Rural communities in India and Vietnam rely on a small number of crops for food security and income generation. The effects of the green revolution in sacrificing species diversity for higher production of the main staple crops (mainly wheat and rice), is felt in both countries. Especially in degraded areas, diversification of farm options is necessary to provide sustainable income. Small farmers have the advantage of crop diversity in their locality, but have limited opportunity to upgrade this produce as a commodity. For successful uptake, efforts to increase or maintain on-farm diversity must be linked to market options and the opportunity for poor rural people to maximize their income from limited resources. However, small farmers are facing a severe challenge in raising and maintaining product quality for more discerning and demanding urban consumers, caused by lack of up to date processing, packaging and marketing skills.
The Coalition to Diversify Income from Underused Crops (CoDI)
CoDI is a group of organisations in India and Vietnam led by the International Centre for Underutilised Crops. Funded by DFIDs Research into Use (RIU) Program 2008-2011, the coalition will provide community services for production, post-harvest and marketing, to help disadvantaged people in India and Vietnam have better market access to generate sustainable income, and have more options for better land husbandry.
Food Processing Parks are at the core of the initiative, where people will come for training, information and business development services, processing, grading and other post-harvest activities and for wider support on available market opportunities, credit advice and links to other value chain actors at local, national and international levels. The Food Processing Parks will be set up by the project, but ultimately will be run and managed by the communities.
Regular Village Crop Fairs will be organised during which local fruits and plants will be evaluated and the best ones selected by the communities. This material will then be sent for further distribution and sale in Community Germplasm Orchards (nurseries) which will also serve as training grounds for plant propagation and nursery management skills. The project will thus provide sustainable empowerment, especially of women and tribal communities, and income generation at a significant scale.
Annual Knowledge Fairs are a major element of the communication strategy and will be organized in each country, to communicate and discuss the experience with wider stakeholders from the public and private sector. In addition, novel audio-visual information and training materials will be developed.
The project will build upon in-depth experience of each of the partners; in India on integrated rural development especially for tribal and marginalized farm communities; in Vietnam on making markets work for the poor by facilitating links between rural cooperatives and urban supermarkets, focusing on women farmers who form the majority of vegetable and traditional crops producers, in an increasing urban environment where many men move to the towns for off-farm employment. The project has a comprehensive Monitoring, Impact & Learning system (MIL) to capture impacts on the beneficiaries household income, skills development and related parameters. The MIL includes a communication strategy to facilitate dialogue and influence policy. This monitoring and learning component contributes to broader efforts, beyond the immediate countries involved, to develop mechanisms for spotting future winners at an early project development stage.
By June 2011 at the end of this three year project, it is estimated that at least 18,000 people will have been trained and/or used the processing or business development facilities in the Food Processing Parks in the two countries; at least 6,200 will have participated in the 16 Village Crop fairs to be organised; at least 11,500 people will have been exposed to the eight Community Germplasm Orchards and/or trained in propagation techniques; and at least 3,000 people will have been exposed to project activities during the eight Annual Knowledge Fairs to be organised. Impacts are also expected to be felt outside the immediate project areas via newspaper articles, radio programmes and a host of addition and some innovative communication strategies.