| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Elements of action plan
The key elements of the initiative, pre deployment, deployment and post deployment of the activity were incorporated in the action plan starting from accessing resources for raw materials to technical support to marketing assistance.
Key development steps and chronology
January 2013: Conducting Baseline Survey on potential beneficiaries and land availability
A base line survey was conducted to understand the livelihood concerns of the village to identify economic activity as well as women farmers interested in taking up cultivation of millets. An assessment on availability of land was also done to understand the interventions to be provided with respect to technology, production and marketing support.
Sensitisation of Baigawomen farmers
The first challenge was to change the mindset of Baiga community. The Baiga do not practice modern agriculture due to their customary values. They do not cultivate land as they treat land as their mother. Sensitising them was an uphill task. The DPMU took up several sensitization programmes to motivate Baiga farmers for practicing modern agriculture. They were exposed to other areas where farmers of the same community had adopted improved agricultural practices. The women members were sensitised about the need of improving their livelihood to ensure food security. The women farmers of Baiga community were also sensitized by other women farmers who were linked with the initiative.
March 2013:- Identification of master trainers and training
The initiative involved women farmers from 40 villages covered by Nari Chetana Mahila Sangh. Master trainers from each village were identified and trained to provide training to women farmers and timely interventions. These master trainers were provided training on advanced crop production technology by Jawahar Lal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (JNKVV)
Training of women farmers, exposure visits
Women Farmers selected for the initiative were then provided training on cultivation of millets, land/bed preparation, seed processing, sowing and transplantation, cropping system and intercultural practices, integrated nutrient management, integrated pest management, vermi compost, soil testing etc. Before starting the cultivation of millets the women farmers were also sent to JNKVV for exposure.
April 2013:- Identification of local experts .
The DPMU team also formally contacted local experts from Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) to provide support to women farmers for cultivation of millets. A complete strategy was devised collectively with KVK experts to supervise the pre cultivation, cultivation and post cultivation activities.
April 2013:- Establishment of Demonstration Plots
To make the activity a viable one and motivate farmers, various demonstration plots have been developed by involving women farmers so as to build up their confidence and to inculcate in them the habit of practicing modern agriculture practices.
May-August 2013:- Implementation of activity and concurrent monitoring
The activity was implemented from May 2013. A complete monitoring strategy was developed to ensure sustenance of project activities,to assess the profitability and quality of outputs.
September-Oct. 2013 onwards: - Exploring potential buyers,
The remarkable success of the activity has resulted in surplus produce with the farmers and the federation has facilitated selling of surplus produce by identifying potential buyers contacting for tie ups.
Nov.2013- Jan.2014:- Value addition and Brand development
The SPMU, DPMU officials, federation members along with the support of technical experts are in the process of developing a brand for their produce. Numerous products like Millet kheer, Idli, Millet khurma etc have been developed, displayed and have gained huge recognition at the national level.
Feb. 2014-April 2014:- Identification of new and left out women farmers
May 2014 onwards: - Initiating the process of cultivation and concurrent monitoring
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The initiative was conceptualized and proposed by Ms. Kalpana Srivastava, Managing Director of the M.P.Women Development Corporation. Ever since her career began in Madhya Pradesh, she was concerned about the oppressive socio-economic conditions of women in the state due to patriarchal nature of the society. To rectify this gender discrimination, she sought to create a women friendly environment in society and provide spaces for women in the development process. She is currently heading the State Project Management Unit (SPMU) of the IFAD funded Tejaswini Programme for women empowerment which is approaching its last phase. She aimed to consolidate the empowerment benefits by ensuring sustainability of WSHGs. A durable, self-sustaining and strong cementing force was therefore needed to sustain the WSHGs even after withdrawal of the Tejaswini Programme. Combining these, she put forth an idea of involving them in a viable economic activity through agriculture thereby instilling self-confidence in them and also indirectly ensuring control over resources (asset control) by them.
She deliberated with the officers of State Project Management Unit. (Ms. Seema Singh Thakur, Project Director, Mr. M. K. Chaturvedi, Deputy Programme Director and Mr. A. S. Bhal, State Coordinator, New Initiatives) and Mr. K.K. Hartalkar the District Project Manager, the federation members. The entire team then had several rounds of discussions on exploring the possibility of developing a concrete livelihood plan which would be viable in socio-eco-climatic-geographical conditions of the district A draft action plan was then designed and developed and shared by Mr. K.K. Hartalkar with DPMU, Federation Chairperson Ms. Rekha Padram, other federations’ representatives and the SHG members as well as the family members and the District administration.
The suggestions on draft action plan were incorporated to make a concrete plan which could be successfully implemented by the SPMU, DPMU, Federation, SHGs members collectively.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
A wide range of financial, human and technical resources have been used to make the activity sustainable.
The financial resources were provided through IFAD funded Tejaswini Rural Women Empowerment Porgramme and a contribution from member farmers. The project fund was to be revolved by the federation to include new farmers with the activity. The business plan prepared by the federation was INR 5.07 million. The programme had contributed INR 3.31 million and the rest was contribution from the community.
• Members of Federation for providing backward and forward linkages. The federation was delegated responsibilities of financial planning, channelizing resources for cultivation and identification of experts for providing technical support and potential buyers for excess produce.
• Women farmers from Women Self Help Groups as beneficiaries for cultivation, processing and marketing of produce.
• Family members of SHG for encouraging women farmers in cultivation.
• Project team (SPMU and DPMU)
• Members of Facilitating Non Government Organisation.
They were mobilized through counseling, training, mutual interaction, participatory approach, motivation, campaigning etc.
Technical resources have been utilized for making the initiative viable and sustainable. The technical experts from Jawahar Lal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (JNKVV), Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and senior technical experts from Department of Agriculture have been supporting the activity.These resources were used in providing both on and offsite technical training to women farmers and community resource persons for developing them as master trainers. These master trainers were the critical unit identified from the programme villages to provide timely support for achieving the ultimate objective of economic empowerment of beneficiaries.
Support in the form of accessing hybrid seeds, processing machine etc. has been generated by the Department of Agriculture.
The total project cost was 5.07 million INR. Out of which 3.31 million INR was given from the project and the rest was the community contribution.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Improving livelihood status of women farmers involves numerous stakeholders like the Federation, women farmers, the programme implementers, technical experts, community resource persons, line departments, service providers, marketing professionals and agencies providing backward and forward support. Developing a livelihood is simple in nature in the sense that it does not involve major players to compete with whereas developing a livelihood enterprise is complex in nature as it involves many players netted with external environment.
The project has experienced remarkable success and has improved the quality of life of women beneficiaries covered by the programme. The most successful outputs of the initiative are:-
Evolution of sustainable Federation
The federation has evolved as a strong cementing unit for supporting livelihood activities of its member WSHGs. Linking their produce to markets, accessing backward support for cultivation, managing technical and financial resources.
Increased food sufficiency of women farmer families
The initiative involves members from poorest of poor sections of the society. Adoption of improved agricultural techniques has enabled them togenerate ample produce resulting in sufficient food security. Prior to the initiative, the women farmers were hardly in a position to generate food for more than 120 to 150 days leading them to migrate in search of other livelihood options as wage earners.
Availability of Cash income
Women farmers through use of improved agricultural techniques are generating excess produce by utilizing their lands optimally. The excess produce is sold in open markets by the federation to large buyers reducing the margin of intermediaries, thereby obtaining attractive and wholesome prices for their produce. This has resulted in giving the women farmers some cash income.
Involvement of new farmers
Improved productivity has led to motivating other farmers from the same village. Other farmers also have been linked with the initiative. The initiative which started with 1497 women farmers with a cultivation area of 748.5 acres now has expanded to 3000 farmers with extended cultivation area of 3000 acres in the next year. Other left out farmers from the same village have shown their willingness to take up cultivation of minor millet in the coming season.
Increased efficiency of outputs
The initiative has given a boost to Baiga women farmers in cultivation of land through modern methods. The change in behavior of Baiga women farmers was an important indicator where the initiative has impacted upon.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The success of the initiative is the outcome of regular & concurrent monitoring of the activity at all levels. The process for monitoring and evaluation of the activity was as under:-
The first level of monitoring was activity monitoring. The whole initiative was monitored on physical and financial parameters. At this level it was ensured whether number of beneficiaries expected to cover were being covered or not and whether the financial resources were deployed timely or not. The activity monitoring was done through the existing staff placed at DPMU (District Programme Management Unit) and SPMU (State Programme Management Unit). A monthly report was generated to keep a vigil on physical and financial performance.
The next level monitoring was process monitoring, done through visiting the operational area by professionals from SPMU and DPMU. Regular feedback was taken from the member farmers, community resource persons and the community on activity implementation. The technical experts were also involved in field visits to get first hand feedback on the system and processes, its accuracy and identifying the need for improvements in implementation.
The project also introduces the concept of outcome monitoring of the activity. The activity was monitored on various indicators set for sustaining the activity. The outcome monitoring was done through the evaluation reports prepared by Joint Review Mission (JRM) team constituted by IFAD.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
1. Lack of knowledge/skills/confidence among women.
2. Resistance and lack of support from family and community.
3. Complex nature of collective livelihood enterprise.
4. Enhancing the competence of women..
The target women in rural areas of Tejaswini programme area, especially, in Dindori district mostly belonged to Baiga tribe, were below poverty line,mostly illiterate, with little control over resources and decision making. They also lacked the skill to perform challenging jobs and therefore were perpetually deprived.
Even the members of the WSHGs who had grown confident, and were beginning to prove their worth, faced resistance and disbelief from their family members and the society at large. Their contribution was not being acknowledged. Providing spaces to these women, involving them in economic activity and their recognition within the family and the community was a major obstacle. Also, the initiative involved women farmers from Baiga community, a Primitive Tribal Group, which practice traditional cultivation. Changing mindset of Baiga women farmers and making them amenable to adoption of improved agriculture practices was a challenge. In this background, there was an apprehension that the women farmers would face resistance from their family members as well as the community vis-à-vis their livelihood enterprise.
These obstacles were overcome by adopting the following measures -
1. Necessary skills were imparted to the women farmers through trainings and exposure visits to other haats /markets.
2. Sensitisation programmes for confidence building and awareness generation of Baiga women farmers.
3. Sensitisation of family members and the community. This ensured cooperation and support from them at every stage.
4. Identification of Community Resource Persons and their skill enhancement .
5. The policy of mutual benefit, a win-win situation for everyone viz Women Farmers, Federation, Programme Management and Department of Agriculture.