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Lifeline of the livelihood improvement project needs to be extended

Dehradun, Sat, 14 Jan 2012 ANI

Dehradun, Jan 14 (ANI): Poverty is a favourite among the main agendas picked up by the political parties during elections, a standard feature of any campaign. Once again we have state elections lined up in five states where promises of policies to eradicate poverty are blaring out loud.


Elections will happen, schemes will be presented on paper, employment will be guaranteed, a few schemes will be launched, equal rates of success and failure will be registered; and during the next elections, the predictable cycle will be repeated. But the agenda will remain the same - poverty.


Away from the entire chaos of the elections, in the foothills of Himalayas, silent efforts are being made to fight the problem and that too by implementing the schemes launched by the government itself. Efforts of the government to curb poverty and provide employment guarantee have grown since independence. Some succeeded; others taught us lessons with their failure. Thus, new plans inspired from the successes and failures of previous projects were launched.


Out of the lot, the projects, which endured the fruition of efforts, did not just carve an identity of their own; they also became an example for other development projects. 'Livelihoods Improvement Project for the Himalayas' (LIPH) is one such project, which has brought several changes on the ground by empowering the locals.


Launched by the Central Government in the year 2004, this project receives financial support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IEFD) - an active organisation devoted to eliminating poverty from the world. The objective is to help vulnerable groups in the rugged highlands of the Himalayas improve their livelihoods and develop alternatives for increasing their incomes. The area of operations includes the most remote and underdeveloped districts in the states of Meghalaya and Uttarakhand.


In Uttarakhand, at the moment, this project is being conducted in five development blocks - Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Tehri Garhwal and Uttarkashi. 959 villages have been included in its fold. In the initial phase, the State Government asked local NGOs to work in the remote settlements and sow the seed of awareness among the villagers. The NGO workers knew that without the people's participation, the project would not be a success. To ensure active participation, the NGOs created 4000 Community Based Organizations and Self Help groups.


Innovative and useful workshops were organised by the NGOs for SHGs which further imparted this knowledge to the villagers. Interesting training programs like SHG module, health module, transaction literacy module and gender modules were created at the village level. Efforts were made to create a sense of belonging amongst the members of the groups and adopt a positive attitude towards self-employment.


Three development blocks of Almora - Dhaula Devi, Lamgara and Bhausiyachana, have hugely benefited under the LIPH. Implemented and monitored by the SHG, Centre for Himalayan Studies, this project operates in 203 villages. The members of the 722 SHGs formed so far, along with the coordinators, are given exposure through trainings, field visits and awareness camps; and are encouraged to join development and earning activities.


Each group is essentially connected to the bank. Thus, a total of 6 crore rupees CCL (loan as per the status of the group) has been made available to 700 groups out of the total 722. 7304 members of these groups are making the most of it, investing in various income generating activities. At a modest level, enterprises like dairy, chicken-farm, shops, vegetable production, etc. have been established in the village; which, in turn, has promoted the income of the poor families by expanding their mutual transactions.


To provide a strong base to these groups, income-generating activities have been enhanced at the macro-level. 10 cooperatives have been formed in the district, which are registered under the 2003 Act of Autonomous Cooperatives of Uttarakhand. These Cooperatives have now started conducting business based activities, which helped them to transact business to the tune of Rs. 22 lakhs during 2010-11.


According to Prakash Pathak, co-ordinator of Bhanauli (Almora) employment project, "Connecting the cooperatives to business and employment on the basis of a value chain is beneficial. Today, these cooperatives are busy in seed production, broiler chicken farming, dairy development, maps, herbs, tourism, organic farming etc."


The project not only improved the economic status of the villagers but raised their social level by infusing self-assurance in them. Today, with increase in employment opportunities in the area, the migration rate has gone down. People who feared participating in gatherings now lead them with great enthusiasm and fervour.


They ask questions, are aware of the situation around them and feel empowered. The encouraging participation of women makes this project an example for others. "The Employment Project is on its way to prove itself as a milestone in the field of local development. The way work is being done under this project will make it an example for all other projects," says Anand Prasad, member, district Panchayat, Bhanauli, Almora.


LIPH will come to an end in 2012. Many fear that the kind of success it has achieved in eradicating poverty and empowering the locals will not only stop but will suffer a huge downfall. This situation demands long term planning as during its life LIPH was able to complete only one phase.


The Charkha Development Communication network feels that it now needs another spurt to bring an end to the problems of the rural and marginalised communities. It requires support from both the government and the locals as neither can independently achieve success in effective implementation of the schemes. It has to be mutual! By Dinesh Pant(ANI)


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