Acute poverty is the biggest roadblock to better rural development in India and to access basic opportunities. Those who are born into poverty often stay trapped because it’s difficult for them to access the resources that would help them climb out of it.
The poverty trap includes limited livelihood opportunities, inaccessible government support systems, poor nutrition, inadequate healthcare and barely any literacy. Even those who manage to earn a livelihood with minimum skills need only one unexpected event from disease to a bad crop or an unplanned expense to tip them back into poverty. India’s poor also grapple with a fatalistic attitude that limits their belief that they can be prosperous and empowered.
Our work in rural livelihood transformation involves shifting their attitudes by finding ways to improve income sources, teaching them self-sustaining skills and creating ways in which poor communities can have a steady income stream. Over time, a steady income helps them save for unforeseen events and be a buffer against being pushed back into poverty.
Our development initiatives include strengthening the rural agricultural production system. It could be something as simple as teaching farmers better ways to produce and providing access to better seeds from government nurseries, or encouraging them to diversify their crops so they are more conducive to growth in the region and offer higher value. We can introduce them to winner crops.
It could also be by helping set up solar power to pump water for irrigation. Farmers who are early adopters often aggregate other producers and bring them under one roof and become agri-entrepreneurs, enabling transformation in attitudes and behaviour on a larger scale. This, in turn, leads to higher income-generating opportunities for more people within the community.
We have created Yuva Compass or youth hubs in which the youth are offered expertise in starting businesses and providing access to jobs. The centre is manned by a hub coordinator. Young people can come here and get all the necessary support from mapping job opportunities to training in basic book-keeping or using digital payment methods, so they have better overall skills.
Our volunteers help women collectives improve their income by teaching them more relevant skills and creating a demand for the goods and services they can provide. We help the most vulnerable equip themselves better for a steadier livelihood.
We also help build a market for the goods and services produced by these village communities.
Vashni is a part of a self-help group in her village in Madhya Pradesh. As part of a government program to encourage livelihood, TRIF was able to help her get black hens which are of high value in the poultry industry. A local black breed called Kadaknath, is valued for its low fat and high protein content and medicinal values and its demand has surged in recent years.
Vashni was able to get 200 such chickens for rearing and she now sells around seven of these each day, fetching her up to 1,200 rupees per chicken. In 2020, she earned 80,000 rupees from her poultry activities and now she manages the hatching process for them as well, increasing the chicks under her care.
Kala Bhuriya is a farmer in Madhya Pradesh. He used to grow the traditional crops of the region such as soybeans and pulses and struggled to make even 50,000 rupees a year. He was then introduced to our agricultural entrepreneur Mukesh who taught him better farming methods, newer crops and how to improve yields. From 2018, he learnt that he could diversify into produce that would fetch a better price such as broccoli and fruit such as watermelon for which there was high demand in the bigger towns and cities.
From a small farmer, who had indifferent yields he now earns more than 100,000 rupees a year in profit. This prosperity means he now lives in a proper house rather than the temporary shelter he used to call home.
TRIF recently organized a “Kaun Banega Business Leader’’ (KBBL) competition in Ajnaas & Sandalpur villages of Kathegaon in Madhya Pradesh. Based on a reality competition format, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, it invites youth and women to come up with innovative business ideas.