Kendrapara: The deadly COVID-19 outbreak followed by a series of lockdowns has devastated the rural economy in Kendrapara district. Over 78,000 returnees in the district have adopted vegetable farming and handicrafts, in order to eke out their living.
However, in the absence of adequate marketing facilities, they are facing severe difficulty in selling their produce. Farming is generally carried out by the male members of the family while cottage industry and handicrafts items are produced by women to maintain the financial stability of the families, a source said.
Notably, the Odisha and central governments have been emphasising on formation of self-help groups (SHGs) in every village for the purpose of strengthening fiscal management and empowering rural women.
SHGs here are being encouraged by subsidies provided by the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM). Despite all efforts, the rural products do not find their ways to reach outside markets and bear no profits for the locals.
“There are over 22,809 SHGs in Kendrapara district. Even as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) had been looking after fiscal development of SHGs, about 10,478 such groups were given subsidy money of Rs 15,000 each by Mission Shakti after it was formed in 2017 April in the state. The remaining SHGs were given subsidy money of Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 each. Similarly, over Rs 31,00,00,000 was given by OLM under Community Investment Fund (CIF) in order to enhance the living standards of rural people in Kendrapara district”, local social activist Pramod Swain said.
“Rural women in the district who are working in different SHGs have excelled in mushroom cultivation, fish farming, terracotta making, bamboo works and rosary pea craftworks. As against this, huge quantities of handicraft products lie unsold at SHGs for nearly past four months”, he added.
On the other hand, different panchayats and municipal bodies have been allocating shops to various vendors in dedicated vending zones. Some shops in vending zones should be reserved for members of SHG to capitalize on sales, a source said.
Likewise, Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society (ORMAS) should be proactive and make necessary arrangement for selling rural produce through mobile vans to give a fillip to women empowerment.
After being contacted, Kendrapara Sub-Collector Jyotishankar Mohapatra said, “The state government has plans to open mandis at every panchayat in the district. Efforts are being made by ORMAS to providing marketing facilities for local handicraft items”.