New Delhi, April 10 : The Adivasi Eakatmik Samajik Sanstha (AESS) in Shahapur, the largest taluka in Maharashtra's Thane district, has emerged as a major source of employment for the local tribals -- a perfect example of tribal entrepreneurship that sold 18.50 lakh 'giloy' in the last 1.5 years.
Surrounded by the Western Ghats, Shahapur is seen as an upcoming region of the group, as it has not only provided employment to over 300 tribals, mainly agriculture labourers, but has also enhanced their earnings.
Running under the Centre's Van Dhan Vikash (VDVK) tribal startups programme, the Adivasi Eakatmik Samajik Sanstha in Shahpur demonstrates how cluster development and value addition can help members earn significantly higher income.
The majority of tribals who form the members of this VDVK are from the Katkari community -- a primitive tribe found in Pune, Raigad and Thane districts in Maharashtra and in parts of Gujarat. The tribals are mainly agricultural labourers who sell firewood and some jungle fruits.
Started by Sunil Pawaran, an enterprising member of this community, and his friends to sell raw giloy in local markets, VDVK has now become a 300-member unit under the Van Dhan Yojana scheme. The VDVK has a much larger scale of operations and deals with more than 35 products and processed food items.
The VDVK is a component of the mechanism for the marketing of minor forest produce (MFP) through minimum support price (MSP) and development of value chain for the MFP scheme. The programme has been implemented in 27 states and 307 districts with the availability of MFPs and significant forest dwelling tribal population.
The process of making giloy powder involves cutting giloy from the trees by the tribals, which is followed by drying for 8-10 days. This dry giloy is brought to the central facility in Shahapur where it is grinded, packaged and branded and subsequently shipped to the buyers, including Tribes India.
Giloy is an antipyretic herb that improves platelet count in dengue fever and reduces the chances of complications.
In the last 1.5 years, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs said the group has sold giloy powder and dry giloy worth Rs 12.40 lakh and Rs 6.10, lakh respectively. The total sale is worth Rs 18.50 lakh.
Operating as a cluster, over the last one-and-a-half years, the VDVK has sold raw giloy to leading companies including Dabur, Baidyanath, Himalaya, Vithoba, Sharandhar, Bhumi Natural Products Kerala, Trivikram and Maitri foods. Most of the companies like Himalaya, Dabur and Bhumi have ordered 450 tonnes of giloy worth Rs 1.57 crore until now.
While the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown that followed did disrupt VDVK's operations, it did not deter the morale of the team. Through the lockdown, the VDVK continued to work hard to minimise the impact, said the ministry.
Between March 2020 and mid-June 2020, VDVK Shahapur purchased over 34,000 kg of raw giloy from the local tribals. Subsequently with the unlocking and slow return to normalcy, the VDVK is working aggressively to expand and make its products available for purchase on e-commerce platforms.
While it is giloy, both raw and processed, that continues to be the VDVK's mainstay, it has now expanded into other products such as safed musali, jamun, behada, vavding, moringa, neem, amla, and orange peel powder.
The success has inspired thousands of people from the community and nearby areas to come together and work on similar lines. At least 39 VDVKs comprising 12,000 beneficiaries have been additionally sanctioned by the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) so far. TRIFED is a national level cooperative body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
The VDVK scheme is a programme for value addition, branding and marketing of Minor Forest Produces by establishing Van Dhan Kendras to facilitate creation of sustainable livelihoods for the forest-based tribes. The scheme aims to empower tribals by providing them support in terms of financial capital, training and mentoring in order to expand their business and enhance their earnings.
The sincere efforts, dedication and determination of the tribal entrepreneurs in working collectively starting from the collection of these MFPs through value addition, packaging, branding and marketing of the products has succeeded in making the VDVK a huge success in this fast-developing region.
The success of the Adivasi Eakatmik Samajik Sanstha VDVK is an example of how these initiatives implemented by the TRIFED for making India self-reliant under the Aatmanirbhar Mission with the motto 'Go Vocal for Local Go Tribal - Mera Van Mera Dhan Mera Udyamar' is effecting a complete transformation of the tribal ecosystem across the country.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)