lot of things starting from preparing the land for sowing of potatoes to harvesting,” she says.

Bengal is one of the key sourcing centres for PepsiCo, with around 25 per cent of direct procurement of potatoes coming from the State. PepsiCo works with over 27,000 farmers across 14 States in India.

Globally, PepsiCo and USAID have announced a $20-million partnership to drive inclusivity across the food and beverage industry.

Investing in women

“At USAID, we believe that investing in women is key to advancing a country along its journey to self-reliance. Through the W-GDP Fund, our partnership with PepsiCo will promote economic opportunities and leadership roles for women farmers,” John Barsa, Acting Administrator, USAID said.

PepsiCo expects to reach 1,500 women farmers during the current potato growing season (2020-21), which is expected to start in November-December. Many of these women are already part of farmer households that supply to PepsiCo.

In Bengal, where most of the agricultural landholding is small, getting land for cultivation is the biggest challenge. So, apart from providing training support, the company also supports women by helping them lease the land for cultivation of potatoes, says Pratap Bose, Agro-Director, PepsiCo India.

According to Bose, the partnership with USAID is planned for three years and more farmers will be added to the programme. He also hinted the model could be replicated in some other States as well.

It is expected that the training programme in West Bengal will reach more than 300,000 women through direct and community engagement.

“While women play a crucial supporting role in potato cultivation in the State, however, they do not get much importance,” said Abdul Alim, agronomist, PepsiCo.

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Published on November 09, 2020
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