UP’s women self-help groups adding to sugarcane output, empowering members

Lucknow, Aug 6: Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) engaged by the Uttar Pradesh government for growing sugarcane seeds for the past two years have expanded to become a 60,000-member club now.

These SHGs spread across the cane growing rural pockets of the state have not only become an essential source of seeds of improved cane varieties for farmers but are also empowering the women members by providing them a source of income.

Additional Chief Secretary (Excise) and cane commissioner of Uttar Pradesh Sanjay Bhoosreddy said, “The decision to involve women SHGs with growing of cane seed was taken during fist wave of Covid-19 in the state. This has grown into major enabler of sugarcane farming in the state and is contributing towards its success.”

Under the initiative, so far 3,003 women SHGs with 58,905 registered members have been set up in 37 sugarcane-producing districts of UP.

The sugarcane department is imparting training to these women under the National Food Preservation Scheme so that they can prepare the superior sugarcane nurseries for the distribution of seeds.

These groups have developed  24.63 crore seedlings in their nurseries, garnering an average yearly income of around Rs 1.5 lakh per group. The women members are also earning an average annual income of around Rs 25,000.

“These women SHGs develop seeds of improved cane varieties till sprouting stage using single bud or bud chip technique. Sugarcane farmers procure these cane in sprouting stage from them,” said Shiv Sahay Awasthi, Additional Commissioner, Sugar and Cane Development, UP.

A sugarcane plant is called to be in sprouting stage till 30 days after germination.

The department train the women SHGs and provide them basic tools with help of sugar mills to grow the sugarcane seeds in nurseries. Beside getting sprouting of improved cane varieties, farmers also save cropping time by procuring sugarcane in sprouting stage.

Harkeerat Singh, a sugarcane farmer of Shahajahanpur district, said that he has been procuring seeds from SHGs since last year. “Earlier we used to sow sugarcane ourselves and suffer loss of plants in the first month. These losses have been minimised since we began using seedlings brought from SHGs. By using sprouts from nurseries, the fields also get some time between two crops.”

On an average around 25,000 sugarcane seeds are required per hectare of farm. Farmers also cut on cost by purchasing sugar cane seeds from SHGs and reducing plant losses.

Sugarcane crop takes anywhere from 10-14 months to mature. In UP, the sowing of sugarcane occurs first in October-November and then between February and April. The harvesting takes place during November-February next year.

In view of the sowing period, the women SHGs prepare seeds twice a year in the month of January and September, which are available for sale in 25 to 35 days.

Kumari Kusum, 24, of Annapurna Mahila SHG of Bareilly, said, “We have around 25 members in our group who prepare seeds of sugarcane. Last year our groups developed 5 lakh seeds of sugarcane which were procured by local farmers.”

The group has received orders in advance from farmers. “We have received advance orders of around 75,000 seeds this year from sugarcane farmers in the nearby villages. We are targeting to develop over 3 lakh sugarcane seeds this season,” said Kusum.

The earning from sale of sugarcane sprouts have helped women member of group to support their families.

Kavita Devi, member of a SHG in Sharanpur, said: “My husband lost his job in the first wave of Covid-19. During that time I was able to support my family with the earning from the SHG. With the money earned from the group, I am now able to send my child to a good school in nearby town.”

Considering the scale of sugarcane plantation in Uttar Pradesh, the number of women in rural pockets is expected to grow in coming years, officials claim.

In 2020-21, sugarcane was grown over 27.40 lakh hectares in UP leading to sugarcane production of 22.32 crore tonnes in the last sugar season (October 2020-September 2021).

Majority of this sugarcane is grown in Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Kheri, Hapur, Sitapur, Meerut, Bareilly, Gonda, Saharanpur, Pilibhit, Kushi Nagar, Shamli, Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Maharajganj, Baghpat, Amroha, Hardoi, Balrampur, Basti, Shahjahanpur, Sambhal, Rampur, Budaun, Bahraich, Ghaziabad, and Faizabad districts of the state. (PTI)