The three major activities that could be articulated by rural women in Gumma, which have real potential to improve their livelihoods, are described below:
- Value addition of horticultural products and NTFPs: There is a lot of experience of success and failure of value addition in this region. Understanding the lessons from these mixed experiences could be the starting point for designing interventions in this case. Different agencies with complementary capacities exist, but their efforts needs to be brought together. A project than can bring together industry, the SHGs, NGOs and the technical experts would be ideally be able to deal with value addition challenges. This option offers the best chance of success, if this should be brought around a cause or an organisation.
- Scaling up backyard poultry and goatery: If this is to evolve as a commercial enterprise, the poultry has to be managed scientifically. The enterprise needs to be linked to a value chain. This also facilitates obtaining the right kind of inputs and services. Opportunities for linking women interested in managing poultry and goatery to poultry business and meat retail outlets needs to be explored. Though the capacity of government organisations is weak, a good number of SHGs and NGOs exist in the region. Their support needs to be ensured in promoting this enterprise. Some of the rural youth from these villages could be identified trained and supported initially to act as para vets.
- Collective marketing of cashew: SHGs mostly need short-term working capital to undertake this activity. There is a need to link them with micro-finance agencies. The next challenge is in improving the ability of these women groups to understand the markets and get the right price. ICT can play an important role in helping them to understand prices in different markets and the changes in demand. Young girls/boys from these communities who can handle computers would be able to help the women SHGs in this task.