Thousands of rural women in Maharashtra are scripting their own destiny, thanks to IndiGo’s CSR initiative. The CSR programme is helping 20 thousand women in rural pockets of four districts – Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Thane, live with dignity. The Airline through its implementation partner is skilling, financing and guiding these women to run their enterprises successfully.
The target beneficiaries of the CSR programme are families with no male earning member. Women with distress have been given priority. Many of these women now earn more than Rs 8,000 per month.
IndiGo’s role is to provide assets for potential enterprise development, advocacy and institutional linkages.
Raju Sharma, CSR Head of IndiGo says, “Women Empowerment is one of the pillars of IndiGo’s CSR. The program aims at augmenting income for smallholder farmers and landless women to face production and market risk without falling back into poverty and distress”
This Project is focused on capacity building, development through on-farm & off-farm activities, collection, processing and marketing of the farm produce.
“Our current focus is on the socio-economic empowerment of women in 100 villages of Maharashtra through sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship development opportunities for women”, Sharma adds.
The programme is spearheaded by AFARM, an association of NGOs working on sustainable agriculture and livelihood in Maharashtra.
AFARM’s Executive Director, Subhash Tamboli says, “Strategised around upskilling, credit linkage, handholding and institutional development, the program focuses on both farm and non-farm based intervention which is in a way a holistic approach for catering to diverse livelihood activities.”
At first stage, awareness programmes in villages and household survey were organised. Women were screened based on a set selection criteria namely SC, ST, OBC and other category Households, BPL & Landless, marginal land holder.
But the priority was given to women in distress such as widows, single and divorced ones.
Women were identified with skills and then trained by AFARM.
Tamboli says, “These women were trained on their primary skills along with enterprise development to make sure that do better than what they were doing.”
Up skilling was done in Dairy, Gotary, Poultry based livelihoods other than sustainable agriculture and also business planning, enterprise management, negotiations and marketing.
The women have also been trained on Digital Financial Literacy, and how to access various government schemes for livelihoods.
The enterprises run by women range from a general store to a crockery shop in non-farm activities.
In farm sector, focus has been given on LEISA, a concept on which there is less dependence on external inputs in agriculture. The women farmers are trained on making compost, bio-pesticides, and better fodder management.
They are also trained on sustainable farming practices such as cropping patterns, and efficient water use. As a result of these efforts, the farmers are able make more money per acre of land.
The women farmers have also been trained on goat rearing, dairy, and poultry to earn additional income.
Highlight of this programme is robust hyper local governance that has been grouped into Producer Groups, Village Organisations and Community Resource Persons.
Community Resource Persons (all women) have been created to look after management of producer groups and village organisations. They have also been tasked to support local women for accessing various government schemes and entitlements.
The producer groups function like Self Help Groups (SHGs). Consisting of 20 members each with varied interests, they manage finances, operations and value additions in the products.
2 members from each producer organizations in a village create a Village Organisation (VO), which has multiple responsibilities such as governance, operations, market linkage and providing production, procurement and marketing services.
Money that rotates
The programme has an embedded credit mechanism where each producer group gets 7500 rupees in the bank account. The PG decides on whom to give credit to after assessing priority.
Each member of PG also deposits certain amount ranging from 100 rupees to 500 rupees per month (based on collecting decision taken at periodic meeting).
For example, a producer group in Hivergaon Village in Ahmednagar District that started at 7500 rupees 18 months ago, has 42 thousand rupees in Bank.
Kamla Paose, who is head of producer group and also the president of the Village organization of Hivergaon says that the group has given credit to 13 women so far as supporting fund for buying either machinery for non-farm activities or livestock in farm base activities.
The project has witnessed an increase in average gross annual household income by 1 lakh and 50 thousand rupees in just 18 months. As a result, distress migration of the women households has decreased by 90 percent.
With the help of CRPs, these women are not only aware of their entitlements and services available from State and Central Government, but almost all of them are availing these services.
Yet to mature
What is missing though is strong value chain, production with market linkage and structured organization like Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). The programme is aimed at occupational diversity at local level rather than creating bigger organizations.
Tamboli explains this is primarily due to the programme being in early stage and as the PGs and VOs strengthen, larger organisations will take shape.
Talking about sustainability of the project, he says the CRP cadre that has been created as par the programme will act as service provider to VOs and PGs after completion of the project.