A case study of women-owned agriculture cooperatives in India


15-17 December, 2022


Despite having the highest arable land globally, India’s per-hectare productivity continues to remain low. The highly fragmented nature of Indian farming, with close to 33% of arable land held in units of less than 2 hectares per owner, doesn’t allow the farmers to avail the economies of scale in operations. These fragmented farms also constrain the risk-taking ability of Indian farmers, locking them up in a cycle of poverty, and leading to low investments, hence low margins and value additions. This percolates into low productivity and weak market orientation.

In this context, the cases of two women-owned cooperatives – Kheda Cooperative and Megha Cooperative’s – and their hyperlocal ‘phygital’ models of decentralised governance – Farmer Facilitation Centres (FFC) – have equipped us to understand the beginnings of a blueprint for women-owned collective business models that are sustainable and scalable. Through collectivising women farmers in such trade-based collective enterprises, individual farmers are able to aggregate resources, information and knowledge, demand better prices, and increase yield. 

With these case studies, SEWA Cooperative Federation members, decentralised governance has been put into practice through FFC. These are one-stop facilitation centres for service support, sales outlets for farm produce and marketing facilities for agricultural inputs. They aim to enable the farming community to easily access information on technology, the package of practices, input sources, market channels and financial assistance. It has been found to be a single window delivery of need-based services for the local farmers built by their involvement and inputs. Participation of local farmers, with women as decision-makers, has ensured provision of adequate and decipherable information to the centre, which has been employed in the farming, or pricing of the produce. As it is focused on local market systems and benefits through economies of scale and better bargaining power. The cooperative-led co-design approach directly engages those at the base of the pyramid in decision-making processes. Moreover, through the federated structure, it is further able to gain economies of scale.This paper has aimed to review the building of these inclusive design processes of FFCs. To do this, it analyses how the local farmer communities collaboratively guide the design and development of the cooperative data trust and inclusive data governance toolkit. It has further looked into aspects of decentralised models, that are community-owned and governed through women-owned cooperatives to help in robust local economic development and nation-building. 


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