Women in India Protect Land & Foster Self-Reliance

by Manavi

Thank you all so much for support!

In total, 1,500 women in Bihar, India, benefited from your generous donations by having increased food security that was initiated by the development activities highlighted in this project.

Comments from Annu, Secretary (Executive Director) of Manavi: “There is a strong demand for education and health – mainly for girl children and adult women. Most of the target community, women and children, are illiterate. As SHG members, [need] to read and write, and calculate money and interest, women are now more eager than before to educate their children, especially their own daughters. Child marriages are a prevailing issue in theses villages. Now these practices are decreasing. Now women are willing to give proper mental and physical care to their children.”

Self-Help Groups and Income Generation: providing women with access to microcredit, help women connect with banks and teach the women financial and management skills. • 500 women from five villages participated in savings and credit groups; each woman now saves around $1 per month. Regular trainings take place on basic math, bookkeeping, and repayment plans. • Self Help Groups have leveraged over $4,000 in loans from formal banking institutions in Bihar for dairying and other small businesses. • 340 women participated in income-generating activities gaining an economic foothold to continue growing their income.

The majority of participants were engaged in dairying and fishing. o 10 women received honey cultivation training with an estimated $60-$80/year added income o 50 families received goats to rear, sell and earn an income o 50 women gained access to and registered for public resources such as pensions, accidental death claims, “first child support,” and savings incentive programs. o 7 women were able to greatly expand the size of their bangle-making businesses.

Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture: through vegetable gardens, livestock, horticulture, crop diversification and related income-generation activities. • 100 people participated in and now have access to seed banks in 5 villages. • 350 women participated in sustainable, organic farming training focusing on the use of natural pest and fertilizing systems.

Other notable trainings included the following: o 40 vermicompost pits (raising and production of earthworms and their byproducts for waste reduction and fertilizing production) were dug in 5 villages. o 50 farmers visited agricultural research institutions to learn about the benefits of organic farming o 6 women participated in intensive train-the-trainers sessions on food processing; they in turn will train approximately 120 women in the same.

Other Activities and Outcomes • 6-7 health camps per month serving an average of 150 women per camp for pregnant women and women ages 0-5 were provided preventative care and consultation. • Manavi organized more than 20 village-level meetings where agriculture scientists were invited to share best practices on documentation of sustainable farming practices. • Participants of Manavi’s village-level meetings included self-help group leaders, members of farmers’ clubs and office bearers of “Jaiv Panchayats” (Living Democracy), a movement initiated by the Research Foundation of Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) that aims to establish a definitive sovereignty of local communities on biodiversity resources. • In 11 villages Manavi has facilitated the formation of Jaiv Panchayats to bring local farmers together to bring forth issues related to food insecurity and the effects of conventional farming vs. organic farming, among others.

Ms. Sonia Devi once visited a Self-Help Group (SHG), formed by Manavi and became inspired by the idea of women coming together to work for a better life. She decided to form her own SFG and discussed it with other women in her village. As a result, she was able to mobilize 13 women and a SHG was formed. Most of the members are extremely poor and can barely afford to pay their rent.

Initially the SHG was not able to save more than 25 cents in a month. They jointly decided to charge membership fees to develop a savings fund and now they are able to save approximately $2.50 each month. Most of these members are from the Dalit community. Before the formation of the SHG, the women were selling homemade liquor. None of their children were attending school, and often their daughters were being married between the ages of 10 and 12.

After the formation of the SHG, and support from Manavi, the women discovered new opportunities to improve their income. Many decided to stop selling liquor and start their own small businesses, selling fish, running stalls offering tea and breakfast, and selling women’s clothes. As a result the women are now starting to send their daughter’s to school and some women have also started resisting child marriages. Even the cases of domestic violence have decreased. Before, female members of the family were drinking alcohol but now these women have stopped and have started an anti-alcohol consumption drive among male-members in the village as well.

Thanks to Sonia’s inspiration, women in her village are building their own self-confidence, starting new businesses and are empowering themselves to create a better community.

Yamuna Mahila Sabha SHG

A Self-Help Group (SHG) organized by Manavi was Yamuna Mahila Sabha, located in Usraha village, and formed by the initiatives of village level leaders – Ms. Sunita Devi, and Ms. Bifia Devi. This group consists of 13 members. This SHG is economically extremely poor. In fact, all the members of this group are displaced families as a result of soil erosion caused by the changing course of the Ganges River. The SHG members used to come from a rich background, but a few years ago, the Ganges River, changed its course and drifted north, submerging lots of villages.

When they settled in their new place, the women were in a hopeless situation. Manavi decided to initiate some developmental activities with them. These displaced families lost everything except their animals often cows, bulls or goats. So Manavi decided to promote animal husbandry in this group.

At the same time, a request was made to governments’ relief program. The displaced families received land from the government on which to build their homes. In this newly developed community, Manavi organized an ongoing animal health check-up program. The women also began preparing vermicompost and organic pesticides with animal urine. It was initiated as an income generation activity.

For all these initiatives, women (members of SHG) of this community played a key role. This group mobilized support from Manavi as well as from banks too. Now this group, in their new home, have gained a sort of stability and members are eager to take some bigger steps.

Laxmi Bai Mahila Sabha Self Help Group, formed by Manavi

Manavi helps women form Self Help Groups (SHGs). SHGs typically involve 10-20 women who save money and give credit to their peers in the group. In addition Manavi offers training and support to women to develop their skills. A typical example of this is the Laxmi Bahi Mahila Sabha SHG which is comprised of 11 women who are all engaged in agricultural activities. Since none of them own land, they all do sharecropping. Sharecropping is a system where the land is given to farmers for cultivation on a contract. In this case, the women were taking loans from the landlords.

These women were practicing modern agricultural practices: using seeds from the market and chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The women were not making much profit selling their vegetables. In fact, they were making enough to just get by.

Manavi motivated them to be trained in organic farming. Manavi facilitated training in subjects such as vermicompost, organic pesticides and selection of traditional cropping patterns. Once the women implemented organic farming, they saw that their production costs was less and that they were gradually starting to make more money.

Manavi has also offered training in food processing, where the women have learned to prepare spices and pulses (edible seeds of certain pod-bearing plants, such as peas and beans), and have learned to implement plant nurseries for seed production and propagation.

Manavi is actively collecting traditional varieties of paddy seeds (used for growing rice and other semiaquatic crops). Over 90% of paddy fields in North Bihar contain hybrid seeds (some belonging to multinational corporation terminal seeds). Until now, Manavi has found around 70 varieties of paddy seeds and are aiming to locate around 125 varieties. From next crop season onwards, Manavi is hoping to propagate these seeds and develop a gene bank with support from local farmers.

With the support from the Ministry of Food and Supply, Manavi has been able to distribute more than 400-grain storage bins to self-help group (SHG) members. Manavi already successfully provided storage bins to SHG members in Dumka, Jharkand. As a result, Manavi is replicating this model to SHG members in Bihar.


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Organization Information


Location: Dhumka, Jharkand - India
Website: http:/​/​www.idex.org/​partner.php?partner_id=5
Project Leader:
Katherine Zavala
Program Officer, IDEX
San Francisco, California United States

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