About 14,000 students of Tribal Welfare Ashram Schools in eight mandals of Vizianagaram district will be getting nutritious snacks from the current academic year, thanks to the initiative taken by Sabala, an NGO that promotes millet cultivation and consumption, and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
The joint endeavour to mobilise 90 self-help group women and enhance their livelihood by training them in promoting millet cultivation and making wholesome millets an integral part of the daily menu has eventually attained fruition.
The 45-day livelihood and enterprises development project held in three batches introduced these women to new culinary art. With nutritionists from Krishi Vigyan Kendra and Agricultural Research Station sharing healthy recipes and NABARD extending financial support, SHG women from Kothavalasa, L. Kota and Vepada mandals learnt how to make over 30 sumptuous dishes incorporating assorted millets.
Elaborating the project’s objective, Sabala secretary K. Saraswathi says the focus is not only on training the participants in cooking healthy and flavourful dishes using millets but also on helping supplement their meagre monthly income by providing market linkage. “Keeping this in view, we met G. Lakshmisha, Project Officer of Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Parvathipuram, and made a proposal to cater to Tribal Welfare Ashram Schools, providing millet cookies and finger millet health drink to the students. The proposal has been accepted and the SHG women will soon be supplying healthy snacks to 14,000 students by setting up six to seven units.”
Those who never thought of setting up an enterprise are now gearing up to establish millet processing units, availing bank loans. “With many showing keen interest in converting the skill learnt into a viable project, we are planning to prepare wholesome cookies and a host of nutritious items in bulk quantities and supply them to schools, bakeries and various snack points,” says M. Jyothi, an SHG woman at Kothavalasa.
Welcoming the move, Mr. Lakshmisha has said that earlier ‘chikkies’ have been distributed to students and now they will be replaced by millet cookies. “There are about 14,000 children studying in 55 Tribal Welfare Ashram Schools in Jiyyammavalasa, Parvathipuram, Makkuva, Salur, Gummalakshmipuram, Pachipenta, Kurupam and Komarada mandals in Vizianagaram district. They will be given millet biscuits and ragi-based health drink from June. This is also a step towards addressing malnutrition problem in tribal schools,” he adds. Based on the response, Sabala intends to initiate similar project in Visakhapatnam district.