Rural Women taken to Floriculture through Joint Farming:
The Case of Bhramarambika Mahila Sangham, Chennapurao Palli Village in Peddakothapalli Mandal
The case of Bhramarambika Mahila Sangham located in a remote village situated at a distance of over 100 Km from the district headquarters shows how the unskilled and illiterate women could successfully grow floriculture through joint farming.
Group Formation and Functioning :
A group of 15 illiterate women formed into a SHG called Bhramarambika Mahila Sangham on 13.12.1995, inspired by Kalajatha performance in Chennapurao palli village. The SHG later became a member of the Chennapuraopalli VO in 1996 falling under Peddakothapalli mandal - a SAPAP mandal taken up for UNDP intervention and later covered under DPIP. The group is intact even now, with the same members continuing.
An analysis of the socio-economic characteristics of the group members revealed that out of 15 members, 10 belonged to BCs, three to Muslim Minorities and two to the other castes. All of them were illiterate, but learnt to sign their names after joining the group. They all belonged to the age group of 32 - 61 years, with a majority members aged below 50 years. Out of 15 members, 11 members had some bit of dry agricultural land ranging between one and three acres per head, while the remaining four members were landless agricultural labourers. Those who had some land could grow crops such as castor, horse gram and groundnut on their lands, entirely dependent on rainfall, which is both capricious and scanty, resulting in recurring droughts in Mahaboobnagar district. They all lived in their own houses and possessed white ration cards, indicating their BPL status. Thus, the group is not homogeneous in terms of caste and other aspects in the strict sense of the term, but could function effectively and survive all these years.
They were initially meeting once in a month and used to save Rs.30 per month. A significant change came about in the functioning of the group when they were taken to an exposure visit to Chevella in Rangareddy district after which they started weekly meetings, held on every Thursday, at which they contributed their meager savings ranging from Rs.5 to Rs.10, but in a regular fashion. The exposure visit to Hussenapuram village in Kurnool district, where the women groups were functioning successfully, made them to manage their group more efficiently, strictly adhering to the group norms. They could meet their small needs from internal lending. The group continues to function in the same way even today, demonstrating its sustainability.
Flow of Funds to the Group :
The group was initially provided with a seed capital of Rs.80000 under the UNDP intervention, with the help of which they could individually take to new livelihood opportunities such as sheep rearing, bullock-cart, brick making, petty shop, and leasing of mango trees. This brought about some improvement in their living conditions.
A landmark in the flow of funds to the group, that brought about remarkable changes in their lives, occurred when the group was sanctioned a loan of Rs.4.25 lakh including a subsidy of Rs.1.25 lakh under the SGSY programme of the government in the year 2000. They had to struggle a lot to get the loan sanctioned as the bank manager was initially hesitant to provide the loan to them without surety in view of their poor financial status, but, finally relented on examining the group functioning over the preceding five years and due to constant persuasion of the project staff. The group utilized only Rs.2.8 lakhs including subsidy. Later, they got a revolving fund of Rs.10000 and a loan of Rs.75000. They were paying the book keeper R.20 per month initially, which was increased to Rs.50 per month later and further to Rs.150 per month at present, in view of the increase in the amount of book keeping with the diversification of group activities.
Purchase and Development of Land and Its Cultivation :
The SGSY loan was used for purchasing dry (unirrigated) land of 4.2 acres at a cost of Rs.1.25 lakh, registered in the name of the group, and for developing it including the land leveling, bunding, digging of a bore well, obtaining an electricity connection, fixing of a pump set, laying of pipe lines, and cultivation of crops with the left-over money. They made their land more fertile with the application of 10 tractor-loads of silt and 10 tractor-loads of organic manure initially. They kept the registered sale deed of land as surety with the bank. They started the cultivation of a variety of crops involving floriculture comprising jasmine and rose, horticulture comprising guava and teak, besides paddy, groundnut and vegetables. While the paddy was grown in 2 acres, the remaining crops were grown in 2.2 acres. They brought the saplings from Krishna district at a cost of Rs.30000. They all worked together in managing this land, jointly contributing labour and marketing of the produce. They also started the application of vermi compost to the crops grown. They engaged a watchman to look after the garden by paying Rs.500 per month. They had not encountered any problems in marketing of flowers and other crop produce because they are located near a small town called Kollapur. They did not take money for the labour contributed initially, but when the income from the land increased they accounted for the labour charges and deducted the same from the gross income.
Outcome and Impact :
They were highly successful in their venture of joint farming. They could get considerable profits from floriculture and cultivation of paddy and other crops. As a result, they could repay the entire loan amount within three years. They could earn Rs.351188 from the sale of flowers and Rs.5698 from the sale of vegetables so far, out of which they distributed among themselves Rs.241570 towards their wages and paid Rs.28800 to watchman. They now get a profit of over Rs.50000 per annum after meeting all the expenses. They all share the good quality 'sona masuri' paddy grown on the land among them.
The major impact of the venture is the prevention of migration in their households and a perceptible improvement in their living conditions in terms of better food, health, education of children, and purchase of household assets including TVs and tape recorders. Migration could be stopped mainly because of the availability of employment and income throughout the year due to the production of different types and varieties of flowers as well as vegetables. Apart from this, they felt that they could become the proud owners of some irrigated land, successfully cultivating a wide variety of crops. The taste of success could be clearly visible in their increased self-confidence and reliability on group activity.
Success Factors :
The important factors responsible for the success of this joint venture include group cohesiveness and solidarity, strong and committed leadership, strict adherence to group norms and unshaken confidence in group activity, besides the active and continued support lent by the CV who now functions as CC in the same cluster. Another factor to be highlighted is the leadership of the group; one leader of the group has been very active and could later become the president of VO and MMS, and continue to lead the group even now at the instance of the members. The VO of the village was also quite active and could acquire its own building and chairs. They proudly say that they all sit in chairs and conduct the VO meeting. The VO and the groups also actively participate in all the social activities taken up in the village. They all could access the individual toilets with the government help and continue to use them properly. Thus, an ennobling environment prevails in the village, which acts as a guiding spirit behind the success of all activities including the present one. The success of this venture should be an eye-opener to all those who think that joint farming is not feasible.
2. Rural Women turned into Small Entrepreneurs: The Case of Banian Manufacturing by Sivasai Mahila Sangham, Manikonda village in Koilkonda mandal
The case of Sivasai Mahila Sangham undertaking Banian manufacturing in Manikonda village located at about 16 Km from the district headquarters demonstrates how successful the rural women could be as small entrepreneurs if necessary training and credit are provided to them along with some guidance and encouragement.
Group Formation and Functioning :
The members of Sivasai Mahila Sangham originally belonged to different SHGs formed as long back as 1995 under the DWCRA programme, due to the facilitation of a NGO called Adarsh and inspired by Kalajatha performances. They were part of a batch of 50 members who were provided training in tailoring activity during 1997-98, as a result of which some of them took to tailoring as a subsidiary occupation. Ten members who were trained in tailoring came together and formed into a SHG called Sivasai Mahila Sangham in the year 2001. Later, they were provided training in Banian making, as a part of a batch of 40 members, under TRYSEM programme at the TTDC, Mahaboobnagar for about three months during 2001-02.
All the members of Sivasai Mahila Sangham possessed unirrigated agricultural land ranging between one and two acres and used to engage in tailoring activity, besides looking after their own agriculture, with some working as agricultural labourers, to support their household income. Out of ten members, seven belonged to BCs and three to other castes. Six members had some education ranging between 5th and 9th class and one member studying in the final year of a graduation course, while three members were illiterate. They were all aged between 20 and 40 years. They met once in a month and contributed savings at the rate of Rs.30 per month. Their SHG is a member of Tirumala VO in the village, formed due to facilitation by Adarsh and comprising 34 SHGs in all. Each group has a fixed deposit of Rs.5000 with the VO and contributes Rs.100 towards savings at the VO level, which is in addition to the individual savings at the group level. It is pertinent to note that the leader of the SHG under reference also happens to be the leader of the VO. Each SHG in the VO was given a loan of Rs.75000 about two years back. The rate of interest per annum was 18 per cent per annum, reduced to 12 per cent at present.
Initiation into Banian Making and Provision of Bank Credit :
During the training in banian making conducted during 2001-02, they could pick up the skills with much ease as they possessed right aptitude for the task on account of their familiarity with tailoring activity earlier. Noticing their enthusiasm, the then Project Director of the DRDA provided them an opportunity to make use of the same machine on which they were given training to make banians. Two of them visited Tirpur in Tamil Nadu with the help of a trainer who provided them training in banian making, purchased cloth worth Rs.30000 and the group could make the banians successfully, which were sold in the retail market at different places. But, the group could not start their own unit for want of financial assistance until May 2005 when they were sanctioned a loan of Rs.3 lakh including a subsidy of Rs.1 lakh under the SGSY programme of the government.
Functioning of the Banian-making unit :
With the SGSY loan, the group could purchase the required machines at a cost of about Rs.1.2 lakh, cloth worth Rs.80000 and other materials/ equipment such as tables, boxes, etc., from Tirpur in Tamil Nadu. They operated the banian making unit in a rented house by paying a rent of Rs.200 per month. The electricity charges for the unit come to about Rs.400 to Rs.500 per month. They selected the brand name of 'SS Bhima' for the banians produced by them. They sell the banians at retail prices at various places such as the District Collector's office canteen, government offices and banks. They also sell their products at the Adarsh Mahila Resource Centre, Moosapet and the exhibition at Hyderabad. The unit has been functioning quite successfully. They purchased cloth in subsequent phases at a cost of Rs.32000, Rs.18000, Rs.16000 and Rs.9000 so far from Tirpur, and ordered for cloth at a cost of Rs.16000. Their annual turnover worked out to about Rs. 1.7 lakh.
Regarding the main constraints encountered in the trade, they felt that apart from inadequate finance towards working capital requirements, irregular electricity supply is impeding their production. They have to go to different places to sell their products. To overcome the problems in marketing, they are planning to open a stall in the DWCRA building at Mahaboobnagar at which they could open their retail counter on a regular basis.
Repayment of Bank Loan :
After meeting the expenses towards rent and electricity charges and distributing the minimum wages among themselves for the number of days worked per month, they repaid the bank loan at the rate of Rs.5000 per month on a regular basis. So far, they could repay to the tune of Rs.80000 including interest and the loan outstanding stood at Rs.247532 as on December 20, 2006.
The manufacturing of banians has certainly contributed to some addition to their household income in the sense that they could get gainful employment without moving from their village, resulting in a shift from their earlier activity of agricultural labour and tailoring in some cases. It has also increased the self-confidence of members and boosted their self-esteem to some extent. They could now interact with the strangers, meet the officials to get the orders and market their products with much ease. They could now proudly proclaim themselves as small entrepreneurs who could succeeded in their collective venture and stand as a model to other rural women interested to pursue such activities.
Success Factors :
The success factors behind this collective venture include right aptitude for the task, adequate training, guidance to purchase the necessary equipment and raw material, provision of credit, encouragement of the officials, and sound leadership. Above all, the group cohesiveness and solidarity and their self-management skills contributed to the success of this group activity.
3. Maize Procurement: A Successful Marketing Intervention at the VO Level
One of the successful interventions in Mahaboobnagar DPIP has been the procurement of maize from the farmers at the minimum support price (MSP) offered by the government under a tie-up with the MARKFED. This marketing intervention was promoted successfully in certain VOs which managed the procurement centres, with some support from the project staff. The case of Alampur VO located in Alampur mandal is an instance in point, which has been examined here to understand the process and factors responsible for the success of this intervention.
The Strategy :
The strategy adopted involved a tie-up with the MARKFED to procure maize at the MSP of Rs.540 per quintal wherein the VO would get a service charge of one per cent of the value of the maize procured. It is significant to note that during 2005-06 Rabi season the poultry industry collapsed due to sudden outbreak of bird flu disease and the spread of rumors about the association of poultry chicks with the 'chikun gunya' disease. As a result, the market prices for maize were slashed. In this context, the MSP offered for maize was higher than the market price and the Mahaboobnagar DPIP plunged into action to open procurement centres (PCs) at different places and involve the VOs in the marketing activity so as to ensure that the farmers would be benefited and at the same time the concerned VOs would also benefit in terms of not only earning service charges but also the acquisition of skills for such a marketing activity.
The Process :
The DPMU opened PCs at different places to be handled by the concerned VOs. The Alampur MMS established a maize procurement centre through the local VO of Alampur village. The Alampur VO formed a purchasing committee comprising five members to look after the entire activity and ensure that good quality maize is procured and supplied to the MARKED. A book keeper was appointed to record the transactions in the prescribed books. Besides, a five-member advisory committee was constituted consisting of village sarpanch as the president, one VO EC member, one member from Rytumitra group, one experienced person in the village, and one progressive farmer to guide the purchasing committee for the smooth running of the activity. Ten Hamalis were deployed for each procurement centre for filling maize into the gunny bags, weighing, packing and loading into the truck. The MARKFED supplied the required number of empty gunny bags and books of account to the PC on VO indent to purchase maize. The marketing department supplied 20 tarpaulins to each PC for procuring maize. In addition, the DRDA supplied 30 tarpaulins to each PC for the same purpose.
It was agreed that the MARKFED would transport the maize procured by the VO from the PC to the warehouses on its own cost, while the farmers would pay for the weighing, packing and loading charges at the rate of Rs.10 per quintal to the Hamalis. The concerned VO would issue the post-dated cheques (one week after the procurement date) to the farmers for the maize procured, while the MARKFED would pay the entire cost of maize procured to the PD, DRDA, who, in turn, would transmit the same to the concerned VOs.
Procurement of Maize by Alampur VO :
During 2005-06 Rabi season, the Alampur VO procured 26887.5 quintals of maize at a total cost of Rs.1.4519 crores, resulting in the accrual of service charges to the tune of Rs.145192 to the VO.
Benefits from the Scheme :
The main beneficiaries from the scheme were the maize growing farmers, who could get a net gain of Rs.60 to Rs.90 per quintal of maize sold by them, taking into account the price differential and benefit due to proper weighing by the VO purchasing committee members. They felt that they would have been cheated heavily had they sold their maize to the private traders in the open market. They felt that they could get a fair price for their produce and prompt payment and the process was devoid of cheating in weighing and other operations. They also felt that their awareness in respect of the quality and the MSP has improved because of the scheme. The scheme also benefited the VO EC members in the sense that they could acquire the skills of marketing the agricultural produce. The other benefits from the scheme include the recognition to the women groups in the village and the opening up of other marketing opportunities for them from the line departments. The scheme also created a demand for opening of procurement centres for other agricultural commodities in rural areas so that the producers would be benefited in terms of fair price and accurate weighing.
In addition, the scheme resulted in provision of direct employment to different sections of people and profitability to the VO. For instance, eight purchase committee members could get a wage of Rs.80 per day for 58 days during the season, with the total earnings amounting to Rs.37120. Two book keepers could get an honorarium of Rs.100 per day for 116 man-days, and could get a benefit of Rs.11600. Besides, 40 Hamalis worked at the PC for 58 days, generating a total employment of 2320 man-days and resulting in an income of Rs.268870. The VO could get a net profit of Rs.87247 after deducting wages and other expenditure.
Certain important constraints were noticed in the operation of the scheme, which need to be overcome so that it would function smoothly in future. Firstly, the MARKED could not supply adequate number of empty gunny bags in time, as a result of which the farmers had to wait at the PCs for days together. Secondly, the MARKFED failed to provide the required number of vehicles in time as a result of which there was a delay in transportation and the farmers could not be made the payment within the stipulated time. These constraints should be avoided in future operations.
The marketing intervention with regard to maize procurement initiated by the DPMU involving the VOs at the procurement centres had a considerable impact in the rural areas of Mahaboobnagar district in the sense that it ensured fair prices to the farmers and created good awareness among them regarding the quality of produce and MSP, besides generating gainful employment to some extent. It has brought recognition to the VOs as organizations capable of handling the task efficiently thereby benefiting the farming community. It has widened the scope for handling similar tasks by the VOs in the days to come. Moreover, the confidence of the VOs to undertake such tasks has increased tremendously and the earnings from the activity would be a stepping stone for the growth of VOs as sustainable institutions of the people, functioning on democratic principles.
Success Factors :
The factors responsible for the success of this intervention include the foresight of the DPMU to take up the task at the appropriate time, committed work by the project staff in extending all types of help to the VO leadership in accomplishing the task efficiently, dedicated leadership at the VO level, and effective convergence brought about with different line departments. The success of this activity should be a trend-setter and should open up opportunities for not only increasing the earnings at the VO level but also benefiting the rural community as a whole
4. Landless Poor Women became Proud Owners of Wet Land: A Case Study of Land Purchase Scheme in Amarachinta VO-I
The Mahaboobnagar DPIP has taken up an innovative scheme of purchasing wet agricultural land under the irrigation projects and its handing over to the landless women agricultural labourers, mobilized into the SHGs, so as to bring about significant improvement in their livelihoods in the long run. The land purchase scheme implemented as a pilot project has been examined here in respect of Amarachinta VO-I so as to gain insights into the benefits from the scheme and identify the constraints. The case study is expected to yield lessons for the scaling up of the project in future.
Description of the Scheme :
The land purchase scheme is innovative in the sense that for the first time attempt has been made to purchase wet (irrigated) land and allot the same to the landless agricultural labour households, registering it in the name of the women members. The scheme has been taken up as a CIF sub-project involving 75 per cent grant and 15 per cent loan, with the beneficiary contribution placed at 10 per cent of the total cost. Another aspect of the scheme is that it would be implemented at the village level, with the VO playing active role in identifying the beneficiaries, who would, in turn, identify the land that could be purchased.
Implementation of the Scheme in Amarachinta VO-I :
The Amarachinta VO-I comprises 27 SHGs with 305 members. During the VO-EC meeting the leaders identified 21 potential beneficiaries who could be covered under the land purchase scheme. These members belonged to seven SHGs, out of which there were 11 SCs and 10 BCs. The components of the scheme including the beneficiary contribution were explained to the members and they were helped to identify suitable agricultural land with assured source of irrigation under the PJ project. They could identify 17.6 acres of land that could be purchased under the scheme. The project proposal was prepared by the VO and submitted to the DPMU for sanction. An amount of Rs.1159088 (90% of the total cost) was released for this project to the VO through the MMS during March 2006. The land was surveyed, purchased, demarcated, sub-divided and handed over to 21 beneficiaries identified. The registration was done in the name of the women beneficiaries. Each beneficiary could get 0.75 to 1.0 acre.
Socio-economic Characteristics of the Beneficiaries :
A look at the socio-economic characteristics of the beneficiaries revealed that they all belonged to the weaker sections of the society, falling in the age group of 25 to 45 years. Only four members had education ranging from 2nd class to 9th class, while all others had no formal education, with two of them could be described as just literate. All of them worked as agricultural labourers. Besides, 14 members were involved in Beedi rolling and seven in non-agricultural labour as a secondary occupation. Their annual income ranged between Rs. 6000 and Rs.14400, with most of them earning less than 10000 per annum. Thus, they all appeared to be belonging to the poorest of the poor sections of the community and deserved to be benefited under the scheme.
Cultivation of Crops in the Allotted Land :
Out of 21 beneficiaries, 18 had taken up cultivation of paddy during 2006-07 Kharif season. Out of them, 10 beneficiaries could get some profit, while the remaining eight could not get profit due to late transplantation and delayed application of pesticides mainly on account of lack of experience, resulting in lesser yields.
Impact of the Scheme :
It would be too early to assess the impact of the scheme in terms of perceptible benefits since it would take a minimum of three to four years to get stabilized returns from the irrigated lands under new irrigation projects, provided the farmers are provided with proper extension guidance with regard to the suitability of soil to different crops and use of various inputs at the appropriate time. Since it is hardly nine months from the date of handing over the land to the beneficiaries in the present case, assessing the impact is confined to the perceptions of the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries felt that they could get agricultural land with assured irrigation facility, even though the extent is limited. They also felt that they could become the proud owners of land, which was considered as an important asset in rural areas and determined the status of a household in the society. Thus, all of them were benefited in the sense that their status improved considerably because of the scheme. It is expected that it would result in improving their living conditions in the long run.
There seems to certain constraints in the implementation of the scheme that become evident from the case study. One constraint pertains to the limited extent of land allotted to each beneficiary, ranging between 0.75 and 1 acre, which is hardly viable for cultivation. Another constraint appears to be lack of proper extension guidance to the farmers regarding the timing of transplantation and use of inputs including the application of pesticides, due to which quite a few farmers failed to get the expected yields.
Lessons for the Future :
One of the positive features of the scheme is that it involved the provision of productive agricultural land with assured irrigation facility to the beneficiaries, an important and desirable deviation from the earlier schemes of allotting land to the landless. Another positive feature of the scheme is the implementation through the VO as it facilitates the identification of the most deserving among those mobilized into the SHGs in the context of the entire village. Further, the scheme is laudable in the sense that at least one-fourth of the cost is to be borne by the beneficiaries in the form of initial investment and the repayment of loan portion, providing for their serious involvement.
However, the constraints being faced by the beneficiaries in making use of the land allotted to them need a closer look. It appears that the constraints noted above could be overcome, provided some innovative practices are tried out and convergence is brought about with the line departments and ongoing development schemes. Since the land provided to the beneficiaries is not viable for cultivation individually, efforts need to be made to examine the feasibility of bringing them together in small groups of five to six persons on the principle of homogeneity and facilitate collective cultivation. Further, it is necessary to explore the convergence with the comprehensive land development programme called 'Indira Prabha' so that some additional inputs could be provided to the beneficiaries. Alternatively, efforts could also be made to integrate dairying with crop cultivation so as to derive optimum benefits from the limited extent of land provided to the beneficiaries. Another important aspect that needs to be examined is the feasibility of providing the extension guidance to the beneficiaries by striking an effective convergence with the Agriculture department.