The Government of Maharashtra has launched the State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project to promote farming in the state. The project will be implemented in Maharashtra and covers 10,000 villages of the state that is, one-fourth of the state. This project objective will be achieved over the next three years. This article elaborates the features of the SMART Project.
Objectives of the SMART Project
The goals of the SMART Project are as follows.
- To increase the income of the farmers.
- To provide easy access to markets for farmers to sell their produce.
- It intends to revamp agricultural value chains, with its primary focus on the marginal farmers across 1,000 villages.
The State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation, launched by the Chief Minister, works on the enhancement of the agribusiness and rural transformation. It is a project in association with the World Bank to transform rural Maharashtra using ‘SMART’ interventions in agriculture and livelihood sectors.
This initiative is a stepping stone for doubling the farmers’ income by 2022. The SMART project supports the post-harvest value chain and brings efficiency to benefit the economy at large, encouraging small and medium enterprises within the value chain. It strives to establish a partnership between various stakeholders in the agri-business segments along with the farmer organisations, village level groups, farmer companies, start-ups, SMEs and large corporates with women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs).
Features of the SMART Project
The characteristic features of the SMART Project are given below.
- State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation is a world bank assisted project.
- All decisions of the project will be made by a committee under the chief secretary.
- Over 49 corporate houses namely Reliance, Amazon, Walmart, Mahindra Agro, Pepsico, Tata Rallis, Big Basket, Patanjali, Tata Chemical etc. have become partners with government, where some of them have already signed MoU with the government.
- The project ensures that agriculture is sustainable and affordable for farmers.
- It encourages value addition in post-harvest segments of value chains, facilitates enterprise promotion and business investment.
- Many food and agricultural startups are also working to fix farmers issues.
- Government is also helping farmer groups with market access.
- The project provides an assured market for agricultural produce.
- The said project provides direct market access with direct connections between farmers and corporates.
- It ensures better prices.
- The entrepreneurial partners of the projects include Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation (MVSTF), Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission (MSRLM) and Maharashtra Agricultural Competitiveness Project (MACP) along with Confederation of Industries (CII).
- The government officials have invested a sum of Rs. 2,118 crores for the implementation of the project. World bank contributes an amount of Rs. 1,483 crores; the State Government has invested Rs. 565 crores and the Village Social Transformation Foundation (VSTF) donates a sum of Rs. 71 crores. The remaining fund would be raised with the help of CSR funds.
- VSTF has signed MoUs with 22 corporates and start-ups to focus on increasing the farm productivity and price realisations for farmers by a direct tie-up with end buyers.
Implementation of the SMART Project
The project will be implemented in 10,000 villages consisting of 10,000-gram panchayats that are shortlisted by the State Government depending on the multiple parameters of socio-economic backwardness of development and growth. The project targets the communities that are faltering under worse agriculture circumstances with the lack of infrastructure and assured value chains to channelise farm produce. The cabinet has also permitted in setting up a project management cell, for which 37 posts, 14 government and 23 on the contract will be generated. The Agriculture Department serves as the central agency, whereas a project coordination committee under the VSTF managing director coordinates between agriculture, marketing, cooperation, animal husbandry and rural development sectors.
Importance of the Project
The project is taking a giant leap towards the transformation of the rural economy and empowerment of farmers and also sustainable agriculture using the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. It pursues to guarantee higher crop production and to create a robust market mechanism to facilitate farmers to collect a higher salary for the yield. It combines agriculture-oriented corporates and farmers by providing them with a common platform.
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