Axis Bank Foundation has partnered with Harsha Trust since 2012. The project is operational in four districts of Odisha (Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi and Nabrangpur). The project focuses on promoting strong community based organizations and building the capacities of beneficiaries through mango, eucalyptus and cashew cultivation, vegetable cultivation, and commercial broiler poultry farming; ensuring food sufficiency was another offshoot of the engagement.
The operational districts of Harsha have 54.6% scheduled caste and scheduled tribal population. 90% population in these districts live in villages, female literacy in this region is as low as 30% and it has been considered as a historically backward economy for many years. It has a diverse topography covered with forests, rolling uplands, and exhaustive drainage systems. Given this socio-economic background the State Government had formulated a Long Term Action Plan (LTAP)/ Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP) for the region’s rapid improvement in infrastructure, literacy levels, strengthening livelihoods and accelerating the pace of overall development of the region. (Source: Impact Study- 2015)
Beneficiaries under Farm-based Livelihood Promotion at Khaliapali, Kalahandi district
Members of three Self Help Groups (SHGs), namely Radhakrishna, Tarini and Buddha located in Khaliapali, Kalahandi district were engaged in farm based livelihood promotion by mapping the before and after changes. Women in these groups practised traditional farming methods before ABF Harsha intervention. After intervention agricultural productivity has improved by introducing modern technologies. The produce has increased significantly – from 2Q per acre to 10Q per acre. This has led to improvement in family income of the beneficiaries. The major portion of the income is spent on marriage, health and payment of loan to ‘Sahukars’. The major agriculture produce include chillies, brinjals and other seasonal vegetables. Currently, individual families earn an income of Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 annually.
Before the intervention none of the members had visited any bank and did not have a bank account. After the formation of SHG groups, the members were encouraged to open individual bank accounts to promote a habit of thrift and saving within an institutional structure for the first time. The SHGs have also procured group loans at 24% interest rate from the bank to support their income generation activities. Before the intervention, the villagers were dependent on ‘Sahukars’ from adjacent villages located within a radius of 3-5 km for loan at 120% interest rate. The practice of keeping jewellery as mortgage was very prevalent.
But now, the SHG members have practiced regular saving within the group. They contribute weekly deposits between Rs. 10-Rs. 100 depending on an individual’s capacity and a late submission fine of Rs. 2 weekly. The group has cash-in-hand of Rs. 3000 supported by annual saving between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 3500. The members mentioned that saving is generally used for emergency purposes and for conducting marriage.
The members unanimously mentioned that being a part of the SHG group has led to an improvement in their lifestyle and increased their participation in decision making within their households and at the village level. The members rated the improvement in participation level from 20% earlier to 50% at present. In the beginning the SHG members’ families were a bit reluctant about their taking membership in SHG but later observing the benefits families became supportive.
Before the ABF-Harsha intervention, members of these families used to migrate to cities in search of employment, but that has reduced drastically as cultivation capacity had improved. Decreased out-migration is a significant outcome. The families have enrolled their children in schools which was not possible earlier due to regular migration. Apart from their regular responsibility of thrift and saving, the SHG groups are also involved in decision making related to social issues. They mentioned that the group took on the only wine shop last year, and the struggle culminated with the closure of the shop. The villagers are involved in plantation and protection of local forest area by creating awareness among villagers. Regular training programmes for the members, usually every 3 months, are organised regularly for capacity building, income generation activities and utilising funds effectively.
Harsha Trust has reached out to over 57,000 households in four districts of Odisha to bring livelihood security, enhance their annual incomes and ensure round the year food sufficiency for the households through ABF.