Livelihood Development is an end in itself when issues like unemployment are seen. On the other hand, it is an important means to address issues like food security, child labour, education, economic empowerment of women, health, etc. as it affects poverty. It has direct bearing on human dignity as well because of its relation with economic condition of the person. In terms of Sustainable Development Goals, Livelihood Development is directly related with Goal 1 which talks about ending poverty in all forms from everywhere, as well as, Goal 8 which says – promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Intervening for livelihood development is, therefore, extremely important.
Prayatn has divided its livelihood development support initiatives into self employment support initiatives and salaried employment support initiatives. Self-employment support initiatives include both Farm as well as Non-farm based employment while salaried employment initiatives deal primarily with employable skill development amongst youth.
Promotion of Self Employment
Farm based livelihood development initiatives include interventions to enhance agricultural productivity through processes like improvement in agriculture inputs farmers’ know how, irrigation facilities, availability of better seeds, soil fertility management through organic ways, credit support, mechanization support, etc. As such, we have organized farmers into Farmer Interest groups and have trained on modern and sustainable ways of farming and have developed different types of crop and compost/vermin-compost pit demonstrations; developed agricultural resources like seed banks, agricultural tool banks, agricultural resource centers, irrigation facilities like farm ponds, lift irrigation systems etc.; linked farmers with credit and insurance facilities and supported them in proper processing and marketing of their production for getting better income.
It has been observed that farmers, particularly those belonging to socio-economically weaker sections, are not aware of modern and better ways farming which yield quantitatively and qualitatively better production while reducing costs and conserving fertility of the soil. As such different need based trainings have been organized which included trainings on dryland farming, improved crop cultivation techniques, use of SRI technique, organic farming, natural ways of pest management, etc. The trainings are conducted by in-house experts of Prayatn as well as those from agriculture department. Exposure visit to places like Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other institutions and live demonstrations of the processes at the same are also a part of this capacity building process. Special trainings for farmers who are good learners, active followers, innovators and hardworkers are also organized to develop them as master Farmers who can train and inspire other farmer.
As first stepping stone for empowerment of farmers, we develop Farmers’ collectives like Common Interest Groups and their capacity is built through various processes including trainings, regular meetings, exposure visits, etc. Gradually, their federations are also developed and strengthened which play lead role in managing various resources developed for them like seed bank, water resources, sharing of equipment like tractors, etc. through formation of and abidance to indigenous systems and mechanisms. These collectives provide platform where farmers can learn, raise their issues and resolve them through collective action. In this process, their skills like leadership, communication and management skills are also developed.
Keeping the lesson of ‘Seeing is believing’ in mind, crop demonstrations are developed of farmers own land by requesting him/her to follow on-site advice of agriculture experts in 1 unit (like bigha) of land while following their usual practices in the remaining. Demonstrations of foodgrain crops, vegetable crops, horticulture crops, compost and vermi-compost units, etc. are developed in this manner. The innovative process has been found very effective in convincing not only the benefitted farmer but also other farmers who come and see the difference in yield of the demonstration farm and the remaining farm.
Farm Field School is another innovative way of developing capacity of farmers in which collective knowledge, effort and analysis is involved. It is a farmland within or near a village or cluster of villages where farmers can collectively experiment innovative ways of farming and learn from the same. These are managed by innovative farmers who besides seeking advice from experts take interest in finding newer and better ways that result in better yield while conserving natural resources.
A large section of farmers in India have small or marginal landholdings and their financial condition is so poor that they are not able to afford modern equipment that increase farm productivity. To bridge this gap in self-sustaining manner, Prayatn has developed Agricultural Tool Banks at village level in which higher cost equipment ranging from pumpsets, power tillers, weeders, sprayers, etc., to lower cost equipment like harvesters, threshers, etc. are provided and a committee of needy beneficiaries called Agriculture Tool bank Committee has been developed to manage the same. The committee is authorized to issue the equipment to its members or other farmers and charge affordable rent (which is fixed by them only) to bear their maintenance expenses, as well as, enrich it by buying more equipment.
We have also developed agricultural resource centers in which resource material as well as computer with internet facility have been made available. Experts are also invited from time to time to take awareness sessions for farmers. Farmers are encouraged to visit the center and enhance their learning using the same. A local youth is also appointed as facilitator for assisting farmers in accessing information through internet as well as other resources available. Initially, the center is managed by the organization but gradually, its management is transferred to community members themselves.
Lack of proper irrigation facility and dependence on monsoon alone is one the most important barrier in enhancing agricultural productivity in India. To address this issue, Prayatn has guided and helped farmers to develop irrigation facilities like farm ponds, lift irrigation systems, wells, etc. Farmers’ traditional know-how, along with technical expert’s advice, is used in development of such assets which are later managed by beneficiary group themselves. Community contribution is must in such processes at it ensures community ownership and better use of the asset. The Beneficiary group is encouraged to develop indigenous systems and mechanisms to manage the asset in better manner.
Soil fertility is another very important factor for agriculture. Besides promoting soil testing and preparation of soil health card, we educate farmers about processes like land development, leveling, bunding, etc. so that fertility of soil is conserved. Mechanisms like use of organic manure instead of chemical fertilizers, rotation of crops, mixed cropping, etc. are encouraged to ensure retention of soil fertility while rendering better yield. In particular, farmers have been educated about development of compost and vermin-compost and have been extended support in developing pits for the same after due training. We also encourage use of organic products amritjal (cow’s urine) based products for stimulating crop growth and protecting crops from pests. Regular visit and guidance by agriculture expert is very important in this regard.
Quality of seed and the manner in which it is used also affects agricultural productivity significantly. We encourage farmer to use government certified seeds only and have developed seed bank as well which is managed by the Farmers’s Collectives themselves so that they are able to access good quality seeds in timely manner. Education about aspects like optimum seed rate, proper storage and reuse of seeds, knowledge about terminating and non-terminating seeds, etc. is also imparted to farmers to reduce their dependence on seed suppliers.
Farmers are guided and supported for developing Kisan Credit Cards and seek crop insurance for covering risk in case of crop failure. They are also advised to develop and make use of Self Help Groups for credit support and venture into allied activities as well like animal husbandry as they render easy cash through sale of milk as well as manure for agriculture.
Government has developed online marketing portals alike E-NAM through which farmers can reach out to distant mandis and buyers to get better price of their product. Processing and branding of agricultural produce also helps in increasing income of farmers. However, in the absence of awareness about the same, farmers are not able to make use of such avenues. Prayatn staffs make farmers aware of such avenues and orient them about use of the same through smartphone or Agricultural Resource Centers. Direct Interfaces with buyers are also organized from time to time.
Self-employment initiatives include farm as well as non-farm based livelihood development initiatives. Non-farm based Livelihood Development initiatives include development of Self Help groups and providing them financial and technical support to its members for trades like rearing of milch animals, poultry and fishery development, opening of petty shops, food processing units like flour and oil making units, etc. in rural areas. In tribal areas, livelihood development through minor forest produce, like making of leaf plates, etc. has also been supported. For urban poor too, similar initiatives have been undertaken. Entrepreneurship education for adolescents has also been undertaken as a part of this process so that they start thinking of self employment at early age.
Prayatn has facilitated development of SHGs across almost all its areas of coverage. These groups provide very important means of promoting alternative livelihood development because management of necessary loan becomes easy through them and support from various government schemes can be drawn through the same. Besides capacity building of general SHG members, the organization has helped the members in developing alternative livelihood perspective along with necessary entrepreneurship and technical skills so that they are able to make best use of the financial support made available to them and develop alternative livelihood options that render them additional income. In this process, locally prevalent trades for which forward and backward linkages are already available and risk is low are preferred. Trades for which such support is provided include procurement of milch cattle (like buffalo, cow or goat) or sewing machine, poultry and fishery development, establishment or petty shop, floor mill, leaf or paper plat making unit, etc. Besides linking with the government scheme like National Rural Livelihood Mission for credit support, the organization also extends financial support to the members through the SHGs and the beneficiaries are required to repay the same to the SHG so that the same can issue the same to any other member for benefitting more people. Terms and conditions for the entire process are set by the SHGs or their federations which come into play, in case, the support requirement is beyond the capacity of the local SHG. Women’s Cooperative developed by Prayatn in Dhaulpur also plays important role in this regard. As far as possible, assets acquired by the beneficiary through this process are insured to minimize risk to the same.
In last few years, we have witnessed severe disasters like cyclone Fani in Odisha and COVID 19 pandemic in the whole world. These disasters result in severe loss of livelihood to the local inhabitants and push them in the vicious circle of poverty. At Prayatn, we have extended immediate support and at the same time, we have worked for their long term rehabilitation. For example, when cyclone hit shores of Odisha and caused severe damage to the fisherman, the organization supported them with new equipment like fishing nets, repair of boats, etc. On the other hand, when restrictions like lockdown were imposed to address COVID 19 pandemic, SHGs were motivated to extend relaxations in pending loan recovery from their members as well as waiving off their interest loan and penalties for delay. Some of the SHGs even distributed their savings back to the members to ensure support to them.
Our present educational system does not prepare children for self employment. To address this gap, we initiated entrepreneurship education for children studying at secondary schools level and established entrepreneurship labs as well to impart entrepreneurship skills to them at the stage when most of them start thinking about their career. Interaction with local entrepreneurs, exposure visits to their enterprises, and encouragement of enterprising experiments at this stage was integral part of the process. Modules were prepared for this purpose in local language and government teachers were trained on the same so that they are able to continue the process on their own.
Support for Wage Employment and Social Security Benefits
Many of the youth are not in position to start their own enterprise and remain unemployed as they are unable to get any job too. Their unemployment results in increase in poverty of the family which in turn puts every member into extreme physical problems and mental stress. Vocational Skill development of such adolescents and youth in trades in which demand is high, and placement support for the same, is therefore, undertaken by Prayatn.
Linkage with livelihood and social security schemes of the government like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, special schemes of State governments like Paalanhaar Scheme in Rajasthan, various pension schemes, etc., is also pursued as they play significant role in addressing poverty. Prayatn staffs make members of community based institutions aware of such schemes so that they are able to help needy community members in availing benefit of these schemes.
Youth in different settings have different employment related aspirations which vary with their exposure. At the same time, these youth do not have adequate knowledge of employment opportunities available and lack required skills which make them employable. We, therefore, orient youth about opportunities available for them, try to rebuild their self confidence which gets lost because of their misery, and guide them so that balance between their aspiration, opportunities and their capacities is achieved. We do so through in-house skill development and counseling facilities or supporting the same in external training center which are duly authorized for such purpose. Counseling here not only includes career development, it includes overall personality development as well. Special encouragement is rendered to girls so that they too come forward in this regard. The entire process reaches its end through placement and follow-up support.
Under this programme, under-privileged youth living in sub-urban areas of Jaipur, Rajasthan, were imparted employable skills like Basic Computers, English Communication, Basic Management and Retail Management were extended placement support focusing on sectors like retail, BPO, etc. Personality development support was also important part of this process.
This initiative has been undertaken as part of our holistic rural development initiative in which tribal youth including boys as well as girls, are being imparted training on trades like computer job work, driving, tailoring, etc. The process that involved running of training center within their approach and organizing sessions for hard as well as soft skill building resulted in significant change in the personality of the beneficiaries and their attitude towards life. Their unemployment ended because of the process as they could get jobs in nearby locations easily.
Vocational Education during adolescence helps a lot in ensuring gainful employment as soon as the adolescent completes his/her education turns into a young adult. For those who belong to socio-economically poor families and have either dropped out of school or are vulnerable to the same, this provides way to continue their education while preparing them for meeting their economic responsibilities in near future. Prayatn has, therefore, supported vocational education for in-school as well as out of school children. We have further felt that introduction of financial education at elementary level along with social education, helps in strengthening this vocational education process.
Prayatn has run homes for destitute children in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Besides regular education, the resident children, who included girls as well as boys, were imparted vocational education in trades like tie and dye, computer and mobile repairing, tailoring, photography, etc. which helped them in standing on their own feet after getting out from the Children Home. Similar support was provided to adolescents who were living in urban slums and were engaged in undignified and hazardous occupations like begging, rag picking, rikshaw pulling etc. The support helped them in coming out of the misery and lead better and dignified life.
Financial Education of children includes understanding about money, importance of saving it (including collective saving) and financial management. Prayatn has engaged with about 400 government schools in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to initiate financial education of children at elementary level. The process begins with encouragement of habit of saving of natural resources at Class I level and reaches to concepts like banking, interest, etc. which are generally part of mathematics education but are educated in more practical manner. This helps in preparing children for aspects like income and profit calculation which are important when livelihood development is pursued.