Why local markets might work better for some FPCs? The case of the Pandhana Pashu-Palak Company
Updated: Aug 3
With a sparkle in her eyes and visible pride, Rekhadidi, one of the five Board of Directors (BoDs) of Pandhana Pashu-Palak Producer Company Limited (PPPCL) and the Pashu Sakhi of village Nankheda said “I earned Rs. 15000 which came to my account when I sold the goats last year. Rekha, with 20 other women small livestock rearer members of PPPCL shared their journey.
Earlier many of their poultry birds would die, as they were not vaccinated. Goats and poultry would usually be underweight in the absence of good quality feed. Local traders would cheat them often as the weights of goats and birds were sold based on a ‘guestimate’ rather than the actual weight.
PPPCL, a tribal women farmers’ Producer Company set up in 2016, is unique as it is one of the few collectives that is both tribal and women-led and works with indigenous breeds of goats and poultry. Despite what appears as multiple disadvantages, the FPO has been offering products and services to meet the needs of small livestock farmers in the Pandhana Block of Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.
Goats and poultry birds are integral to the lives and livelihoods of the villagers of Nankheda and 27 villages that PPPCL works with. They are not just liquid assets for women – risk mitigation assets- but importantly provide nutrition security by bringing in dietary diversity. However, unlike other agriculture and livestock products, markets for these small livestock products are not organized and women used to sell poultry and goats at the doorstep or at the local village market with huge exploitation in weight and rates.
1. Authors' interaction wtih BoDs of PPPCL
2. Meeting of authors with livestock rearers in village Nankheda
Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP)-India, the promoting organization, has promoted 28 FPOs in Gujarat, MP and Bihar and has promoted 255 SHGs, one women’s federation and seven crop and livestock FPCs existed in the three districts of MP.
PPPCL has 552 individual tribal women livestock rearer shareholders from 28 villages. At the village level, SHGs are the base for the 30 Pashu Sakhis like Rekhadidi who help transfer knowledge to other women. Starting with goat rearing, at present PPPCL has a service as well as input production mix (e.g. salt mix, mineral mixture, drinker, feeder, poultry feed, supply of one-day chicks etc.) for both goat rearing and backyard poultry, to ensure a diversified source of livelihood to the tribal households. With a share capital of Rs. 3 lakhs and a turnover of Rs. 28.06 lakhs, PPCL has a profit of Rs. 7.29 lakhs in 2020-21.
The business services of PPCL have reached many women in neighbouring blocks who use inputs produced by Pandhana. PPPCL intends to open an outlet in other blocks as well. PPPCL now sells their input products to as far as Gujarat and Bihar as well, proudly said Reshma didi, another BoD.
“Earlier we did not know anything beyond Pandhana (the block headquarter), now everyone knows us and our company. Our CEO gets phone calls from far off places and we feel good about it”.
The CEO Kalubhai, was a Para worker earlier with AKRSP(I) earlier and is quite familiar with livestock operations.
3. Salt bricks of PPPCL being sold at neighboring Khalwa FPC
4. New poultry business in neighboring Zirniya block
The gendered dimensions of multiple Marketing channels of PPPCL
While health care services are an integral part of PPPCL, the BoDs wanted to venture into wholesale marketing of goats. As narrated by one of the BoD women in the first online meeting with the authors in September 2021:
“We wanted to have direct access to money as men drink away the money and don’t give anything in our hands”.
The first step towards this was around the eid festival time in 2017.
The five-member BoDs of PPPCL explored Indore, a wholesale market of goats, where traders arrive from as far as Mumbai. However, the market is held at night. So, while they did incur a profit of Rs. 21K, women BoDs had to sit in a corner all the time and the negotiation had to be done by the CEO and AKRSP(I) team members! The BoD members didn’t go to Indore after that. Determined as they were to learn the negotiations with traders, women continued to take the lead role at the day market of Zirniya and Borgaon- relatively local markets in the range of 30-50 kms. As Gyarsididi, another BoD member remarked
“We didn’t know how to negotiate with the traders in our first visit, so we were quiet. But now we know how to strike deals”.
Indore or Zirniya markets are for the direct sale of goats. However, Pandhana is the local marketplace where villagers, including PPPCL’s own women shareholders, purchase processed goats from. In order to capture the additional profit by value addition of processed goat and ensuring the supply of fresh mutton to members, PPPCL set up shop in 2019-20at the weekly market of Pandhana. Their plans were however cut short because of hostile reactions from local traders who did not want to lose their market base. So, PPPCL refocused its efforts to set up shops in two village markets instead. The shops had a good start but had to be closed down during the pandemic. Sales have again picked up since its reopening in March 2021.
The average profit of each weekly mutton shop/week is Rs. 1000, thus giving Rs. 8000/month for the current shops, with a projection of Rs. 96000/year from just two shops. The Company intends to set up two more such shops.
5. PPPCL at the Indore wholesale market of goats: A men's world!
6. PPPCL mutton shop in weekly village market: Gender equations change!
Improving access to food security through local markets
Experience of village-based fresh processed goat shops has been very positive, also from the point of view of access to a nutritional diet. The system of demand collection set up by PPPCL at weekly shops in the morning and supplying fresh mutton at a fixed time in the afternoon, not only ensures that no excess mutton is left, but also provides a never fresh supply of mutton for cooking.
Since the weekly market mutton shop is closer to the village, it has increased footsteps of women customers for purchases, where against an average of 10%, at least 40% customers are now women, thus giving scope to increased say of women in dietary decision making.
Can decentralized markets improve gender representation and agency?
From a gender perspective, the wholesale night market had not been in favor of women, whereas the local markets helped them understand the markets and learn negotiation skills. Establishing a market in the catchment of other FPOs also helped create women’s own collective identity and agency.
In an uncertain environment of climate change, the case of PPPCL explores how local and decentralized markets should be given equal (or more) emphasis by FPOs, especially when they are more women-friendly. It is pertinent to ask, are local markets the future for PPPCL, and other women-led FPOs in general?
The indicators by which women themselves see the success of PPPCL are not just of business turnover or profits. They see it by women’s direct access to income, enhanced nutritional security, enhanced skills to negotiate with the traders, etc. These observations underscore the fact that the success of an FPO cannot be evaluated only from a business perspective. It has to take into consideration the social returns. It is time we start having measurable indicators for these as well and have investments flow that respects FPOs, especially in tribal areas, as social enterprises.
This blog is written by Naveen Patidar, Chief Operating Officer, AKRSP(I) and Shilpa Vasavada, Independent Development Professional, Gender and Livelihoods.