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ITC’s ‘Sunera Kal’ programme to target 10 m farmers
The Hindu Business Line - 08 Aug 2003

Ch. Prashanth Reddy

"SUNERA KAL", the golden tomorrow, is what ITC Ltd envisages to provide to the targeted 10 million farmers in one lakh villages spread over 15 States in the country.

As a part of its endeavour towards this goal, the tobacco major has launched water management and cattle development programmes to be implemented through its existing e-Choupal network in collaboration with non-government organisations (NGOs).

Ms. Bharti Deveshwar, wife of ITC Chairman, Mr. Y C Deveshwar, launched the two programmes from Hyderabad on Tuesday over a video-conference with an e-Choupal in Bhaukhedi village in Madhya Pradesh.

"The programmes were launched symbolically through video-conference to showcase the Web-enablement of the Indian farmer achieved through the e-Choupal initiative of the company. The whole initiative is now branded as Sunera Kal," Mr. S Sivakumar, Chief Executive of ITC International Business Division (ITC-IBD), told Business Line.

In the initial phase, the two programmes were started in Sehar and Guna District of Madhya Pradesh. They were being executed as a collaborative effort between ITC and two NGOs – Srijan and the Pune-based BAIF Development Research Foundation.

"ITC has got the skills of management, IBD has the reach and to meet the requirements at the grass-root level, we are collaborating with NGOs," Mr. M Srinivasa Rao, Head- New Initiatives, ITC-IBD, said adding that the two programmes would be spread to two more districts in the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh districts. Introduced on a pilot basis, the programme would be reviewed after six months.

According to Mr. Y C Deveshwar, the company’s e-Choupal network provides a unique opportunity to scale up the integrated watershed management programme towards addressing the larger issues of moisture stress and shortage of potable water in the country.

He, however, pointed out that back-of-the-envelope estimates indicated that servicing one lakh villages envisioned within the e-Choupal initiative would entail investment to the tune of roughly Rs 6,000 crore over the next seven to 10 years in creating water-harvesting structures. "It is evident that no single enterprise can by itself support such a large public project".

Nevertheless, he stated, the model being refined by ITC, together with the organisational backbone represented by the e-Choupal network "can provide the basis for a valuable public-private partnership mobilising wider societal resources to overcome a challenge, which otherwise might seem impossible".

Besides water, Mr. Sivakumar said, cattle was the second important source of livelihood for rural families. Cattle would not only meet the nutritional requirements but also provide supplemental income to the farmers. Hence, an artificial insemination programme in collaboration with BAIF was launched to improve the productivity of cattle. Water and cattle were the two issues that would "touch every rural household" in the country.

Through these initiatives, he said, two aspects could be achieved. First, by improving the productivity, the cost of agricultural produce would be lower and at the same time the revenue for the farmer would be higher. Secondly, an increase in the income level of farmers would lay the foundation for future markets. Their propensity to spend would be better because their risk would be well managed and a healthy family was always good for the market. "We are sowing the seeds for future markets," the ITC-IBD Chief added