The issue of farmer suicides in India is a major concern rooted in the lack of farmer welfare and protection amongst changing agricultural and trade systems, and major environmental shifts such as climate change. This marginalizes farmers by disrupting livelihoods, leading to great debt. Maharashtra faces the highest incidences of farmer suicides in India, and Osmanabad is one of the worst-affected districts; according to GOI data, in 2016, 3,661 farmers died by suicide in this state alone (total farmer deaths by suicide in 2016 was 11,379). Based on data and insights gleaned from working in this area, Shivar Foundation’s team identified that providing counselling and administrative information via a helpline, in addition to in-person outreach and in-person counselling — are preferred methods of accessing support for farmers.
Shivar Foundation employs a model of mobilizing peers to address farmer’s needs by leveraging a local, volunteer-based network. Volunteers engaged through the program comprise Agriculture students, volunteers from the National Service Scheme cell in the district, and village social workers. Most volunteers come from farming backgrounds and live within the project area — enhancing their ability to understand farmers’ distress and address their needs better.
Shivar Foundation works through outreach centers known as Farmers’ Friends Centers to provide psychosocial support to farmers within Osmanabad district, Maharashtra. The Foundation serves as an intermediary, connecting indebted farmers and their family members to government agencies implementing farmer welfare schemes meant to serve distressed farmers—advocating for effective service delivery and policy implementation.