How Mahua seeds made rural women independent

“Now we step out of our homes confidently. This is our achievement”.
This statement sums up the spirit of euphoria of the members of “Bansidhara Producer Group Of Women”, a Self Help Group formed in Bijgori village of Odisha.
Around 36 women members from Bijgori village joined to form Bansidhara producer group of women three years ago. What they do is quite simple.They collect and market mahua flowers and seeds which contribute to about 30-40% of the tribal economy in North India such as in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa as an enhancement of rural income, as per an article on the economic evaluation of mahua plant in Jatropha world.
These mahua flowers are used for a variety of purposes. From eating and cooking to producing body massage oil. And hence these seeds are cleaned, crushed, stored and sold in kilogrammes throughout the year owing to the evergreen nature of the tree. This makes the sale of mahua, a minor forest produce, a major income for weaker sections. As per a report on Down to Earth MAGAZINE, Studies in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar indicate that over 80 per cent of forest dwellers depend entirely on MFP (Minor Forest Produce) ; 17 per cent of landless people depend on the daily wage labour of collecting MFP; and 39 per cent of people are involved in MFP collection as a subsidiary occupation.
Due to the economic value of the product in urban markets, small scale urban traders used to act as middlemen who exploited these women in Bijgori. They kept the women ill-informed of the right price of mahua seeds and used to measure the produce in measurement pots instead of kilogrammes while buying the seeds from women. After the formation of this group, however, they are aware of Minimum Support Price fixed by the government and hence sell their produce directly through their SHG’s. Each of these women earns Rs5000- Rs 6000 as a result of this. This income has made these women economically independent as they can take care of their families now.
This success story is now inspiring more women from neighboring villages to join them.

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