A women’s self-help group in India’s Chhattisgarh stop migration by making ready-to-eat meal powder.
Bhan Sahu’s work with her NGO takes her to nearby villages, and on one of those trips she came to know about this women’s micro-finance group which produces ready-to-eat meal powder for the midday meal scheme in schools and for expecting mothers. She has known these women for a long time and was very impressed with their initiative. Chhattisgarh suffers a high exodus of the workforce into big cities in the search for jobs, numbering at about 30,000 in 2009. Bhan Sahu feels that if more women are encouraged to take up similar self-employment projects, this will lead to sustainable income generation which might then lead to less migration.
The block officer in Rajnandangao held a seminar to tell women how they could set up their own micro-finance group. These ten women came together and put forward their business plan to the local village council to set up a meal powder production system, with details of who would be involved, how much they would produce and how they would repay their loan. There are four other similar set-ups in the area, and the women decided to choose this small-scale business because of easy sales. “It is inspiring and surprising that this government officer made such an effort,” said Bhan Sahu. They thought it would be difficult but applied nevertheless, and it took four months for their loan to come through the local bank. They now buy the ingredients from the local market, make the meal powder, put it into packets costing about Rs.25 each, and sell these to preschools in their area. A type of sweet, known as ‘halwa’ is made from this powder and fed to the children and expecting mothers, Bhan Sahu tells us, “The health of these children is improving. At the school, they weigh the children every week – this is how they monitor any improvement.”
The Chattisgarh government’s rural employment guarantee schemes and food security programmes are having a positive effect. “There are only ten people employed in this group, so it is still very small. These are small steps in the right direction, but there is a lot more that needs to be done so people will not migrate,” Bhan Sahu says.