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District Rural Industries Project is a boon to Kanyakumari district

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Staff Reporter

Designed to provide supplementary and alternative source of income to the poor agriculturists

Nagercoil: The launching of the District Rural Industries Project in Kanyakumari district has come as a boon to agriculturalists as it will certainly fetch an additional income to them.

The project is designed to provide supplementary and alternative source of income to the poor agriculturists by engaging them in non-farm sector activities. The main objective of the DRIP is creation of sustainable employment opportunities in rural areas through enhanced credit flow to non-farm sector with complementary financial and non-financial promotional support.

As this district is known for its traditional skills in handicrafts items, it has an immense market potential in the country as well as abroad. However, some of the fine arts are facing extinction owing to the lack of co-ordinated planning and marketing. Most of the high-growth rural non-farm sector activities in the district are found functioning on cluster basis, confined to the particular areas and particular community. One of such rural non-farm sector activities is coconut-based handicrafts cluster.

Coconut-based handicrafts cluster, under the Centrally sponsored National Programme for Rural Industrialisation, is one of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development-initiated 55 Cluster Development Programmes in the country covering 17 States.

The coconut-based handicrafts cluster is situated in three blocks: Agastheesaram, Melpuram and Killiyoor. Monkey doll making from the un-husked coconut and handicrafts items from the coconut shell or the wood are two major activities in the cluster. Coconut shell handicrafts include making of spoons, ladles, forks, ice-cream cups, soup bowls, table-lamps, pen-stand, jewellery etc.

The un-husked coconut is carved into monkey doll with hand tools such as chisel and knife. However the coconut shell crafts require machines such as lathe, drilling grinder etc. Even as the finished products are sold in the local market, there appears bottleneck in marketing these products in other districts and States owing to the interference of middlemen who make money after paying a meagre amount to the producers. However coconut trees are grown on 23,664 hectares of land and around 230 million nuts are produced annually.

Hence, the NABARD has decided to extend a helping hand to those who are making coconut-based handicraft items by providing skill upgrading, provision of common infrastructure and creating marketing avenues for the finished products, said the Assistant General Manager (NABARD), P. Sadasivam.

Speaking to The Hindu , he said that under the DRIP, it has been decided to assist rural women in non-farm sector development, provide rural entrepreneurship development programme - self employment generation training, marketing of rural products of rural women, set up rural marketing outlets, issue Swarozgar credit card, form Women development cell and the conduct of exhibitions in different parts of the district as well as State.

Unlike other districts in the State, the district has a unique advantage of the rainfall during the southwest and northeast monsoon. The rainfall is generally high in the northern part of the district and the average rainfall is 1443.30 mm per annum. Agriculture is the mainstay of the rural people in the district. The net sown area accounts for 48 percent of the total geographical are which is more than the State average of 39.8 percent. Forests cover 32 percent of the total geographical areas against the State average of 17.9 percent.

Encouraged by the success achieved in the pilot districts and keeping in view the overwhelming support received from the project partners in development of non-farm sector, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has extended the project to cover more district in phases. The DRIP in Tamil Nadu was first launched in Tirunelveli during 1999-2000 and in subsequent years in Tiruchi, Villupuram and Vellore. Kanyakumari is the fifth DRIP district in Tamil Nadu.

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