As per 2011 census, Agriculture in Assam utilizes about 54.11 per cent of the total geographical area of the state, with almost 70% of the population directly dependent on agriculture as an income source. However, the growth of the sector is severely hampered by the problem of capital deficiencies that do not allow farmers to enhance productivity.
Illiteracy, bad connectivity, distance between household and financial institutions, lack of man power in banks, along with cumbersome banking processes can be pointed as few of the issues hindering productivity and growth in agriculture sector of Assam . Use of technology, fintech options and banking apps can enhance user convenience and give farmers a better banking experience. But due to digital ignorance the percentage of people using Mobile Apps and online payment for purchases through payment gateway is less. The general lack of awareness among the people and their inability to cope with the transition of banking facilities multiplies their deprivation from financial inclusion.
This is where Financial education and counselling plays an important role. FEC can help people cope with the digital transition, enhance ease of access while usage of banking products and services brings an overall decrease in the workload of the banks.
How FEC came into being
APART is a World Bank-funded project, which is managed, coordinated and implemented by the Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services Society (ARIAS), an autonomous society within the Agriculture department of the Government of Assam.
Today APART covers 24 districts of Assam with financial support and technical assistance to the 124 FPCs covering five key value chains: – Agriculture, Horticulture, Diary, Livestock, Sericulture & Handloom. The APART project aims to connect the farm community with the market economy, thereby removing intermediaries who hinder the achievement of fair prices by farmers.
One of the objectives of the project component is facilitating access to and responsible use of financial services, which would be supported through innovations in agricultural value chain finance. As such, the project aims to enhance financial inclusion of the Farm community by bringing FPCs within the fold of the organised financial system and making more farmers comfortable with utilizing the services of the formal banking system. To achieve this aim, the component of financial education and counselling was visualised and included with in the project. To deliver FEC in a time-bound manner, a team was created by APART having a consortium of partners’ namely Digital Empowerment foundation (DEF), Fair Climate fund (FCF), Indian Institute of Banking Management (IIBM) and Counsel for Social and Digital Development (CSDD).
The FEC assignment was christened Krisarthak . Krisarthak, the name is made by conjoining two Assamese words, Krishi and Sarthak. Krisarthak means a “Program that adds value and makes farmers capable”.