CSR: IndiGo is lending a helping hand to women in distress in Maharashtra

Thousands of rural women in Maharashtra are scripting their own destiny, thanks to IndiGo’s CSR initiative. The CSR programme is helping 20 thousand women in rural pockets of four districts – Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Thane, live with dignity. The Airline through its implementation partner is skilling, financing and guiding these women to run their enterprises successfully. The target beneficiaries of the CSR programme are families
with no male earning member. Women with distress have been given priority. Many
of these women now earn more than Rs 8,000 per month.IndiGo’s role is to provide assets for potential enterprise
development, advocacy and institutional linkages.Raju Sharma, CSR Head of IndiGo says, “Women Empowerment is
one of the pillars of IndiGo’s CSR. The program aims at augmenting income for smallholder
farmers and landless women to face production and market risk without falling
back into poverty and distress”This Project is focused on capacity building, development
through on-farm & off-farm activities, collection, processing and marketing
of the farm produce.“Our current focus is on the socio-economic empowerment of
women in 100 villages of Maharashtra through sustainable agriculture and
entrepreneurship development opportunities for women”, Sharma adds.The programme is spearheaded by AFARM, an association of NGOs
working on sustainable agriculture and livelihood in Maharashtra. AFARM’s Executive Director, Subhash Tamboli says, “Strategised
around upskilling, credit linkage, handholding and institutional development, the
program focuses on both farm and non-farm based intervention which is in a way
a holistic approach for catering to diverse livelihood activities.”IdentificationAt first stage, awareness programmes in villages and household
survey were organised. Women were screened based on a set selection criteria
namely SC, ST, OBC and other category Households, BPL & Landless, marginal
land holder. But the priority was given to women in distress such as
widows, single and divorced ones.  UpskillingWomen were identified with skills and then trained by AFARM. Tamboli says, “These women were trained on their primary
skills along with enterprise development to make sure that do better than what
they were doing.”Up skilling was done in Dairy,
Gotary, Poultry based livelihoods other than sustainable agriculture and also business
planning, enterprise management, negotiations and marketing.  The women have also been
trained on Digital Financial Literacy, and how to access various government schemes for livelihoods.EnterprisesThe enterprises run by women range from a general store to a crockery shop in non-farm activities.Anuradha Navle runs a Tailoring Centre and beauty Parlour. In farm sector, focus has been given on LEISA, a concept on which there is less dependence on external inputs in agriculture. The women farmers are trained on making compost, bio-pesticides, and better fodder management. They are also trained on sustainable farming practices such as cropping patterns, and efficient water use. As a result of these efforts, the farmers are able make more money per acre of land. The women farmers have also been trained on goat rearing, dairy, and poultry to earn additional income.Hyperlocal GovernanceHighlight of this programme is robust hyper local governance
that has been grouped into Producer Groups, Village Organisations and Community
Resource Persons. Community Resource Persons (all women) have been created to
look after management of producer groups and
village organisations. They have also been tasked to support local women for
accessing various government schemes and entitlements. The producer groups function like Self Help Groups (SHGs). Consisting
of 20 members each with varied interests, they manage finances, operations and
value additions in the products. 2 members from each producer organizations in a village create
a Village Organisation (VO), which has multiple responsibilities such as
governance, operations, market linkage and providing production, procurement
and marketing services. Money that rotatesThe programme has an embedded credit mechanism where each
producer group gets 7500 rupees in the bank account. The PG decides on whom to
give credit to after assessing priority.Each member of PG also deposits certain amount ranging from
100 rupees to 500 rupees per month (based on collecting decision taken at
periodic meeting). For example, a producer group in Hivergaon Village in
Ahmednagar District that started at 7500 rupees 18 months ago, has 42 thousand
rupees in Bank. Kamla Paose, who is head of producer group and also the
president of the Village organization of Hivergaon says that the group has
given credit to 13 women so far as supporting fund for buying either machinery
for non-farm activities or livestock in farm base activities.ImpactThe project has witnessed an
increase in average gross annual household income by 1 lakh and 50 thousand
rupees in just 18 months.  As a result, distress
migration of the women households has decreased by 90 percent. With the help of CRPs, these women are not only aware of their entitlements and services available from State
and Central Government, but almost all of them are availing these services. Yet to matureWhat is missing though is strong value chain, production with
market linkage and structured organization like Farmer Producer Organisations
(FPOs). The programme is aimed at occupational diversity at local level rather
than creating bigger organizations.Tamboli explains this is primarily due to the programme being
in early stage and as the PGs and VOs strengthen, larger organisations will
take shape. Talking about sustainability of the project, he says the CRP
cadre that has been created as par the programme will act as service provider
to VOs and PGs after completion of the project.

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