Dignified Livelihood for Rural Women Through Solar Dehydration of Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Gramonnati is actively working to develop ex-soldiers and rural women as organic farming entrepreneurs. Having tested out over the last one year the “food forest” concept for high-density organic farming thoroughly, we are now expanding the acreage under organic farming every month. Each acre of land that we take up for organic farming (on lease or with an ex-soldier farmer), gives direct employment to three rural women on field and one off-field (in grading, sorting, packing and processing). Every four acres gives opportunity for one ex-soldier to be a Farm Manager.
Since most of our work is towards making organic farming profitable for small and marginal farmers, minimizing wastage of unsold / lower grade vegetables, greens and fruits is important. Over the last six months we have successfully tried solar-drying of many types of vegetables / greens / fruits / herbs, using small 10 kg Solar Dryers. The results are very good. The perishability factor is removed; the value and demand of the products is high.
What started as minimization of loss of fresh vegetables and fruits, has presented itself as a great opportunity. Hence, Gramonnati initiated Ravi Kiran – a project which aims for a dignified livelihood for lower income rural women through solar drying of organic vegetables, greens, herbs and fruits, and consequently, overall improvement of the standard of living in rural areas.
APPROACH AND GOALS
Gramonnati will execute the project phase wise so that women can attend workshops and are adequately trained to operate and maintain the solar dryers.
Gramonnati has qualified and relevant personnel who have been working with solar dryers and know how to utilise and maintain them. They will be responsible to conduct these workshops.
Short term goals
It is envisaged that within 6 months of initiating the project, every rural woman can earn a monthly income of INR 7,200 for a period 7 to 8 years, which is also the life expectancy of a solar dryer.
Long term goals
Gramonnati believes that this development model can be scaled and replicated to other states in India where there is abundant sunlight.
HOW IT WORKS
In order to support sustainable livelihood of rural women through solar drying we have prepared a simple plan to follow:
- Gramonnati provides 100 solar dryers to 100 rural women. Each dryer has a capacity of 10 kilograms.
- Rural women from chosen villages undergo a training which focuses on the following aspects:
- Usage of the solar dryers
- Cleaning and maintenance of the dryers
- Selection of vegetables usable in the dryers
- Packaging of the finished product
- Labeling and readying the final product for pick-up.
- Raw organic vegetables, fruits, spices and greens are supplied on daily basis to the rural women.
- The women arrange the delivered produce in solar dryers. Given the quality of sunlight in India, the input of the solar dryer will be fully dry by the afternoon.
- The next step is to weigh, package and label the dried vegetables and ready the final product for shipping. Gramonnati then collects the final goods at the end of the day from the various villages.
- Gramonnati handles the marketing, distribution and sales of the finished product. The company intends to focus on local distribution channels initially. These will include kirana stores, grocery stores and supermarkets such as Nilgiris and Big Bazaar. Further, the organisation will also market the products through its sister concern, Gratitude Farms and its network of B2B partners.
This simple solution of producing dry goods has immediate positive impact:
- Monthly earning of Rs. 7,200 /- per rural woman worker for at least 7-8 years (life of each Dryer).
- Scalable and Replicable Model; can be taken up at National level in due –course.
- Gramonnati teams will work to develop grass-root leadership and entrepreneurship among rural women.
- Environment-friendly Production: Solar Dryers (zero carbon footprint).
PLANS FOR 2020
In the first part of the year Gramonnati team will focus its work mainly in the region of Pondicherry with the aspiration of training 50 rural women in the area. Later in the year we plan to take up a challenging task of expanding the project to 1000 women in the state of Tamil Nadu and J&K.
Scope Phase I (Tamil Nadu / Pondicherry):
- 50 rural women (organised as three to four Self-Help Groups); Each to be given two units of solar dryers. Total 100 Solar Dryers (each of 10 kg capacity); working with Village Action Group, Auroville.
Scope Phase II (Rajouri and Poonch Districts, J&K and Tamil Nadu):
- 1000 rural women. (500 each in J&K and Tamil Nadu);