A Disclosure – What is going on in rural India?
Rural India is reeling under fear and apprehension during the second wave. With rising cases and inadequate healthcare systems, people are reluctant to step out. Adding to this the disruption of local marketplaces and limited transportation has put the cash flows in rural communities under question.
In the last session of Impact Dialogues we had – our Impact partners, SOFA (The Sittilingi Organic Farmers Association) and Vrutti joining us to brief us about the situation on the ground.
What are the major challenges faced by rural communities?
The second wave posed multiple challenges for rural communities. They are struggling with lives and livelihood options. Health care assistance and facilities are at a bare minimum given the surge in cases. Adding to that, the disrupted supply chains at the village level has made it even difficult for them.
As shared by Bala, CEO at Vrutti “The needs of the farmers have risen multiple folds this time. The most affected are those who cultivate perishable products like fruits, flowers, vegetables etc as there are no buyers for them.”
Shikha from SOFA, shared how the scenario has worsened since last year.
She said that farmers are currently holding onto 80 tonnes of turmeric, the one which has a high percentage of curcumin. The produce is even certified by NPOP [National Programme for Organic Production] but ultimately has no market at the moment. For the community, turmeric is a cash crop and it decides their livelihood options.
The Sittilingi Organic Farmers Association (SOFA) is a collective of 500 tribal farmers who live in the Sittilingi Valley of Dharmapuri District of Tamil Nadu. The farmers along with 450 women have produced 80 tons of organic turmeric powder this year, but due to the lockdowns – they have not been able to sell it.
What can be done to mitigate this crisis?
Take for instance the case of turmeric farmers in Sittilingi. Last year they had a similar challenge to overcome. The lockdowns barred them from all accessible markets, at a time when they had just harvested 45 tons of turmeric.
But with the help of social investing, farmers had access to interest-free credit that enabled them to store their produce, manage their expenses and repay when things got better. Around 93 organic farmers in Sittilingi were supported last year by Rang De Social investors. It restored their faith and this year they’re back again with a ripe harvest that is two-fold.
Farmers’ trust in society is when they get a reasonable price for their harvest. We need to assure that our farmers are backed by us at times of crisis. If farmers make losses because they didn’t have adequate means they might not take up farming again fearing the worst.
Social investing can help them access instant credit during the crisis and repay when they are better off.
How is the Covid situation in rural areas?
Dr Regi associated with Tribal Health Initiative, one of our proud partner organizations, has done commendable work in ensuring proper healthcare for tribal communities. He has been working to empower the rural community to take care of their health and that eventually empowered them financially, socially and politically.
He shared that remote communities were not really affected last year. But the second wave managed to creep into isolated villages. The community was jolted when they first witnessed a casualty and had to reach out to Salem (the nearest town) for health assistance. It was then, they embarked on a mission to be self-sufficient. Dr Reji shared that they established 15-bed wards in the locality, arranged oxygen concentrators and set up community kitchens for those in quarantine. Their aim was to curb the spread at the community level so that people don’t have to travel to cities for healthcare services.
Watch the complete Impact Dialogues session for a more detailed understanding of the rural communities and their struggles.
Write at email@example.com and I’ll make sure to loop you in for the next session of Impact Dialogues happening on 6th June.