Food: like money in the bank
At harvest time, most smallholder farmers end up having to sell their entire crop immediately and at a low price, because they need the income and because they have no place to store it.
As a result, these farmers often end up with a lower income, a significant share of which they then have to spend on food.
In some villages in rural India, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a non-governmental organization of poor, self-employed women workers, many of whom are rural women farmers, has developed a food bank system for crop storage.
How it works
SEWA members purchase surplus high quality grain from their fellow members in the community and from other farmers at harvest time, and store the grain in warehouses. The members pay a fee which entitles them to buy back the grain they sold, at the same price at which they sold it earlier in the year, even in times of food shortage. Non-members from the community who are also poor can buy grain from the food banks as well. They pay a slightly higher price, but even in times of food shortage it is lower than the going market price. Profits from the food bank are distributed among group members once a year.
The strategy is particularly innovative because, unlike other approaches that focus either on production or on consumption issues, the SEWA food banks address both. This is crucial for rural women farmers in particular, who face risks and vulnerability both as producers and as consumers. As a result, a growing number of villages are establishing similar banks, not only for grain and other crops but for fodder and seed as well.