A rural mart to exclusively showcase the products of self-help groups (SHG) in the district is likely to be opened this fiscal with the financial and technical assistance of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

R. Shankar Narayan, Assistant General Manager, NABARD, told The Hindu here on Tuesday that the outlet was expected to become self-sustaining and commercially viable in 15 months. Two such outlets were functioning at Usilampatti.

Also, more than 550 SHG members were trained through 18 programmes of the Micro Entrepreneurship Development Programme during 2009-10. Separately, 18 batches, each with 30 members, underwent training at Rudset Institute with NABARD funding. “These initiatives are being taken to encourage SHGs to graduate to the next level in their venture,” he said.

Farmers' clubs

During 2009-10, 36 farmers' clubs, each comprising around 20 members, were formed. Besides going on exposure visits, 60 farmers' clubs took part in various sessions addressed by experts on organic farming, System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and use of latest farm implements. Concentrated training was also given under the Farmers Technology Transfer Fund (FTTF).

The District Collector had given in-principle approval to expeditiously allot two acres for establishing a common flower centre at Uthappanaickanur in Usilampatti block where the famous ‘Madurai Malli' (jasmine) is cultivated. This would do away with the need for farmers to rush to the city in the early hours of the day to sell their produce.

This would be a wholesale selling point for farmers, to be managed by the Uthappanaickanur Flower Growers' Federation comprising 31 Farmers' Clubs supported by the NABARD and Indian Bank. A session by jasmine perfume makers was organised for these farmers so that they could learn value-addition during lean season, Mr. Shankar Narayan said.

Sungudi cluster

The NABARD would also release Rs. 5 lakh for the Sungudi Cluster's Common Facility Centre at Avaniapuram to purchase machinery, once certain formalities were completed by the Sungudi Weavers' Federation. The cluster's building, constructed at a cost of Rs. 13.92 lakh, had been inaugurated. The NABARD has committed Rs. 25 lakh for this facility, expected to be commissioned this fiscal. A total of Rs. 18 lakh had been released towards hosting a website and conducting ‘skill upgradation' seminars.

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