A Dynamic Duo: Collaborating Between the Public and Private Sectors

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By Elena Davert

When helping to create sustainable development in rural communities, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has found that two – or even three or four – heads are better than one.  Developing partnerships among the public sector, private sector, and community organizations is a new tool in agricultural development that has sparked a spirit of collaboration in rural India. In development projects supported by IFAD and the Indian government, communities that have partnered with a combination of NGOs, private companies, and public programs have been very successful in achieving their goals.

IFAD’s North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project helped unite the growers to form the Tea Farmers Federation of West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. (Photo credit: IFAD)

In Meghalaya, India, for example, many individual tea growers used to rely on unorganized methods of producing and marketing their tea.  In order to help boost production, IFAD’s North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project helped unite the growers to form the Tea Farmers Federation of West Garo Hills of Meghalaya.  As a group, the farmers decided to start a tea factory where they could grow, process, and sell more tea at a time.

In order for the Tea Farmers Federation to construct a physical building and design a business model for their factory, they knew they would need input from outside sources.  For supplies, IFAD helped the tea farmers draft a business proposal for the West Garo Hills Community Resource Management Society, a local NGO.  The West Garo Hills community not only provided the Tea Farmers Federation with 2.5 hectares of land and bricks to build with, but also contributed roughly US $12,250 to kick-start the new factory.

With the agricultural supplies taken care of, IFAD connected the farmers with TNI Ltd, a private company, for advice about planning and operating a business. TNI Ltd provided special machines used in the tea industry, including troughs, fermenting machines, sorting machines, dryers, and furnaces, in addition to free consulting for the design of the factory. Professionals from TNI Ltd also trained eight of the farmers in operating and management skills.

Through these private partnerships with the West Garo Hills NGO and TNI Ltd, the Tea Farmers Federation was able to lay the important groundwork for a sustainable business.  To get additional funding to invest in a full-scale farmers cooperative, however, the farmers turned to the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), a government entity that sponsors projects that promote rural growth.  Because the Tea Farmers Federation showed potential as an important community investment, the DRDA contributed an extra US $350,300 to further fund their development.

By helping the farmers formulate the project proposal and find investors in both the public and private industries, IFAD not only helped the farmers raise their income by 20 percent but also helped them establish connections within the government and business worlds that will help them down the road.

To learn more about partnerships between the public and private sectors, read East Africa Organic Conference 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya, Looking for an Answer in the Private Sector, Stimulating the Links between Agriculture and the Private Sector, Increasing Funding for Agriculture Projects that Engage the Private Sector, To Improve Competitiveness of Rural Businesses, Linking Farmers to the Private Sector, and For Organic Farmers, Creating a Link to the Private Sector.

Elena Davert is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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