Kadi SashaktIt is nearly daybreak as 28-year-old Kadi Bai sits on the slightly elevated courtyard of her house to check on the packed lunch and drinking water. Soon, her husband, Balram, and two other neighbours join her, and the four start the 10-kilometre walk to the nearby forest where they will spend the entire day collecting herbs and other medicinal plants.

This is more or less how the day starts for each adult inhabitant of Goras village, situated at the edge of the Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh. And it has been this way for a very, very long time. For generations, the tribal population of this and other neighbouring villages has gained sustenance through produce from the surrounding forests.

“We have been doing this since our childhood, and our forefathers before us did the same. There are no other livelihood options in these parts and the forest is the sole source of subsistence for us,” says Kadi Bai, walking several metres ahead of others, her bare, nimble feet leaving a cloud of dust in the slanting sun rays.

“Even though we have been collecting herbs from the forest since several generations, till about a few months back we had very little understanding of the markets where they were finally sold. Thanks to the training, this has now changed,” she says.

Kadi Bai is referring to the training the women in this part of Karhal tehsil of Sheopur received under HPPI’s Sashakt project, being supported by the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).

“Earlier we were being conned by the agents. Trainer didi informed us about the better rates that were available in the market for our produce and linked us to an organisation that has improved our income substantially and made the entire process transparent,” she says.

Under the project, the Sashakt trainers train women in managing household finances, inform them about various government schemes they can benefit from, and link them to financial institutions that provide requisite loans at marginal interest rates, and organisations that assist them in systematic understanding of market dynamics and linkages.

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In Sheopur, owing to predominance of non-timber forest produce (NTFP), Sashakt project roped in a local organisation specialising in the area, to provide training in processing and market linkages to the village women.

“The training taught us ways of cleaning and packing the products properly to help us get higher prices. Earlier we used to simply dry the products under the sun and take them to the market. After training, we ensure that they are properly clean and packed neatly,” says Kadi Bai.

Following the training under project Sashakt, the average income from sale of NTFP has increased from Rs. 80-100 per KG to up to Rs. 170 per KG.

For many women of the region like Kadi Bai, project Sashakt has proven to be a much-needed catalyst that provides them their rightful financial independence and upward social mobility.

“We are very thankful for the project and to the trainer didi for providing such important information and helping us augment our household income,” says Kadi Bai.

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About HPPI

Humana People to People India is a development organization registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as of 21st May 1998. It is a non-political, non-religious organization. Its mission is to unite with people in India in order to create development in the broadest sense through the implementation of the projects that aim at transferring knowledge, skills and capacity to individuals and communities who need assistance to come out of poverty and other dehumanizing conditions.

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