A different kind of library
Poor farmers often lack the basic tools and equipment they need for farm work. They may try to obtain such equipment on loan after other farmers have completed their work, but very often they have to do without it, or wait until the equipment is available.
This can affect or delay planting and harvesting, thereby reducing their yields and increasing the risk of crises.
In response, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a non-governmental organization of poor, self-employed women workers across India, many of whom are rural women farmers, developed a tools library system for sharing equipment in groups.
How it works
In several districts, women farmers who are SEWA members come together to discuss, identify and agree on the tools and equipment they need most. The women pool their resources to buy a single farm implement or other tool. The equipment is then loaned to each member that needs it at a fixed low rate, on a rotating or as needed basis.
When the tool is not in use by SEWA members, it's hired out to other farmers in the village at going market rate. The income from these hires is used to pay for equipment repairs, or to purchase other tools that may be needed for the growing library. If no new tools or equipment are needed, the income is shared among the members.
The tools libraries stock basic farming equipment such as hand hoes, ploughs and oxcarts. In addition, they stock solar lanterns, solar panels and biogas generators, as well as first aid kits, water quality test kits, and even ropes and stakes for emergency rescue during floods. The library system provides farmers with access to tools and equipment they would otherwise not be able to afford, and helps them to improve productivity and income. There are now numerous self-sustaining tools and equipment libraries in community learning centers where SEWA operates.