Refusing to be defeated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a women-led Farmer Producer Company (FPC) introduced new farming practices in their community in Kalahandi district in Odisha, India. The efforts of the Adarsh Dharmagarh Women Farmers Services Producer Company Ltd (ADWFSPCL), incubated by IRRI and Access Livelihoods Group (ALG) supported by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment of the Government of Odisha, yielded tangible socio-economic benefits, highlighting the advantages brought by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs).
With the creation of the FPC, formal supply chains were established, providing women and their communities the much-needed boost to address the impacts of the pandemic, such as shortage of cash, reduced market demand for produce, and the general breakdown of logistics.
In Odisha, smallholders producing maize resorted to distress-sales when the government imposed lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19. Their lack of holding capacity and the halted trade in local markets made them vulnerable to exploitative prices.
In one case, a woman who sold mudhi (puffed rice) and earned an average of USD 80 a month could not sell her products and had close to nothing for herself and her family. The difficulties experienced by many other families became apparent when, instead of face masks, they would use table napkins or cloths as a way to protect themselves from the virus.