India is the largest democracy in the world. One billion plus population, around fifty percent of which are still illiterate and about one third living below the poverty line for the last sixty years, are preserving the democratic setup even at the continuous effort of the power monger to make it a farce. This clearly indicates the deep rooted democratic sense of our people.
In the last fifty years India has made remarkable development in the national level. But the fruits of development are not universally available to everybody in the society. A handful of the privileged group which comprises less than 1% has grabbed more than 90% of the national resource. It has lead to further enrichment of the rich and impovertization of the poor. This unequal distribution of national wealth has created resentment in rural areas which has given rise to social unrest.
Illiteracy and poverty are the two vulnerable points in Indian democracy and if appropriate rectification measures are not taken immediately Indian democracy is at stake. Poverty and illiteracy are the two sides of the same coin and hence eradication of any one will automatically eradicate the other. We feel that out of the two evils poverty is to be given priority as this the core problem. If sustainable livelihood to all the families can be ensured, India is sure to be elevated to a developed nation state from developing status and that too within a very short time. And it is not an impossible task.
The concept of livelihoods encompasses varied ways of living that meet individual, household, and community needs. Needs, in this context, are understood holistically, and would include the social, economic, cultural, and spiritual. For a livelihood to be sustainable, it must be adaptive and able to withstand stress. It should also safeguard, rather than damage the natural environment. Sustainable livelihood creation basically translates into the creation of livelihoods that empower individuals to earn enough money to provide for basic amenities such as food, clothing and shelter. It also enables people to lead a life of dignity in a sustainable manner Sustainable livelihoods put people first. Sustainable livelihoods are based on the belief that local struggles against poverty will lead us to development strategies that work. Sustainable livelihoods can be understood as both a goal and an approach.
A base line survey conducted in a village, named Dakhin Bhirgaon under Biswanath Block of Sonitpur district of Assam, reveals that there is a mismatch between people’s working capability and opportunity to work. There are in total 108 families in the village. Completely inhabited by fishermen community, scheduled caste communities in Assam, all the families are living below the poverty line. Out of 141 earning members in the families only 40.74% are engaged in very small trade and business, mainly fish trade; 37.96% are daily wage earner and only 16.66% are cultivator with average land holding of about 1.19 bighas per family. The per capita monthly income of the village is just Rs. 379.00 which is very small compared to what is prescribed for good living. A family of average 5 members size is to run the family at Rs. 1919.50 per month. This is reflected in the poor health and literacy of the people. The village has only one graduate, only two could pass the H.S.S.L.C Examination and only four could cross the H.S. L.C. exam. Almost all the people are suffering from one or the other dieses mainly malnutrition. Anemia is quite common in the village. A striking contrast to this pathetic economic condition of the families of the target village is that in the village out of the 387 capable persons in the age group 14-65, only roughly 36.43%are engaged in earning the family bread. Thus in an average, of a five-member family of the village only 1.3 persons are engaged in earning activities while 2.23 capable persons per family are sitting ideally living a deplorable life. And this is not for their unwillingness to work; but for lack of opportunity to be involved in the process. If these persons could be engaged in income generating activities, the average family income would be increased roughly to Rs. 9212.20 in the present situation. With little intervention in their income generating activities like providing facility for skill development training in the chosen activity, modern accessories in the production, supply of working capital and raw material as seed money at the beginning, monitoring and providing initial handholding services and arranging for a market for the sale of their products, the monthly income of the families can be increased to about Rs. 12,000.00.
In the rural area agriculture is the most preferred and adopted activity of the rural people. But due to different aspects associated with agriculture it is gradually becoming less productive and hence of less interest to the people. With the changing scenario of economy, diversification of conventional agriculture practice is the need of the hour. Lac cultivation is one of such avenue which is practiced as a source of income by the rural mass in forest fringe in our country but by conventional methods only that too by limited number. It is not yet popular or practiced in Assam. If the cultivation and processing can be done using modern scientific technique it can be a very good income generating activity for the people in the rural area of Assam.
Hence it is time to aware the rural people, particularly the ST people living by the forest fringe of Sonitpur district of Assam about lac cultivation using recent advancement in scientific technique of cultivation and harvesting for a sustainable livelihood approach. GRAMIN (Agency for Rural Income Generation and Management) an NGO formed in 1995 with the sole objective of socio-economic and cultural development of weaker section of the society in general and women in particular have since devoted it in achieving the goal. GRAMIN has till date organized the rural people into SHG, and organizing preliminary training programmes for SHG management and skill development in tradition income generating schemes. Our effort has at least developed a sense of work culture in the area we are working. But we feel it is only a tip of the iceberg. There are still a lot to do; particularly in awareness, capacity building and skill development in chosen income generating activities especially in diversified agricultural activities. And lac cultivation is one such activity and GRAMIN is looking to it.
With this in mind we are preparing this project proposal, LAC SAMRIDDHI, for making the ST people of the district aware and motivated towards lac cultivation and to submit it to TRIFED, Guwahati Regional Office for sanction.
The target of the project is the ST people of the targeted villages of the following blocks of the districts:
The beneficiaries would be selected based on bench-mark survey of the families and interest and ability of the person in the trade and market potential. The selection would also include efficiency of the person, past record in similar activities, availability of host trees or space and land for cultivation of the host trees and infrastructure.
But as far awareness building in the villages are concern the entire population of the block in the 18-50 age group will be covered. Because it is found that unless the entire community is taken into confidence success of the project is not total. We are, therefore, planning to involve the whole family in the activity and each member of the families contributing his share of responsibility.
Beificiaries List (1st Phase)
The following are the selected beneficiaries for Lac Cultivation in the first phase for 2016.
Brood Lac - The Resinous ingredient
Lac Tree - The Host
Laccifer Lacca - The Bug that produces the Resin on the Lac Tree
"The insect Laccifer Lacca, living off the sap of certain trees, secretes lac resin. The processed resin is called Shellac and has numerous industrial applications including in the food and drug industries. India is a major producer of Shellac."
The main objective of the project LAC SAMRIDDHI is to ensure food security to the targeted families of selected blocks by ensuring their involvement in lac cultivation for their livelihood so that one-time external support will enable them take up a sustainable approach. This we would try to achieve by:
- Organizing awareness campaign in the villages to aware the people of their condition and the impact of their small earning in health and future prospect of their wards and thereby motivating the people to work for amelioration of their condition by taking up alternative and additional income generating activities of their choice and within their capacity.
- Organizing community need assessment study through participatory rural appraisal technique including focus group discussion for planning
- Organizing the people into self help groups (SHG) and different capacity building trainings for the SHG functionaries in group management.
- Organizing skill development training for the SHG in lac cultivation
- Inculcate basic entrepreneurial skills among the SHJG members by gradual exposure to the institution of market through manufacturing activities, motivational training, trust building, exposure visits, and capacity building in any area that may felt necessary for the purpose.
- Providing hand holding services in different aspects of lac cultivation and processing
- Providing minimum financial assistance as one-time seed money for the purpose