By Anil Painuly & DK Budakoti
The Government of Uttarakhand through its Rural Development Department is implementing the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP) in the state, with funding from International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) in its hill development blocks. The objective is to reduce poverty by, ‘enabling rural households to take up sustainable rural livelihood opportunities integrated with the wider economy’.
While various projects are operational in the hill blocks of the state, this write up has some project success stories from Almora district. The divisional project manager of ILSP in Almora, Kailash Bhatt, who has vast experience in the NGO development sector provided information on successful entrepreneurial ventures. According to Bhatt, the success of these ventures was possible due to support of the district administration right from the District Magistrate, Nitin Singh Bhaduria, to Chief Development Officer Mayur Dixit and all the line departments concerned in the district. His team at ILSP has also worked tirelessly to see the venture succeed.
The information of the successful ventures was furnished by the ILSP Almora.
The Weekly Haat – Almora
The opening of a Haat, now called Apnu Bazaar is one of the success stories that need to be recognised by all. The current premises and building used by the local farmers and artisans was in an abandoned state. The building belonged to the Krishi Mandi and was not utilised for ages and was said to be a haunted place by the locals. The ILSP Almora realised an opportunity to utilise the space as a platform for the weekly Haat, where local farmers and artisans could come and sell their products. The ILSP took the initiative and advocated with the district authority and Dheeraj Garbyal, MD, Krishi Mandi Parishad to officially give the premises for operation of the Haat and to setup a rice/flour mill for the Ma Agneri Swayata Sehkarita Federation, Chaukhutia Block.
Masala Processing Plant – Bhikiasen
In the Bhikiasen Block, the local farmers are growing high quality Indian spices like Turmeric, Coriander, Methi, Garlic, and Red Chilly. All these spices are locally grown and already have a market. Earlier, the scenario was to sell the raw produce-spices to the local businessmen or shops, losing value-addition advantage and profit. The local administration assisted the federation and allotted one of its premises to the federation to setup the Spice Processing Unit.
Oil Unit Venture – Syaldey Block
Syaldey is one of the remote blocks of Almora district and has difficult terrain, but is rich in growing traditional millets like Kauni, Cheena, Jangora, Ramdana, Soyabean and Manduwa, etc. The area is also famous for its production of Mustard, which is mainly of two colours – yellow and black. The field participation of the officers from the ILSP Almora noted that the seeds of Mustard went waste as the utilisation was very poor and seed market in the nearby shops almost negligible. At the advice of ILSP team, the SRC Nai Jagariti agreed to install a seed-oil processing unit. The plant is functional and the SRC members are all involved and motivated to capitalise on the venture.
Take Home Ration (THR) combats malnutrition
The most vulnerable group in any community comprises women and the children and those from low income groups. Malnutrition manifests when a human being is not taking enough calories pertaining to his or her daily needs, which includes proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The issue was raised by the ILSP Almora officers with the ICDS officers, as the same was regularly emerging during their meetings with the community members. The ILSP team along with the support from ICDS officials came with a unique solution by jointly deciding to distribute free Take Home Ration to the pregnant women in the 10 vikas khands through the Anganbadi centres. It was also decided that the material for the ration would be purchased from the federation so that their involvement and livelihood was also ensured. The challenge was to arrange Rs 4.5 lakh per month to rotate uninterrupted supply of packaged ration to Anganbadis. The Sahakaritas in the various blocks reached out to financial institutions to procure loans to monitor the process from packing to distribution, while the technical support and guidance was provided by the ILSP officials.
Fruit processing plant and bakery – Model venture at Hawalbagh
Developing Sustainable Livelihood Opportunities by creating venture models is an endeavour of ILSP. An example is of this is the Agro Processing Centre in Hawalbagh, Almora. The centre is producing products like Apple Jams, Apple Chutney, Garlic Paste and plan to manufacture Squashes, Pickles, Bakery Products and a variety of value added products of processed fruit in the near foreseeable future. Onsite trainers are provided to give hand-holding support to the workers in learning skills of the trade. The enlisted skills they learn from the trainers are grading the raw fruits and vegetables, peeling, cutting, pulping, boiling, processing, preserving and also culinary skills to cook the jams and chutney in huge quantities.
Industrial Mill for processing Rice/Flour
The Chaukutia Block is also known as the rice bowl of Kumaon. Farmers here have been growing rice and wheat for ages, and for de-husking, grading and polishing they were dependent on the local private Chakki Wala, which means addition to overall cost and impacting profit. Their desperation does not stop here and, in addition to processing charges, the transportation cost from field to market raises the cost. As this issue cropped up in the farmers’ meetings, the ILSP-Almora came up with a striking solution to set up their own venture of a rice and flour mill.
Such successful ventures in the hill areas will surely improve the local employment opportunities and increase the livelihood options and thereby improve their socio-economic status and may check migration from the hill areas of the state.
(The Authors are associated with the NGO-Development sector)