Women’s self-help groups (SHGS) set up in BAIF-Wadi projects are engaged in a diverse range of income-generation activities including:
- nurseries for mango grafts, and MPTS saplings
- backyard or Wadi plot cultivation of vegetables
- manufacture of vermicompost
- trading in foodgrains
- making leaf cups
- making papads
- manufacture of brooms
- group farming by taking land on lease
The main source of funds for these activities is the savings generated by SHG members themselves.
As on March 31, 2008, a total of 460 women’s SHGs set up in BAIF-DHRUVA’s project areas in Dharampur and Kaprada blocks of Valsad district, and Ahwar block of Dangs district, had cumulative savings of over Rs 31 lakhs. The SHGs had lent a total of Rs 51 lakhs to over 6000 members (many members had taken a loan more than once).
Loans are taken for setting up individual or group businesses.
An example of a group that has grown from strength to strength is the 7-member Jan Jagruti Mahila Bachat Gat, in Shivpada hamlet of Kaprada block. The members belong to the Kokana tribe. Four of the women are from landless families and used to migrate to Silvassa and Vapi to make ends meet.
Determined to change their lives, the SHG members approached the DHRUVA team and asked for an alternative income-earning opportunity. They were given training and a loan of Rs 7000 for setting up a nursery of forestry plants. DHRUVA assured purchase of 50,000 seedlings at Re 1 each.
The SHG members set up and ran the nursery together with strict norms. If any member failed to contribute her labour for daily work at nursery without genuine reasons, she had pay Rs 10 per day as a penalty. The group raised 45,000 plants and earned Rs 45,000.
Subsequently, the group received training in vermicomposting and prepared 6 tonnes of compost, earning another Rs 8000. Raw material worth Rs 875 was provided by DHRUVA on credit. The small amount of land required for the composting pit was provided free by one of the members.
In the cashew procurement season of 2006, the project management decided to give the SHG the job of collecting raw cashew from Wadi plot-holders in the village, as the people’s organisation (PO) set up in the village for this purpose had become defunct.
Initially, the women were reluctant to take up the task, as they were illiterate, and would not be able to maintain records. However, the husband of one of the women volunteered to maintain records, and the group successfully collected 4 tonnes of raw cashew.
Emboldened by this achievement, the SHG decided to enter the weekly market, where most farmers sold their raw cashew produce directly to traders, to get immediate cash. Defying resistance from the traders, the women also offered cash payments to farmers, and earned a net profit of Rs 4000 in the very first year, by selling the bought cashew to the Karchond cooperative in their cluster.
Other business activities done by the group include retail selling roof tiles procured in bulk by the cooperative.
The Jan Jagruti Mahila Bachat Gat of Shivpada has become a model for members of several other Wadi SHGs, who have been taken to the village, to interact with the women and get marketing tips.