Setting up farmer-producer organisations can be the biggest weapon against poverty, said experts at a panel discussion on 'Making markets work for the poor' hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) here.
"Farmer-producer organisations can help farmers increase their income and provide them better access to services. Dairy like cooperatives are coming up in the country," said International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Director for South Asia Pramod K. Joshi.
He said the current government has given a new lease of life to such organisations by promoting its formation and by offering the farmers incentives to become members. Poultry, 80 per cent in the organised sector, grew 12 per cent annually last decade, he said.
Self-Employed Women's Association's (SEWA) Social Security Team Director Mirai Chatterjee said: "Basic building block is organisation. It increases the collective strength, bargaining power and helps gain access to resources which no individual can alone do."
More than 270 million Indians still live on less than two dollars a day and millions more are in a state of near-poverty, one health emergency or crop failure away from destitution, BMGF said in a report, adding that systemic poverty presents the greatest barrier to equal opportunity.
"The foundation believes in 'All lives have equal value' and there is a continuous reduction in child mortality, infant mortality, tuberculosis, polio and the likes. But all lives do not have equal opportunity," said BMGF Executive Director Rodger Voorhies.
The BMGF's Global Growth and Opportunity division is a response to this, he said, adding that it is designed to redesign financial, technological, infrastructural and social systems so they provide equal opportunities to all. It works in four areas: agricultural development, financial services for the poor, water, sanitation and hygiene, and gender equality.
"No country has been able to come out of poverty without addressing problems and working on advancements in the agricultural sector," said Voorhies. Better collection of data, access to services and new technologies can increase farmers' productivity, he added.
KaliedoFin Co-Founder Sucharita Mukherjee said: "Procuring documents and letters from the poor to authenticate them was a cumbersome process. Aadhaar has made a big difference. Technology is making things possible but lot of businesses are still to adapt."
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat campaign, Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary Parameswaran Iyer said: "There is 90 per cent usage of toilets reflecting success in behavioural change. This is important for security and dignity of women, health impact and the huge savings each family does by way of reduction in doctor visits and medicines."
He said that while they have 10 months to completely make India open defecation free (ODF), the government is coordinating with states and districts to keep it sustainable, i.e. ODFS (ODF-Sustainable), and plans to take it beyond that with ODF+ (ODF-Plus), which would also look into solid and liquid waste management.
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