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Women Empowerment through Training Programme under PMKVY Special Agri Project

She was upset and depressed as her family like several other families in the village were unable to have sustainable living from farming due to lack of rains and also the absence of proper irrigation facilities in the region. Shobha Gavhane who was fed up with drought situation was looking some opportunities that include alternative farming to make minimum income for her family members who are the victims of droughts with no hopes of getting viable options of living. Over the years, the frequency of droughts in the region had exacerbated leading to higher input cost and lower productivity putting most of these families in debt in the region.

Shobha who was an active and progressive member of the local community, started realizing that she along with other farmers needed to change their farming practices and look at alternatives that provided regular income and were not prone to droughts. While exploring opportunities, Shobha along with other woman members of the local community have come across a group farming training programme under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) Special Agri Project “Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Mission” and, Sobha and her team immediately became a part of the training program. Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) which is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE).

She also mobilized her peers to be a part of this training program and they quickly realized the benefits of group farming under the intensive training program and formed a farmer group after being certified Group Farming Practitioners to explore potential opportunities of financial growth through collective efforts. The group recognized that they all have experience in the management of household poultry and decided to pursue poultry business under “Sakshiladevi Farmer Producer Company” (Latur). The group also received a pre-approved loan from “Annasaheb Patil Arthik Magas Vikas Mahamandal Maryadit” for their proposed poultry business. These women are now acting as catalyst for other women in the village looking for opportunities beyond agriculture.

Over a period of time, Shobha became an active member of farming community in Shirala who started working with other women farmers and their organizations and sensitized them to engage in organic farming activities. As an active farmer and leader of the women farmers in Shirala, she was approached by the circle coordinator to get trained about the group farming training and bring in more participants in this training programme, and also recruited 12 women from the village to take part in group farming training.

Majority of women from Shirala are small landholders, as a result of division of land through family and generations but they have realized the power of a group. As a result, not only self-help groups of these women but also 3 farmer groups of 20 small landholder women are also operational in Shirala. However, despite their participation in group, each woman had been cultivating their individual crops. The advance training programme has sensitized the farmers to the concept of group farming as opposed to farmer groups, which has allowed these women to understand that if they work together with a single aim, they will be able to reap much better benefits.

Equipped with this understanding and their experience of working in a group, women farmers from Shirala then met Palladium India’s Business Advisory Services (BAS) team which convinced them to take this training to the next step and form a Farmer Producer Company (FPC). The BAS team also helped them in shortlisting business activities based on their Agri- skills and farming experience. The farmers’ group then decided to proceed further with poultry as a business activity. One of the key reasons behind this decision is the fact that the majority of members have experience in management of household poultry. Such experience coupled with group farming training and consultation with BAS team has made them confident enough to be able to manage the poultry business. Furthermore, with the help from Shobha, the BAS team arranged discussions and meetings to facilitate brainstorming on poultry as a business idea and formed a preposition to be translated into a viable business plan.

To form this FPC, the trainee farmers have also enlisted 5 women from Shirala that are willing shareholders in the group. These non-trained members were mobilized by Shobha Gavhane, to proactively participating in completion of documentation and registration of the FPC.

One of the pre-requisites for receiving financial assistance from the Mahamandal is that the group members need to maintain a balance of Rs 1 lakh in company’s account before the amount of loan is sanctioned. Although all members are either small landholders or daily-wage earners, the women are motivated to form the company and have decided to pool Rs 10,000 each to meet this requirement. Some of them are also willing to borrow loans or sell their goats to be able to participate in the company. Many of these women have secondary education, and some are illiterate, but they have understood that working in a group will be beneficial for them. Along with it, they also realize benefits of a Farmer Producer company in the long term as an instrument for their socio-economic growth.

Although these company members are striving to achieve financial independence and economic growth, they have observed that a male dominant society in rural Maharashtra is generally not willing to let women work independently or operate outside conventional roles.

Today, members of Sakshiladevi FPC feel that if the women are made aware of the various schemes and benefits, they can receive by engaging in business activities and it would encourage them to take small risks and bring in a big change in improving their socio-economic conditions. They feel that women empowerment can be triggered by raising awareness among women and motivating them to engage in business activities. Members of Sakshiladevi FPC hope that women will be encouraged by their example and strive to be financially independent to contribute in socio-economic growth in rural Maharashtra.

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