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FEATURE STORYFebruary 27, 2024

Agricultural Entrepreneurs Cultivating Success In Assam


World Bank


  • The World Bank is engaged in the agriculture sector in Assam for over two decades. It began with the $126 million Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agriculture Services Project (ARIASP) in 1995. The project helped increase agricultural productivity and incomes of around 2 lakh small and marginal farmers in the state. The project closed in 2004.
  • In 2005, the $154 million Assam Agriculture Competitiveness Project (AACP) was approved. The Project focussed on increasing productivity and improving market access. It helped improve irrigation and use of agricultural technology leading to close to 40 percent increase in production of high-value crops like vegetables and oilseeds benefiting over 5.5 lakhs farmers. The project closed in 2015.
  • The ongoing $200 million Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART) was approved in 2017. The project focuses on both primary agriculture and enterprise development. In primary agriculture, APART has already supported over 500,000 farmers across sectors like rice, dairy, fisheries, livestock, and silk, with plans to reach an additional 100,000 farmers. In enterprise development, the project has transformed over 2,000 enterprises and aims to support 1,000 more, including 50 large agribusiness enterprises.

On a pleasant December morning, 37-year-old farmer Kamal Kumari, set out from her home to the fields bordering her village in the northeastern state of Assam. As she walked through vast paddy and mustard fields, she could see the faint outline of the majestic Himalayas in the distant horizon. Kamal was joined by other women farmers, and together they reached a large plot of land. Taking charge of the bright yellow seeder machine, Kamal climbed onto the driver's seat, while her companions filled the back of the tiller with potato seeds. Throughout the day, they ploughed through the field planting the potato seeds.

These women farmers are members of the Joyomoti Farmer Producer Company Limited, an all-women shareholder company, of 435 members from 25 villages in the Sonitpur district of Tezpur, Assam. They largely engage in cultivation, growing paddy, pumpkin, mustard, and other vegetables throughout the year.

"Previously, we would work on our individual plots of land and sell our produce after meeting our own needs. The income we earned was just enough to sustain our families,” say the women farmers. “Now that we have come together as a Company, we cultivate crops based on market demand and earn better rates and share the profits. Our incomes have also increased two to three-fold."

In 2022, their hard work paid off when a multinational company offered them a buy-back contract to cultivate potatoes. After successfully selling the potatoes, their Farmer Producer Company (FPC) made a profit of around Rs. 20 lakhs, which was distributed among the 52 participating farmers.  Kamal Kumari, the chairman of the FPC proudly states, “We have always been farmers, but now we are agripreneurs with our own Company.”



Support from The World Bank's APART Project

The World Bank’s Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART) is supporting 125 such FPCs in Assam, with over 60,000 farmers as shareholders including around 20,000 women.  The FPCs are formed using a geographic clustering model bringing together farmers engaged in similar activities - agriculture-horticulture or fishery and silk.  Each farmer contributes Rs. 1000/- to become a shareholder. As a registered FPC, the Company then gets access to technical and financial support from the Project as well as financing from banking and financial institutions.


World Bank

Empowering Farmers with Knowledge and Resources

Under APART, FPCs receive financial support to set up Common Service Centers and Custom Hiring Centers, where members can access farming inputs such as fish feed, seeds, fertilizers, and farm equipment. Farmers are also introduced to innovative and improved farming techniques, including crop management and vegetable farming. Those engaged in fishery receive training in improved and hygienic fish farming techniques and are encouraged to invest in value-added products that have market demand.

Fifty-year old Pronoti Goswami, living in Chengnoi village, in Nalbari District, used to rear fish in her small pond and support her family by selling the surplus in the local market.  Now she has successfully diversified her fish farming business.   As a shareholder of the Chengnoi FPC, she received training and resources to venture into fish seed farming.  “Thanks to the training, I realized that I could make more money through fish seed farming, which are used as eggs in ponds and fish farms.  There is demand for it throughout the year.  My income has increased six-fold from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 3 lakhs now.”   

Similarly, in the same village, Lavita Dekka Goswami, a 30-year-old graduate has expanded her fish farming business to include value-added products such as dry fish, fish pickles, and mustard paste.   With the training provided under APART, Lavita now packages these products for sale in the local market and supermarkets.  “My small investment of Rs. 30,000/- is now fetching me around Rs. 10,000-15000/- every month.”   Lavita is now training other women farmers and hopes to increase the sale of these products in supermarkets across the district.


World Bank

Nurturing Women-led Enterprises

The Assam Agribusiness Growth Lab is an integral part of the APART project. This initiative focuses on supporting enterprises in the agriculture and allied sectors, with a special emphasis on women-led businesses. One such success story is that of Mayashree Baruah, a 33-year-old graduate and former teacher, who runs a thriving micro-enterprise in the outskirts of Guwahati.

Mayashree embarked on her entrepreneurial journey after marriage, producing chemical and preservative-free puffed rice snacks that quickly gained popularity. Prior to 2020, she was making an annual profit of approximately Rs. 5 lakhs.  She then decided to expand her snack items to include millets which she was procuring from the farmers.

"The training and support I received through the Agribusiness Growth Lab equipped me with the knowledge and skills to expand my micro-enterprise significantly," said Mayashree. "In 2022-23, my turnover doubled to around Rs. 13 lakhs. Now, I have diversified my product range and expanded my market reach across large parts of Assam. I am confident that my turnover will reach 25 lakhs in 2023-24."


Empowering Farmers with Banking and Finance Knowledge

APART is also implementing multiple activities to increase access to financial services for Assamese farmers and agribusiness SMEs and build their capacity to effectively utilize these services.  APART has established, Xamahar, a challenge fund that provides competitive grants to financial service providers to scale-up tested financial innovations for the benefit of farmers and agribusiness enterprises in the state.

Farmers have access to a Krisarthak, a digital financial education and counselling platform that is  enhancing their financial literacy, helping them to make informed decisions and manage their finances effectively.

Lastly, to increase access to long-term capital for growth-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agribusiness and allied sectors, APART is launching an Assam Agribusiness Investment Fund. This Fund will make long-term debt and equity investments in growth-oriented SMEs in the agricultural sector, providing much-needed long-term capital for the growth and expansion of agribusiness enterprises.


World Bank

Entrepreneurial Mindset: Thinking Beyond Traditional Farming

With the knowledge gained and resources made available through APART, farmers are now beginning to think as entrepreneurs. They are eager to expand their product range, explore new markets, and create a brand around their products.

Kamal Kumari, of the Joyomoti FPC smiles as she says, " We are confident of increasing our turnover to over Rs. 2 crores in 2023-24. Now our plan is to purchase an oil mill to prepare oil from our mustard crop.  We will package and sell it under our own brand name across the state and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Mayashree plans to transition from her current proprietorship firm to a private limited company. "Once my company is established, I can explore opportunities for loans and grants to grow my business. I want to expand my distribution network and reach more customers across other states in the Northeast."


World Bank

Transforming Lives

Not only have the farmers gained economically, but they are also transformed individuals now with a greater sense of worth in their community.  Ranju Goala, in her late 30s, has spent most of her life taking care of her home and family. She admits that her life took a significant turn when she joined the Joyomoti FPC.  "Earlier, I would never stand up and speak in front of people. Today, I can communicate with outsiders, engage in business discussions, and voice my opinion," says Ranju. "I now have an identity and feel empowered."

As the sun sets on the horizon in Sonitpur, casting a golden glow over the fields, the women farmers of the Joyomoti FPC finish their work in the potato field and walk back home, exhausted but happy. 


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