The Kudumbasree Poverty Eradication Mission in its 13th year will focus on collective farming as a means of empowering women and guaranteeing their financial emancipation. It also plans to intensify marketing to realise the full potential of the production base created thus far through the Neighbourhood Groups (NHGs) and Community Development Societies (CDS) leveraging bank finance and thrift fund.
In tangible terms, Kudumbasree women will expand their collective farming activities to nearly 70,000 more hectares across the State during the current financial year. Paddy, vegetables and fruits will be cultivated. At present women farmers under Kudumbasree carry out farming activities in about 25,000 hectares.
A senior official of Kudumbasree mission told The Hindu that collective farming was one of the pillars on which the process of women empowerment was being built.
Women under Kudumbasree CDS had proved that farming can be a profitable activity. The labour input comes from these women themselves. In addition to their wages, they also earn a profit when they sell their produce.
Turning women into owners of production will instil great confidence in them and give them opportunities to come face to face with the establishment. These opportunities will sharpen their skills and strengthen their self-belief.
On the material front, the process of empowerment will be backed by loans at subsidised rate for farming activities. The women farmers, working as groups, will receive farm loans virtually at rates ranging between one and two per cent, said the Kudumbasree official. In any case the rates will not be more than four per cent.
The emergence of around 100 branded products, ranging from hair oil to ready-to-eat food items, has strengthened the resolve to intensify the marketing activities. Until 2006 marketing activities had taken a back seat resulting in stagnation in production. However, things have changed since, said the official.
Community marketing is one area of focus with an experiment in Kodakara block in Thrissur district setting a successful example.
Sales turnover from organised markets, mostly monthly markets, during 2009-10 was around Rs.25 crore. The volume involved in the unorganised sector will be much higher, said the Kudumbasree official.
Marketing of Kudumbasree products has also picked momentum with monthly markets becoming a feature in many panchayats. In Nedumkandam, they have even started a daily fair of Kudumbasree products.