As a part of its flagship project to enhance the income of the tribals across 11 villages of Gunupur block in Rayagada district of Odisha, WOTR has collaborated with the various department for convergence work
by Anshuman Panda
The district of Rayagada in Odisha has a variety of flora and fauna. The temperature is tropical and receives an average of 1400mm rainfall in a year. The district is home to many tribes and one such tribe is Lanjia Soura which resides mostly in Gunupur, a sub-division of the district which is at a distance of 75 km from the headquarters.
Watershed Organisation Trust is implementing its flagship project on “Building Adaptive Capacities and Resilience to Climate Change of Tribal and Marginalized Communities in Odisha” in 11 villages of Gunupur block. The project mainly aims at income enhancement of the tribal in the challenging situation. WOTR has collaborated with different departments in the block for various convergence work. During a field visit with one such official from Mission Shakti, the official observed a huge quantity of lemon lying beneath the tree and were wasted. The official suggested to take the initiative and market the product which will provide the tribal families with some extra source of income. Mission Shakti is a program under Women & Child Development (WCD) Department of Government of Odisha which aims at women empowerment.
WOTR’s staff after discussion with the Block Program Coordinator (BPC) of the Mission Shakti decided that that the marketing of the lemon will be done as soon as possible with the help of an SHG. The work to be done was circulated among the Wasundhara Sevaki & Sevak at field level to find a suitable & willing SHG. This type of collective marketing has never been done in Kulusing Gram Panchayat (GP), so to convince the SHG, to make an investment was a challenge. After several meetings, an SHG from Kadasi village of Kulusing GP named as “Maa Belankini SHG” came forward with the confidence to take over the work. This was also risky as lemon being a perishable item gets decayed within 24-36 hours from being plucked from the plant. The next challenge was the marketing of the product as Gunupur is a small sub-division and the quantity of product available was too much for Gunupur & nearby market. BPC Mission Shakti resolved the problem as he contacted Odisha Rural Development & Marketing Society (ORMAS) Rayagada. ORMAS is a government of Odisha agency which is responsible for the marketing of product mostly from the SHG’s to the mainstream market.
Maa Belankini SHG was formed on March 2018 consisting of 11 members of ST community of the same locality. Traditionally these women are homemakers who work throughout the year in farmland and goes to the forest for collection of Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and firewood.
When the SHG agreed to collect the lemons from its adjacent villages in the GP, the staffs of ORMAS were informed to come and do a quality check of the material. After the process of quality check, the SHG was given the go-ahead signal for collection and packaging the product. The product was collected with the help of Wasundhara Sevak from WOTR. The product was accumulated in Kadasi where the SHG stored and packed it. The total number of lemons packed was 19000. These lemons were then send to Bhubaneswar for sale through transport facility of ORMAS. Even though the SHG has never been involved in a livelihood or entrepreneurial activity in the past, it showed a lot of courage to proceed in this endeavor. The packing material and tips on packing was provided by the staff of ORMAS who had arrived from the district headquarter, Rayagada.
The produce had to be gathered from a distance of 10 km and so coordination was the key. The lack of a telephonic network was a problem as the SHG were unable to contact nearby villages for the product. Lemon being a perishable item needed to be plucked from the plant on the day itself when it was to be packed, so some product was lost as some farmers stocked their product to the SHG a day before. This problem was resolved by the hard work of Wasundhara Sevak & Sevikas and WOTR staff in collecting the lemons on the day of packaging. They faced some problem in grading the product and learned many things about it which will be beneficial for them in future.
The SHG now has planned to do collective marketing of NTFPs and other cash crops whenever possible. This type of work done by SHG will automatically reduce the malpractice done by the middle man who buys the product at a very low cost from the tribal community and sell it at a higher price in the market.
“Our village is situated in a remote area, and with no telephonic network available. It is very difficult to know about the market situation. Maa Belankini SHG had earlier planned to do collective marketing of tamarind, but due to imposition of lockdown, they couldn’t withdraw the amount required from the bank and failed. I am happy that the women are now confident and are doing business of buying & selling ” says Iteash Gomango, a Wasundhara Sevak of Kadasi village.
Such initiative by the SHG could lead others to do collective marketing of other products such as millet, arhar & vegetables which are sold at a very low price and the community never gets the actual price of the product This type of initiative has the potential to help in the formation of producer groups & women farmer producer organization. And the products of remote places such as Kulusing GP also will be linked to the mainstream market with the initiative of women entrepreneurship.