Self-help groups to the rescue of uneducated, poor farm women
Many of these women even get to help their husbands financially
— Photo: IISR
Multiple benefits: Since they get the money on time, women workers do not bother much about high interest rates.
Getting an agriculture loan for many small farmers remains a dream today.
“If the farmer is uneducated, landless or does not have a sizeable acreage then the task becomes more uphill. If that be the case of male farmers, imagine the plight of uneducated, poor, farm women,” says Dr. V.A. Parthasarathy, Director,
Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode, Kerala.
Today’s banking systems or processes are beyond the understanding of an illiterate farm woman and the local money lender becomes her only source of support.
Since they get the money on time, women workers do not bother much about high interest rates.
With low payment and lack of regular work many of these women are unable to pay back the loans and get caught in an unending chain of debts and interest. The same is the case of many male farmers.
“To put an end to this exploitation by private moneylenders and at the same time give a status for the illiterate farm woman in the society, our institute formed the Sadhu Chaithanya Self Help Group,” explains Dr. Parthasarathy.
Initially the women members had no income of their own for meeting their personal needs and depended on their husband’s meagre income.
The scientists spent several days studying the daily work style of the women and their family and drafted a plan on the type of programmes suited them.
“We decided to conduct training for the women in vegetable cultivation, fisheries, plant propagation, mushroom cultivation, bee keeping, tailoring and embroidery, dairy, piggery, poultry and vermicomposting as all of them came from a farming family,” says Dr. T.K. Jacob, Principal Scientist of the institute.
In addition, they were also trained in tailoring and embroidery. To encourage a sense of ownership, each member was asked to contribute some amount (Rs.10 to 20 per week) depending on their capacity.
“Personally, becoming a member of this group has helped me. Previously, if I needed money urgently, I approached the local moneylender or pawned some of my jewels. But now I am eligible for a loan of up to Rs. 30,000 during an emergency,” says Mrs. Thressiamma Mathew, the group convenor. The loans are disbursed at low interest rate and available any time.
There are no long complicated paper procedures for giving the loan, which becomes available on verbal request of the members.
They use the money to start their own income generating activities and the loan is repaid out of the profit they earn through the enterprise.
For example two women members started dairy units with a pair of milch cows.
They earn an annual net income of Rs.22, 000 to Rs. 29,000 through the sale of milk and an additional income of Rs.2,000 (a year) through the sale of excess cow dung to local farmers.
Similarly all the members started a goatery and mobilise a net profit of Rs. 5,000-Rs. 25,000.
“Presently two ladies in our group are rearing 10 and 16 goats obtained from the initial stock of one goat.
They get an additional annual income of Rs.1,800 through the sale of goat droppings,” says Mrs. Thressiamma.
Three members started bee- keeping units with 10 boxes, availing Rs. 6,000 each as loan.
“I got Rs.15,000 last year through the sale of honey in the local market without any additional expenditure,” says Mrs. Sherly, a member who plans to expand her apiculture unit.
In addition the members are also rearing chicken, fresh water fish and cultivating vegetables.
“All of us join together in growing the vegetables and bananas in a 10 cent land that was taken on lease. The vegetables come in handy for domestic consumption, and also sold at the local market.
We generate an income of Rs.1,200 through the sale of surplus vegetables in the local market,” says Mrs. Shincy Raju, another group member.
What comes as a bonus for this group is that many of these women even get to help their husbands financially, by extending loan facilities from the group, making life so much easier for them too.
Mrs. Thressiamma Mathew, Poovathingal House, Kakkayam P.O., Kozhikode, Kerala - 673615, Phone: 09495862394.
Dr. T.K. Jacob, Principal Scientist, Indian Institute of Spices Resesarch, Marikkunnu Post, Calicut, Kerala-673 528, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 09447-539967.
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