Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

Women Managed Marketing Channel for Women Farmers - the RUDI Model

Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

Women Managed Marketing Channel for Women Farmers - the RUDI Model

Article excerpt

Introduction

Small and marginal farmers play a primary role in food security. It is estimated that more than 50% of the food necessary to feed the 9 billion inhabitants of the globe in 2050 will be produced by small and marginal farmers. Despite their key role in global food security, small-scale farmers continue to face many complex challenges. As a result, the agriculture sector continues to underperform. On an average, women comprise 43% of the agriculture labour force in developing countries, yet their access to productive assets is significantly less than that of their male counterparts (Crowley, 2013).

Rudi Multi Trading Company Limited (RUDI) is an agricultural business owned and operated collectively by members of Self Employed Women's Association of Ahmadabad, India (SEWA). SEWA has designed RUDI as an innovative business model involving the rural women and women farmers to take ownership of their trade through their own investment. The business is based on the unique model of procuring raw agricultural produce from marginal farmers at market prices, adding value to that stock by cleaning and processing it before packaging and selling the products at affordable prices through a network of rural sales women entrepreneurs called RUDIbens {'Ben' in Gujarati means 'sister'). RUDI has about 2,02,000 farmers as shareholders of the company.

The objectives of this paper are : (1) to discuss how a new for-profit organization (RUDI) owned by women is revolutionizing the distribution of farm produce in rural areas; (2) to discuss the impact of RUDI in making the intra-rural marketing exchanges more organized; and (3) to expound the benefits of the RUDI initiative for all stakeholders, especially the women.

Initiative by SEWA

SEWA is a trade union registered in 1972 for women who are poor, illiterate and economically weak. The union was started with 320 initial members in the state of Gujarat. Its current member ship is 1.75 million from 12 states of India. Following the twin principles of simplicity and women leadership, SEWA seeks to strengthen village economy and self-reliance. Two third of the members are from rural and 60% are small and marginal farmers and labourers. The main objective of SEWA is to help provide full employment and self-reliance to women workers of the informal and the unorganized sectors. It has four types of self-employed women workers:

1. Hawkers, vendors and small businesswomen like vegetable, fruit, fish, egg and other vendors of food items, household goods and clothvendors.

2. Home-based workers like weavers, potters, bidi and agarbatti workers, papad rollers, ready-made garment workers, women who process agricultural products and artisans.

3. Manual labourers and service providers like agricultural labourers, construction workers, contract labourers, handcart pullers, head-loaders, domestic workers and laundry workers.

4. Producers and service providers who invest their labour and capital to carry out their businesses. This category includes agricultural workers, cattle rearers, salt workers, gum collectors, cooking and vending workers etc.

Most of the SEWA members residing in rural areas are small farmers and casual workers of lower castes or minority religions. They are socially, politically and economically marginalized. Unable to go to the market themselves owing to cultural restrictions, transport costs and the small amounts of produce they grow, women are often forced to have a family member market their produce or to sell it to a trader at very low prices. Their purchases (farm inputs) are often also mediated through traders or male family members (Crowley, 2013). On the consumption front, SEWA realized that small farmers and rural households lacked access to markets, especially for daily consumption needs. This resulted in health problems and malnutrition. Often, the farmers could not rely on what they produced themselves due to insufficient storage space at home. …

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