Promoting Village Livelihoods Facilitation Centres in India 050309

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Promoting Village Livelihoods Facilitation Centres in India 050309

  1. 1. Promoting Village Livelihoods Facilitation Centres in India - Towards promotion and strengthening of micro Enterprises – Jitesh Panda1 Access to sustainable livelihoods can only help poor and marginalized families to come out of vicious cycle of poverty. Micro Enterprise seems to be an integral part of portfolio of sustainable livelihoods activities at family level. However, micro Enterprises can not flourish with in the boundary of household as a unit. Micro Enterprise, like any other enterprise operates within the framework of demand and supply for a particular product or service. Consumers of micro Enterprises may be with in the vicinity of household or even in a distant international market (like in case of handicrafts). Micro enterprises (being small), always feel the need to work together like buying raw materials in bulk and selling finished products in bulk. Similarly, it is difficult for existing micro Enterprises (due to need for investment) to graduate and take up value addition/processing related activities. There is need for common facility centres like for processing and storage. In recent years, there has been emergence of new form of micro enterprises, with focus on rural households as consumers. This includes micro enterprises selling consumables and agriculture inputs. In this context, large corporate entities find it difficult to identify potential enterprises to take up distribution of their products. While household seems to be ideal unit to anchor micro enterprises, the micro enterprises cannot sustain/grow with out organic linkage with outside World. It is difficult for a poor family to actively engage in linkages beyond the village point. Similarly it is also very difficult for outside market players (both buyers and sellers) to engage directly with the households at village level. This calls for systematic interface and facilitation for livelihoods (including micro Enterprises) at village level. In India, historically, village has been the most ideal economic unit where the caste based occupations prevailed. There was an element of interface and self help amongst these livelihood activities. However, during last few decades, our focus on enterprise development focused more on block, district or State as a unit. As we moved further, there is increasing emphasis on global marketplace than village marketplace. This has led to increasing vulnerability of micro enterprises. In the process, many of the traditional micro Enterprises i.e. carpentry and black smith has vanished. 1 Vrutti Livelihoods Resource Centres, 1st Main, 1st Cross, Ashwath Nagar, Bangalore, India
  2. 2. In the past livelihood promotion efforts centred on area based approach (like watershed development), group based approach (like Self Help Groups), joint forest management (focusing on hamlet) or individual centric approach (like in most enterprise development program). The focus of decentralized governance has also been Gram Panchayat (cluster of villages traditionally not connected with each other). With experience, there has been realization to focus on village as a unit like village watershed, village organization (federation of SHGs), and Vana Surakhya Samiti (focusing on whole village). The focus of decentralized governance has also shifted to Palli Sabha (village as a unit) than on Gram Sabha. However, as far as enterprise development is concern, we still consider individual or group (like Self Help Group) as a unit of promotion NOT the household. The limited support to micro Enterprises gets routed directly to the individual or group. There is limited focus on village as a unit. If we relate to enterprise development as a theme, in case of SME and major enterprises, there has always been focus on clustering of enterprises through industrial zones and export zones. However, when it comes to micro Enterprises, unknowingly, we dilute the traditional cluster i.e. in many cases a village. Considering the shift in focus from village economy to global economy; and our inadequate focus on village focus micro Enterprise facilitation, there has been limited success with regards to sustainability and growth of micro Enterprise. In this context, Village Livelihood Facilitation Centres can play key role in reviving the existing micro Enterprises and also in promoting new micro Enterprises. As at this juncture, it is difficult to visualize Village Livelihood Facilitation Centres, there is need for experimenting different models. This may relate to profile of micro Enterprises, availability of resources for livelihood interventions and strength/weaknesses of different village based Community Organizations. Typically, Village Livelihoods Facilitation Centres can start providing information (on availability of product/produce and market opportunities), facilitate market/procurement linkages and start providing common facility centre services (like for storage, processing, etc). In due course some of the Facilitation Centres can even grow as enterprises. Village Livelihoods Facilitation Centres can be promoted linking to any village focused livelihood related interventions like village watershed projects or Village Knowledge Centres (e governance initiatives). In the long run such facilitation centres can be financially supported by Gram Panchayats (part of the revenue also coming from services), technically supported by local Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and management/governance being with the village level Community Based Organization like Palli Sabha, Village Organization or Watershed Association.

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