FEATURE STORY

Tripti Offers Hope and Dignity to Women in Rural Odisha

September 2, 2015


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Pokai Sahu from Chendipada, Angul district in rural Odisha

Photograph from Omm Communications

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In 2009, the Odisha Rural Livelihoods Project or Tripti was launched in 32 blocks in 10 coastal districts of Odisha.
  • Supported by a $70 million World Bank loan, the Project has helped improve livelihoods of deprived women by building and mobilizing community institutions and funds.
  • The Project has managed to reach out to over 929,000 households covering around 78,460 Self Help Groups (SHGs). Over 60 percent of these households are poor and extremely vulnerable.

Ersama, 100 km from Bhubaneswar, in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha, was one of the worst hit by the Super Cyclone of 1999 that ravaged the state. With their livelihoods destroyed, thousands of people in the state sunk deeper into poverty.

For Bhagabati Maiti, 32, there seemed no hope. Six members of her family, including her parents, were washed away. “I was only 16 then. My whole family was wiped out in front of my eyes as I held on tightly to a tree,” she recalled.

Thereafter, began her lonely battle for survival. “Though we had formed a self-help group (SHG), getting jobs on a daily basis was difficult,” she said. Bhagabatti married a year after the cyclone and they have two children.

Shedding Poverty

For Bhagabati and thousands of women in rural Odisha, the Odisha Rural Livelihoods Project or Tripti came as a ray of hope. With an aim to improve the socio-economic status of the poor, especially women and disadvantaged groups, the Project was launched in 2009 in 32 blocks in 10 coastal districts of Odisha.

Supported by a $70 million World Bank loan and implemented by the Odisha Poverty Reduction Mission, the Project was designed to improve livelihoods of deprived women by building and mobilizing community institutions, creating community investment funds, and providing specific livelihood funds.

“We analyzed the income level of each family in the village and divided them under different categories like good, average, poor and the destitute. Our primary aim was to bring the women in these families under our SHG fold,” said Pushpashree Nayak, a project coordinator.

Bhagabati too joined the movement and gained immensely through Tripti’s financial and technical assistance. “I took a loan from the SHG and bought some chicks. When I repaid it, I took a bigger amount with which I bought a few cows. Today, I have a hatchery and a dairy business and have also started growing crops. I’m extremely happy and I now dream of enrolling my two children in engineering or medical courses,” Bhagabati said, her voice choked with emotions.

And just like Bhagabati, Sulochana Maharana’s story of grit and determination is equally remarkable. A survivor of Cyclone Phailin in 2013, with the help and support of her peers in the SHG, Sulochana took a loan to set up her own little furniture workshop. “My mother joined the SHG three years ago. Since then her confidence has gone up and our financial situation has improved. Now I don’t have to worry for my further studies to achieve my aim of becoming a mechanical engineer,” said Bikas, Sulochana’s son with pride.


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The Project has reached over 929,000 households covering around 78,460 Self Help Groups


Following five successful years of implementation, the SHGs today are being recognized in this region as the most effective means for socio-economic development of the rural poor. And just like Bhagabati and Sulochana’s family, the Project has managed to reach out to over 929,000 households covering around 78,460 Self Help Groups (SHGs). Over 60 percent of these households are poor and extremely vulnerable. The savings and internal lending of these SHGs have enabled members to enhance their livelihood activities and household incomes.

Improving Agriculture

As most of the districts in this region are primarily agrarian, one of Tripti’s mission has also been to support the primary livelihood option of the people, which is agriculture. Executed in partnership with the local NGO and the agricultural department, community members are directly involved in seed production, processing and marketing. The seeds produced is then marketed locally among the SHG members to ensure easy and affordable access to quality seeds for the farmers.

The Project has initiated a program under which 1,800 farmers have been mobilized into Producer Groups to develop five different varieties of paddy seeds, which have a high demand in the local area. The seeds are then certified by the Odisha State Seed 3 Certification Agency. In 2014, 1,900 metric ton of quality seeds were produced.

“Earlier, we used to grow 14 quintals of paddy per acre. Now with improved seeds we get 19 quintals per acre. It’s been an increase of five quintals per acre,” said Kanak Lata Archarya, an SHG member from Jagatsinghpur.

Kitchen gardens or promoting farming in one’s own backyard is another unique initiative of the Project. All that was needed was a tiny patch of land to provide for their homes basic nutritional requirements. “We have planted unflower, onion, brinjal, maize, bitter gourd, and many more vegetables which takes care of our families nutritional needs,” said a smiling Pakhi Sahu.

Banking for the Future

Another highlight of Tripti’s livelihood program was the creation of Bank Mitras to facilitate smooth banking services for its women SHG members across the region. Operating from a help desk, these community banking facilitators aid all local women in their financial transactions from opening new savings account to credit counselling and credit linkage. There are over 300 Bank Mitras operating under the Project in Odisha today.

After five years of relentless efforts, what is truly commendable is how these women have etched out an identity for themselves and have progressively emerged as dependable support structures for all rural women in the region.



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