In an attempt to end the role of middlemen, ensuring profits to millet farmers and providing employment to women in the rural areas, Sabala, an NGO, is promoting millet processing in 35 villages of Vizianagaram district. Having set up a company at Kothavalasa to procure millets from the farmers, the NGO has trained 90 women SHG members in processing the millets and preparing ragi biscuits and other products.
The NGO now has initiated talks with the government schools in Visakhapatnam district to provide nutritious food to children.Starting with farmers’ clubs at six villages in 2016, the NGO now has 35 clubs operating in Vizianagaram district with 1,000 members who cultivate finger millet, little millets, ragi, korra and a host of other coarse grains.
As part of their programme, Sabala is imparting training with the support of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Agricultural Research Station, Vizianagaram in the use of machinery to process the millet and also promotes best farming methods.“For lack of processing machinery earlier, the farmers were forced to sell the raw produce to companies at lesser prices. Now they are procuring the machinery and getting double the normal profits. The harvested crop is procured by us and we pay the farmers total amount without bargaining or letting the farmers waiting for the buyers,” says K Sarswathi of Sabala.
The SHG women process the grains and prepare flour. They also prepare cookies and ready-to-eat products which are sold at an outlet at Kothavalasa.Ragi biscuits and flour are supplied to 500 children of ITDA Parvathipuram tribal welfare ashram.“We are supplying the products to local marts in Vizag too. The next step is to tie up with Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas and other government schools to supply ragi products,” she adds. The machinery is procured by SHG women groups by availing loans of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
The machinery is capable of processing 500 to 1,000 kg millets a day. Under the programme, the SHG women process 10 tonnes of ragi powder, one tonne of biscuits and various rice types and mix powders every month.