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  • Parthasarathy T, Jagdish Nayak

What FPO Capacity Building is NOT, and what can be done

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

This blog explores the challenges faced by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) in current capacity building programs, emphasizing a one-size-fits-all approach and a lack of practical learning. SkillGreen proposes a comprehensive four-fold solution involving participatory methodologies, field-based content, open-source learning materials, and grassroots trainers. SkillGreen's efforts are in developing effective capacity building solutions and stresses the importance of continuous support for FPOs to achieve concrete business goals.

The importance of capacity building for successful FPOs is well recognised. However, most capacity building programs fail to address the FPOs’ actual learning and skilling needs, creating a situation of “Training, Training everywhere, but nothing for FPOs to learn”. To understand what capacity building is, let us ask ourselves, what is NOT capacity building. Let’s suppose you want to learn swimming. You enrol for training and attend a two-day training by experts and you see PPTs, motivational videos and lectures. Would u consider your “capacities built” enough to jump into water and swim?

There is a large number of capacity building programmes in the FPO ecosystem, our experience suggests that current capacity building programmes have the following shortcomings.

  • One-size-fits-all mentality: A standard set of trainings in the form of lectures and PPTs, are currently dished out for everyone working with FPOs. These could form a part of orientation, but cannot be called capacity building.

  • Theoretical Gyaan: There is a persistent lack of content based on field experience and learnings generated from various FPO initiatives so far.

  • Money matters: Resources available for capacity building of FPOs is meagre. In the 10k FPO programme, the allocation for capacity building is too little and less than 5% FPOs get post project support.

The lack of adequate time to form the FPOs, followed by insufficient orientation for the field staff members and target-based incubation practices compound the issue. The severe time pressure results in the supposed capacity building process being just a checklist criteria to complete. An FPO Director is expected to learn basics of “What is FPO?” to advanced “NCDEX/Export Marketing” in a 2 day training, which most MBAs would not be able to!

Learning happens through constructive discussions, debate, arguments in a friendly environment maintained by a facilitator.

Benudhar Naik, an FPO director in Odisha says. “I have attended many trainings organised by Government and NGOs, the officials and resource persons come and lecture about FPO business. I am a tribal; many times, I do not understand the language they speak in. Sometime back we had to pay a fine as an FPO because we had not submitted our KYCs in time. Our members always ask me what the benefit of the FPO is.”

How FPO Capacity Building can be done

SkillGreen sees the solutions to FPO capacity building as a four-fold approach.

First, there is a requirement for a wide range of participatory methodologies covering fundamental FPO topics like Governance, Compliances, Management and Business Planning. Second, there is a need to document situations and challenges faced by FPOs, i.e. empirical studies and content based on field experiences, as a basis for learning content. Third, low-cost learning materials such as Open-Source manuals for Capacity building are needed since financial resources available for FPO capacity building, beyond the project support, are limited. Finally, there is a need to nurture grassroot trainers for FPOs, who are familiar with the local language, context and can easily facilitate need based participatory sessions at regular intrevals.

In its efforts to develop effective capacity building solutions, SkillGreen has worked with more than 450 FPOs across 17 states in the country in collaboration with over 50 partners till date.

Beginning with Competency Gap Assessment

Participatory competency analysis is conducted with each participant group, ex: existing directors of FPOs, and they are asked the question, “What would you want to learn if this was your first year as a director?”. Their role w.r.t FPOs and required skillset are clearly documented and used to design curriculum for FPO directors, Staff, CBBO and government officials.

Manuals are developed in collaborative write-shops where practitioners and experts collaborate to contribute voluntarily on topics they have experience in. The manuals are revised based on feedback from the field. 11 FPO training manuals have been developed, catering to various participant types and basic/ advanced levels. As open-source manuals, the manuals originally in English, have been adapted, translated and published by other agencies as open source works.

Training-of trainers and decentralised support

SkillGreen in collaboration with partners has organized Training-of-Trainers (ToTs) across the country. After ToTs, the trainers are supported by observers in facilitating FPO workshops using the training manuals. SkillGreen works with different partners in the FPO ecosystem – CBBOs like Myrada, APMAS, AKRSP, Academia like IRMA, CSRs like Reliance Foundation, Partners like Samunnati, FWWB, Government and Bilaterial Agencies like GIZ, World Bank, Centre of Excellence for FPOs, TNVKP, SERP and FPO federations like MBCFPCL. FPOs are supported through need-based participatory capacity-building on statutory compliances, understanding financial statements and focussed work like developing business plans, annual planning etc. Currently our services are offered in 9 Indian languages - Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Assamese, Odia, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.

Mamataben Sayani, FPO Director in Gujarat, says, “Unique training! the facilitator involved us in various activities, explored our ideas and discussed topics elaborately. We developed understanding on the activities of FPO. We did not realise how the time passed. Here we also prepared action plans for each FPO which was new for us. One-time training will not be enough for us to run the FPO. We need such trainings time-to-time on other aspects of FPOs functioning.”

Capacity Building as a continuous process

Far from a success story, SkillGreen’s journey has just begun. Arvind Risbud, Myrada says, “Participatory Capacity Building is necessary but not sufficient”. It develops hygiene in FPOs, it results in better understanding of the participants’ role vis-à-vis FPO and increased motivation, confidence, participation of BOD / CEO in FPO activities, besides realistic planning. But concrete results depend on several factors – staff attrition, structural issues, dynamics within FPO and other external factors. We set realistic expectations and discuss processes to make capacity building more effective.

We also support partners with value chain and other studies used in designing intervention strategies. SkillGreen has worked on market linkage pilots and aiming to work with more FPOs to make them market ready and facilitate market linkages through continuous engagement over a period of 2-3 years. Here, Capacity Building is a means to achieve concrete business goals.

To improve our role in post training support, we do regular field visits, online mentoring and clearly designed hands-on assignments to be completed by participants after training, in collaboration with our implementation partners. A key challenge we are working to address is finding trainers and mentors with a participatory mindset, willing to spend time with FPOs.

Older FPOs better understand the need for meaningful Capacity Building. For new FPOs being formed as part of the 10k programme, there is a need for greater collaboration with academic institutions like IRMA along with social enterprises like SkillGreen. The government can also take a leaf out of the SHG movement and progammes like National Rural Livelihoods Mission, which have established good practices, such as significant budgetary allocation for capacity building, peer-to-peer learning etc.


Parthasarathy T is the CEO of SkillGreen Global

Jagdish Nayak is Regional Head (FPO) in SkillGreen Global


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