Participatory Intervention Series
Paper 4 MYRADA KrishiVigyan Kendra
Talamalai, Talavadi 638 461.
Erode District
A Sour Story of Bondage and An Epilogue of Triumph
The Tamarind Trees of Bargur

At first glance it is not immediately obvious that the lives of the poorer farmers of the scenic hills of Bargur are dominated by debts owed to the moneylenders of the plains ofBhavani and Andiyur. In 1992, the activities of the KrishiVigyan Kendra began to be extended to this compact block of around 20 villages, tucked away in a remote corner of Periyar District. MKVK’s strategy has been to work with groups rather than individuals (unlike the T & V System) and start with organising people into Self Help Groups that encourage people to discuss issues and problems as prioritised by them, rather than impose a pre-set delivery package of training and other services. Accordingly, the staff began to facilitate the formation and development of Self Help Groups of poor families. When people began to organise themselves and problems began to be discussed at group meetings, it soon became obvious that the Self Help Groups would have plentry to do to help people along the path of development.
The tamarind tree problem was one of the first issues that surfaced as a priority area for discussions at group meetings. Tamarind trees are fairly commonly seen in the area. In the earlier days they were not seen as assets but down the years they have become very precious because they provide a steady seasonal income of Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000 per tree, on an average, which is a substantial amount for poor families. It is this quality of the tree that also enhances the “credit worthiness” of poor families in the eyes of the moneylenders.
The moneylenders found an easy way of gaining control over the trees. They would advance a loan of a few thousand rupees to the tree owners against which the trees would be mortgaged to them. The fruits of the trees would be enjoyed by the moneylenders until the loan was cleared. There was only one condition attached to loan repayment : The entire amount would have to be paid back in one lumpsum; instalments were not accepted. Since most loans were taken to meet emergency needs and not for income generating purposes, and since all families were economically backward and not likely to realise cash of that quantum in one lumpsum, it was more or less obvious to both parties that the trees could remain in “bondage” forever.
The table that follows quantifies the status of 34 families belonging to 8 self help groups : [This is just a sample of the total problem]
No. Of Trees Pledged When Pledged Loan Amount Purpose of Loan Total Loss of Income Since Pledging*
MariammanSangha, Kadai, Eratti
Chickayan 8 15 years ago 15,000/- To dig well; to settle his father’s sisters family 120,000/-
Kenchan 8 8 years ago 7,000/- For marriage 64,000/-
Chickayan 6 3 years ago 12,000/- To repay old debts 18,000/-
Doddayana 3 8 years ago 4,000/- For marriage 24,000/-
Perumal 3 8 years ago 4,000/- To repay old debts 24,000/-
Chickubomma 5 5 years ago 5,000/- To repay old debts 25,000/-

Nehru GramaSevaSangha, Eratti
Bommayan 8 13 years ago 18,000/- To repay old debts 104,000/-
Kannappan 8 13 years ago 18,000/- To repay old debts 104,000/-
Giripanthayan 1 11 years ago 5,000/- To construct house 11,000/-
Doddayan 1 2 years ago 1,000/- To settle his younger brother 2,000/-

BasaveshwaraSevaSangha, Thattakarai
Moorthy 3 9 years ago 4,000/- To repay old debts 27,000/-
Puttappan 1 12 years ago 2,000/- Marriage 12,000/-
Chinnan 1 14 years ago 2,000/- To repay old debts 14,000/-
Madayan 1 16 years ago 5,000/- To repay old debts 16,000/-
Javarayan 1 2 years ago 2,000/- To release land 2,000/-
SimpatharaGownder 1 18 years ago 3,500/- To develop land 18,000/-
Nagan 1 13 years ago 2,000/- Reason not known 13,000/-
* Loss of income has been calculated at the rate of Rs.1,000/- per tree for the period pledged.

No. Of Trees Pledged When Pledged Loan Amount Purpose of Loan Total Loss of Income Since Pledging*
ParameswaraGramaSevaSangha, Madathoor
Sooranikan 10 1 year ago 10,000/- To construct house 10,000/-
Appayan 3 5 years ago 5,000/- To repay old debts 15,000/-

PandeshwaraGramaSevaSangha, Thevaramalai
11 years ago
Treatment of his father and repay old debts 11,000/-
KenchaThambadi 3 21 years ago 3,000/- Marriage 63,500/-
BeeraThambadi 1 24 years ago 1,000/- To repay old debts 24,000/-
Puttappan 10 10 years ago 10,000/- To repay old debts 100,000/-
Rudra 1 10 years ago 2,000/- To repay old debts 10,000/-

SiddeshwarGramaSevaSangha, Oosimalai
Murugan 1 8 years ago 3,000/- To repay old debts 8,000/-

VeerabhadraswamyGramaSevaSangha, Thurusanapalayam
Thirukappa 1 6 years ago 3,000/- Marriage 6,000/-
Eranna 1 8 years ago 3,000/- To repay old debts 8,000/-

Sri MariammanGramaSevaSangha, Ezhuchipalya
PanthaThambadi 4 10 years ago 5,000/- To construct house 40,000/-
Kannan – 2 5 years ago 5,000/- House hold needs 10,000/
Puttan 1 10 years ago 1,500/- To help his brother 10,000/-
Madaiyan 4 Not known 6,000/- Reason not known
Moorthy 3 Not known 4,000/- ”
DoddayyaThambadi 4 Not known 4,000/- ”
SannaThambadi 3 Not known 2,000/-
34 farmers 113 trees 179,000/- 913,500/-
With the strengthening of relationships between the farmers and MYRADA, periodic appeals started being made by the affected farmers to our Office to intervene and assist in redeeming the trees. MYRADA shared their concerns but had no strategy to solve the problem. The staff encouraged the farmers to discuss the issue at their Self Help Group meetings to see if they could come up with some ideas of their own.
In 1992, as a result of NABARD’s pilot project with MYRADA to assist Self Help Groups with working capital support for their credit management activities it became possible for MYRADA to provide working capital assistance (as an interest free loan) to some of the Bargur groups.
By early 1993, two groups in Bargur came up with the solution to the tamarind tree problem(BasaveswaraSangha and VeerabhadraswamySangha) :
They would use the NABARD seed money to give loans to the affected members to redeem their tamarind trees. The trees would then be pledged to the respective Self Help Groups. The members could clear their loans with the groups in monthly instalments, with extra payments being made during the agricultural seasons when incomes were higher. Until such time, the groups would auction the trees each year, with the group members themselves being encouraged to bid. For this too, the member bidding the highest could take a loan from the group to pay the bid amount. Thus, both the group and the member making the highest bid would derive an income from the tree until the tree owners cleared their loans with the group. There were instances where the tree owners themselves sometimes won the auction, thus enabling faster loan repayment out of the profits from the tree. In general, the group loans have been cleared over a period of 2 seasons.
The pattern set by VeerabhadraswamySangha and BasaveshwaraSangha is gradually being emulated by other groups also, with money available in their own common funds (built up with members’ savings, interest on loans advanced to members, money collected by way of fines, donations, group income generating programmes, etc.) The recent linkage programme with banks has also helped the groups to augment their working capital to be used for this purpose. Meanwhile, the initial seed money made available to the Bargur groups out of NABARD funds has been more or less fully recovered.
The table that follows shows the number of trees that were redeemed by the close of June 1996:
BasaveshwaraSevaSangha, Thattakarai : 9 Trees
Nehru GramaSevaSangha, Eratti : 17 Trees
PandeshwaraGramaSevaSangha, Thevaramalai : 8 Trees
SiddeshwarGramaSevaSangha, Oosimalai : 2 Trees
VeerabhadraswamySangha, Thurusanapalya : 2 Trees
Sri MariammanSangha, Ezhuchipalya : 6 Trees
MariyammanGramaSevaSangha, KadaiEratti : 2 Trees Total 46 trees released
(21 more trees have been released by 4 other groups not included in the study)
And what of the moneylenders from the plains? Their initial reaction was one of shocked disbelief. Now they are approaching the farmers to lease the trees on an annual basis for a mutually agreed sum of money payable to the farmers in advance.
But the most surprised are the farmers themselves, not because they have got back their trees but because they have demonstrated their `BuddhiBalan’ (intellectual power) in joining together and finding their own solution to a long pending problem.
Editor’s Note: There are 47 groups now in Bargur, with a total of 846 members. They have over Rs.284,000/- in savings and control a total Common Fund of approximately Rs.719,000/-. This fund is used to advance loans to members for various purposes. Around 600 crop loans have been issued to members out of this fund for critical agricultural operations
This paper is based on the studies and notes made by the following students on placement with MKVK:
1. Ms.Sharmila Alexander
M.A. Social Work (trainee)
Madras School of Social Work
2. Sr.Deepa, Fr.Thomas, Fr.Solomon
M.A. Social Work (trainees)
Bosco Institute of Social Work
S.H.College, Tirupattur
July 199
EDITOR’S NOTE: The MYRADA KrishiVigyan Kendra at Talamalai started functioning from October 1, 1992 with the support of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The Kendra is committed to the concept of facilitating participatory processes andpromoting innovations. Through the MKVK Participatory Intervention Series we attempt to share our experiences from time to time withother field functionaries. We welcome your views and suggestions on how we can add more value to our work. MYRADA’s address at Bangalore is: No.2, Service Road, Domlur Layout, BANGALORE 560 071.
MYRADA, No. 2 Service Road, Domlur Layout, BANGALORE – 560 071,Ph.: +91-80-25353166,25352028, 25354457Fax: +91-80-25350982, Email: