In 2005, Vidarbha in eastern Maharashtra came into national and international focus due to a series of farmer suicides. This distressing situation in this primarily agrarian-driven economy was caused by many factors – years of drought, low yields, poor market access, dependence on money-lenders and unfair trade practices, among others. An increased input cost aggravated the pressure on the farmers and left them burdened with debt. The worsening situation prompted the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts, and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and its Allied Trusts (the Tata Trusts) to intervene in the area.
In 2008, the Tata Trusts launched the Sukhi Baliraja Initiative (SBI) in Vidarbha to address and alleviate the farmers’ distress. Concurrently, the Government of Maharashtra initiated a bilateral project – the Convergence of Agricultural Interventions in Maharashtra Programme (CAIM) with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – and invited the Tata Trusts to participate in the programme which reached out to almost 25,600 households across 320 villages in the six distressed districts of Yavatmal, Amravati, Washim, Akola, Wardha and Buldhana in Vidarbha.
SBI has been developing a holistic livelihood strategy for the region to reduce distress among the farming community and empower them to face production and market risks. Efforts have been made to promote livelihood options through thematic interventions, with focus on the most distressed districts in Vidarbha, especially Yavatmal, Amravati and Akola.
In mid-2015, after years of working in the region and having made an impactful presence on field by gaining enough expertise, the Sukhi Baliraja Initiative supported by the Tata Trusts moved from a partner-based programme implementation to a direct implementation mode. The goal, however, was still to develop resilient production methods and diversified on-farm / off-farm livelihood options for sustainable income generation, thereby enabling farmers to face production and market-related risks without falling back into poverty and distress.
The thrust of the SBI programme is on sustainable agriculture, soil and water conservation, community-based microfinance, collective agriculture marketing through community driver farmer producer organisations, education, mental health, skills development, poultry, fisheries, and dairy, which together form a livelihood basket to be readily offered to the communities we work with.
While expanding into newer locations in the same geography, a few other themes were also focused on, with a view to holistically impact beneficiary households. This has made it possible for SBI to jointly scale up and intensify efforts in the region. Currently, SBI projects penetrate across Vidarbha with presence in 9 districts.
These interventions are monitored at various levels, by in-house personnel and external agencies, and detailed reports are published based on the studies on their impact and progress.
Please click here to read more on these interventions.
Sukhi Baliraja Initiative
Collector Office Premises,
Amravati, Maharashtra - 444602