The Mhaisal Movement: A Farming Cooperative
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The Mhaisal Movement: A Farming Cooperative book
In the 1960s, the Indian Government tried to promote cooperative farming, in an effort to increase production and decrease inequality. As is widely acknowledged, this attempt was a failure. On the other hand, this chapter demonstrates that cooperative farming may be an important option for low- caste laborers with no other means to increase their economic security. The Mhaisal cooperative, consisting of ex-untouchables who were almost landless, now produces expensive crops like grapes and sugarcane, providing the economic basis for a life of dignity and hope.
However, the author points out inherent problems in this organization. There is a conflict of interest over how much to reward contributions of labor (in wages) vs. contributions of land (in rents). There is also the problem of how to provide incentives for better labor (and management), when the outcome depends not on the contribution of any single individual but on the group as a whole.
Problems like these arise in any farming cooperative or collective, and care has been taken in this case to find at least partial solutions. One solution, more or less technical in nature, has been to invest collectively in irrigation equipment. Without this equipment, the land would be dry and unproductive, so individual owners are perhaps less likely to claim back their shares of the land. Other solutions rely on democratic policy-making and group morale, based on their past experience of shared suffering and degradation.