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ODESH: Generating livelihoods in rural Manipur

ODESH: Generating livelihoods in rural Manipur

Bharjeet Singh, chief functionary, Organization for Development of Economic and Self Help (ODESH)

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In the form of rural cluster, ODESH (Organization for Development of Economic and Self Help) is helping provide employment opportunities in the tribal and remote areas of Manipur since 2001. Bharjeet Singh, chief functionary, ODESH speaks to Mohd Mustaquim about his long journey and functions of the organisation

Excerpts:
What is the concept behind ODESH?
Organization for Development of Economic and Self Help popularly known as ODESH is a registered society having associated with over and above 100 Kauna Craft Artisans based at Khangabok Village, Thoubal District of Manipur. ODESH has been working towards livelihood enhancement for the poor and support less groups of rural artisans for an inclusive growth with a focus to take part and contribute in the national efforts of eliminating poverty, reduce unemployment, enhance livelihoods forging partnership with likeminded agencies.
Over the years our interventions has been towards Kauna crafts industry development on issues of policy related to transformation of traditional knowledge, skills and technologies towards contemporary market oriented products, along with marketing and value chain in the industry.

How has been the journey of ODESH since its inception?
ODESH’s journey of social work started way back 2001 by way of meeting and contact of rural poor and support less, listening to their miseries, livelihood issues, aspirations, mobilising them into producer groups in the principle of self help, linking them to banks and other financial institutions for working capital and building a common platform from where they can feel, share and help each other.
Over our association and interaction with artisans, their issues and concerns made us know their working circumstances, their livelihood condition, market situation and circumstances which they had faced. Taking into account of artisans’ concern, ODESH constituted a Kauna sub-sector analysis in Khangabok village where maximum artisans are concentrated for understanding real problems of the sub-sector and identification of opportunities.
Having understood livelihood circumstances of artisans, our first approach was to impart basic skill training to artisans for which NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) was approached and successful to obtain support. Thereafter, banks were approached for working capital support. TATA Trusts also helped us in providing much needed design inputs to artisans and contemporary craft skills.
Though ODESH intervention is small but has widespread impacts in terms of increasing perceive value of Kauna craft in larger market due to its efforts to bring changes in product line, design and quality.


What challenges did you face while initiating the move?
Initially, by having only 30 days basic skill training our artisans finding difficulties in bringing out perfect products matching market expectation. Simply their skill level was found not sufficient to take on market. Markets were demanding better product with better shape and design. Since market response was not so encouraging, we were also facing problems in marketing out the products supplied by our artisans thus, piling up stocks. On the other hand we cannot ask artisan to stop production believing this will discourage them. We could not establish linkage with reliable wholesaler and retailer outside the state therefore, has to confine to local market only. We were left no option except to continue buying our artisan products. We ran here and there and requested to those wholesaler and retailers whom we know who used to supply outside but, they ask us to supply our product at throw away price. This was very critical phase.
Another outstanding challenge is logistic as our state is land lock and having no railhead; all our supply of products outside the state has to be done through airlifting through India Post which overruns cost of the products and unable to lift products in large quantum.

How does your organisation help rural people generate livelihoods and how much villagers are currently associated with you?
We at ODESH help rural poor generate livelihoods by providing them skill training (90 days structured), mobilised them into producer group of 10 artisans, linking them to bank for working capital requirements, giving them work order, collection of finished goods at their doorstep, marketing of the products and encashment of payments after having sold the product. As of now there are over and above 100 artisans families directly getting livelihood through Kauna Craft profession at an average of Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 per annum.

Getting skilled workforce is a big challenge for handicrafts and handlooms, how do you tackle this?
Yes it is true however, we promote and nurture skilled workforce through structured skilled training input for which we are getting support from TATA Trust and will continue till December, 2018.

What model do you apply for getting access to the market?
We at ODESH apply multiple models for getting access to the market such as website, Facebook page, supply to wholesellers, supply to retailers, direct sales to consumers through our store, direct sales at local market by artisans and trade fairs and exhibitions.

How has been the growth over the years?
Work volume of artisans increased from 2-3 hours a day to 6-8 hours a day resulting to their average family cash flow situation from Rs. 2,300 to Rs 4,800 per month.

What are your future plans?
Increased Kauna Craft Cluster size from current 100 to 300 members and increased average cash flow income of artisan family upto Rs. 120,000 per annum by 2022.

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