Walmart Foundation Supports Resilient Agriculture With $1.5 Million Grant to S M Sehgal Foundation

Three women stand in a Sehgal Foundation booth. The booth text says "Sehgal Foundation. Together we empower rural India."

BENTONVILLE, Ark., and DELHI, India, March 19, 2024 — S M Sehgal Foundation today announced the extension of its project ‘Bolstering Farmer Producer Organizations’ in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Initiated in 2023 for two years with a philanthropic grant of $1.5 million from the Walmart Foundation, this next phase will reach 23 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) with 23,000 members with an aim to enhance the capacities of FPOs, promote climate-resilient practices and develop infrastructure that adds value to crop production.

“We are excited to support S M Sehgal Foundation for the second phase of the Bolstering FPOs project. We believe strengthening FPOs can enable more opportunities for smallholder farmers in India with capacity building at the core. Additionally, developing transparent structures, designing and implementing business models and establishing collaborations will help ensure more sustainable operations and outcomes,” Julie Gehrki, chief operating officer, Walmart Foundation said.

The initial phase of the ‘Bolstering Farmer Producer Organizations’ project spanned from 2021 to 2023 and impacted 10 FPOs, strengthened 8,000 existing members, added 2,000 new members and ensured one-third representation of women in leadership roles. Approximately 2,500 women gained essential knowledge and skills development, with 40 to 45% actively participating in project activities at the FPO level.

The project's reach extended to over 30,000 beneficiaries. Key interventions included strengthening institutional and governance structures in FPOs, imparting knowledge on agronomic practices and farm technologies, livelihood opportunities, fostering business development, marketing, enhancing value addition, promoting digitization, facilitating financial inclusion and convergence with government programs.

The forthcoming phase aims to build upon this foundation, with a strategic focus on preparing these FPOs for market engagement through a series of targeted initiatives. This will involve advanced training and support, ensuring the FPOs are not only self-sufficient but also market-ready and equipped to meet the dynamic demands of the agricultural sector. It is strategically designed to further strengthen FPOs to take the lead in working toward a resilient and prosperous agricultural sector. The emphasis will be on creating opportunities for smallholder farmers, with a focus on women producers. S M Sehgal Foundation strengthened its collaboration with FPOs in the districts of Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, and Kolar, Karnataka, during the first phase, thereby paving way for the second phase of the project.

Further, there will be a strong focus on business development and establishing market linkages for high-value commodities from each FPO. Specialized training will be implemented with a focus on cultivation, post-harvest management, processing, marketing and value addition of selected commodities.

The overarching vision of the project is for the FPOs to independently undertake initiatives supported by this grant and offer value-added services to their members. By promoting transparent and inclusive business models, the project will support these FPOs in developing self-sustaining and progressive operations. This strategy aims to provide ongoing support to members, enhancing resilience and self-reliance in agricultural communities. The S M Sehgal Foundation will partner with grassroots groups, research bodies, academic institutions and social enterprises, creating a robust support network and a conducive environment for FPOs.

“Organizing smallholder farmers into FPOs can leverage the advantage farmers have in emerging markets. It can also help mitigate challenges faced by individual farmers, such as low market prices, high input costs and limited access to technologies and markets, among others. With support from the Walmart Foundation, the S M Sehgal Foundation continues to build the capacities of FPO members. The first phase witnessed a turnaround in women's participation with 92 women-led Farmer Interest Groups (FIGs) benefiting more than 2,500 women farmers actively engaged in FPOs,” Anjali Makhija, trustee and chief executive officer, S M Sehgal Foundation, said.

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About S M Sehgal Foundation

S M Sehgal Foundation was established in 1999 as a public charitable trust to strengthen community-led development initiatives to achieve positive social, economic and environmental change across rural India. S M Sehgal Foundation has five main program areas: Water Management, Agriculture Development, Local Participation and Sustainability, Transform Lives one school at a time and Outreach for Development. These programs are supported by a skilled research team that engages in participatory research, impact assessment and interactive dialogues to determine informed actions to achieve sustainable results. Visit our website for more details.