The Tata Trusts, comprising Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Jamsetji Tata Trust, NR Tata Trust and JRD Tata Trust are now into the country’s most backward villages to uplift livelihood of tribal communities. But the uplift this time is through reviving age old agricultural practices making barren lands productive.
The Trusts has made it all possible by rolling out Lakhpati Kisan – Smart Villages, a five year mission programme (2015-2020) to bring 10,10,000 households out of poverty. By the end of the programme households would earn more than Rs 1,20,000 annually against the present average earnings of R40,000 a year and be a part of vibrant, self managed, community based institutions.
“We have designed an arsenal of livelihood options to make tribal household lakhpati. The budget estimated has been basically an investment of Rs 65,000 per household over a period of five years. In this the community will have to contribute about 15-20% and the Trusts’ support for the programme is R120 crore over the five years. The balance has to be mobilized through the government and other donors,” Ganesh Neelam, executive director of the Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Inititive (CInI), the flagship programme of the Trusts, said.
After completion of five years the Trusts plan to play a small role in just facilitating community institutions in the villages where it is working now. “We look for working in new villages with the same approach at a larger scale,” Neelam said.
He said the tribal communities were among the core communities of focus for the Trusts and the Central India Initiative has been aimed at meeting towards the growing aspirations of the tribal communities. Concentrated in 900 blocks across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the tribal people living in these districts often face acute food insecurity.
CInI in the first five years intend to develop 42 blocks as drivers of regional growth bringing about significant changes in the life of tribal household through increased food sufficiency, diversification of livelihood options, enhanced income and increased access to mainstream resources.
The age old agricultural practices are being re-learnt to maximize resources and create lakhpati kisans. Jharkhand, as one of the states with highest poverty rate, has been chosen for promoting a year round commercial vegetable hub linking with the vegetable markets of Murhu, Churchu, Dhalbhumgarh, Gurabandha, Jama 1 & 2 and Palojori.
NGOs like ASA and NEEDS, partnering with the Trusts’ project, are on the ground intervening on the pattern of cropping, developing sustainable irrigation system and providing training on capacity building in the first phase. In the second phase it would go for market intervention. In addition to this, the programme is executing a minimum of two – three innovative livelihood prototypes, such as lac cultivation, piggery, tassar and goat rearing for particular targeted households as a combination towards ensuring an additional sustainable income.
The emphasis is to ensure that each household has an arsenal of livelihood options to mitigate risks, Prasanna Modak, project coordinator at Deoghar in Jharkhand said adding that across Jharkhand, Orissa, Gujarat and Maharashtra there are 12 NGOs partnering with CinI.
A visit to Palajori and Ladapesa revealed how low land wells has dramatically made irrigation sustainable in the regions where water has always been scarce and how lands are being used for intensive multi cropping and intercropping to enhance profits.
Adesh Tudu of Ladapesa, is utilizing his less than 1 bigha for intercropping. He is developing a mango grove, a guava orchard and chilli cultivation on a single tract. “Horticulture has the maximum mortality rate and it takes three years for the crop to commercially produce. So planting chillies, brinjal, ladies finger in between the mango and guava shrubs will fetch revenue,” Tudu said.
Bahamoni Baske, whose land has been unyielding till last year, has grown chillies, brinjal and ladies finger. She now sells her produce at the local market and has a steady income. She is hopeful of crossing R1 lakh income level in one year.
Bahaful Hembram has done lac cultivation for the first time. She has successfully produced 2 quintals of lac and has sold it at R220 a kg. Lac markets are at Ranchi, Gumlapur and Balarampur. The government offers a minimum support price of Rs 320 a kg for brood lac but at the markets it sells at Rs 200-220 a kg. “This the first time we are doing lac cultivation at Ledapesa. Once this cultivation stabilizes we will form cooperative and sell it at MSP,” Hembram said adding that profits are just double the investment.