Honouring the finest district magistrates in India
Prashant Bholanath Narnaware, Maharashtra.
Osamanabad, a rain-fed district that's part of Marathwada in Maharashtra, has usually found itself in news for the wrong reasons, among them the high incidence of farmer suicides. However, initiatives by the district administration have transformed the farm economy of scores of villages in the district, with many now emerging as centres of floriculture.
The credit for this transformation largely goes to Prashant Narnaware, a 2008-batch IAS officer who served as district collector between October 2014 and April 2017, and officials of the agriculture department.
In 2015, Narnaware started an initiative to bring farmers together as groups to enable them to receive aid from banks and avail subsidies under various government schemes. The administration also arranged workshops for farmers to which specialists, successful agricultural entrepreneurs, farmers and chairmen of various agricultural groups and companies were invited. Experts from well-known institutes such as Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, also visited the area and provided their inputs.
According to officials of the Agriculture Technologies Management Agency, a wing of the state agriculture department, 2.83 lakh farmers were brought together to form 14,632 farmer groups and 58 'farmer companies' across the district. These groups dealt with agricultural activities such as seed production, agricultural mechanisation, protective agriculture and irrigation, processing, branding and marketing of produce.
On August 21, Narnaware was among 15 district magistrates to be honoured with The Indian Express Excellence in Governance Awards that celebrated the finest work done by DMs across the country.
"I was moved by the farmer suicides in Osmanabad. To double farmer income, we formed groups to tackle financial issues. Our project, Krishi kranti, is aimed at improving the livelihood of farmers and help them surpass financial distress," Narnaware said after receiving the award.
Osmanabad DM Prashant Namaware receives the award from Union Minister for Law and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Satish Dethe, a farmer in Padoli village, said "The farmer groups not only helped us in getting financial aid from banks with all of us acting as insurers for each other but also helped us negotiate with buyers as well as input suppliers by establishing a direct link with sellers and buyers. The groups helped us in bulk buying of inputs which often reduced the cost of input by 20 to 30 percent."
Another important aspect of the project was ensuring public participation through meetings between officials, experts and farmers. Between 2015 and 2017, more than 3,000 meetings were held for consultation and implementation of the project.
During this period, the district saw an exponential rise in the number of polyhouses which grew Gerbera, a flower of Portuguese origin, and marketed them outside Maharashtra. The protected floriculture also proved that profitable farming can be done even in drought prone areas. When Narnaware became the district collector in 2014, the district had 29 polyhouses; by the end of his tenure, that number stood at 266. Narnaware also started 'Beyond Sugarcane', a project to wean farmers away from cultivating the water intensive crop and encourage them to grow those which needed less water and which provided better income, such as Soybean and Tur, apart from horticulture.
The impact of the project is most visible in Padoli village, which has acquired a new identity in the last five years as a village of polyhouses.
Situated about 39 km from Osmanabad, Padoli, with a population of 5,000 people, has over 20 polyhouses growing Gerbera. About 170-200 villagers are involved in cultivating, harvesting and marketing of the produce.