Rural women were vulnerable to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to contain it. They faced severe constraints with regard to their roles in maintaining household food security. Considering the difficulties faced by its members in the Ramboda area, CORD distributed dry rations consisting of essential food items such as rice, flour, sugar, dhal, soya meat and noodles among 110 women at Ramboda Hanuman Temple premises. The members were highly appreciative of the relief they received from CORD.
Backyard poultry farming and production are simple, less sophisticated, and need less skills and inputs. Although production is low, such family poultry units can directly contribute to their nutrition and income. This traditional poultry production system of rearing a few hens in their backyard is very popular among the villagers because of its low cost and ease of management. Even uneducated or poorly educated rural women can run such units in their backyards profitably.
CORD initiated a scheme where selected Self-Help Group women were provided with 10 indigenous type birds of 3 month old to setup small backyard poultry units as a pilot project. Since the bird are of indigenous type they are resistant to diseases and well adapted to harsh conditions. They can survive and produce without any expensive commercial feeds. The birds scavenge in the vicinity of the house and are provided with household refuse and other agricultural by products during the day time and night shelter is provided in a simple cage.
Although the eggs production is much less than the commercial breeds, the eggs produced are effectively ‘organic eggs’ and command a premium price. This has helped the poor families to earn around Rs.2000 a month and contributed towards reducing malnutrition in the families.
After monitoring the success of the pilot project for one year, a second batch of birds was provided to those families who had maintained their units well. CORD is planning to expand the initiative and help the women to build up their poultry units. If funds are available more and more families could be assisted to build up their poultry units to supplement their income.
Microcredit has emerged as a powerful tool for alleviating poverty and raising living standards of poor women who lack access to traditional financial institutions which require sufficient collaterals to provide loans. Further, the poor find it difficult to generate sufficient income from such loans to cover high interest rates.
CORD has successfully initiated an interest-free loans scheme “Value Chain Association” to help Self Help Group (SHG) members to initiate /expand their livelihood projects. Over 600 women have formed these mutual self help organizations with the able guidance of CORD and receive small loans to establish their own livelihood projects. These loans are repaid in six months, in equal installments so that another group of women could get loans from this revolving fund.
A donation of Rs. 50,000 (US$ 335) received from a lady donor towards this fund was initially utilized to provide loans of Rs 10,000 (US $ 67) each to five needy women to start small projects of poultry, horticulture, agriculture, dairy and small retail business. Loans were repaid in six months and that money too was loaned to another set of women. Further women are empowered to develop their livelihood skills through various training programs and workshops organized by CORD. Wherever possible, CORD also helps them to market their produce by having trade stalls at popular festival sites.
Palmyrah is known as the “the tree of life” in Jaffna because of its immense usefulness to the life of the people. The Palmyrah contributes in numerous ways to food and nutrition, shelter and various income generating activities.
CORD has taken initiative to promote traditional palmyrah craft among the Self-Help Group women in Chavakachcheri. Women were trained in producing a variety of palmyrah leaf based utility items such as mats, hats, boxes, bags, baskets and fans. New production techniques and designs were introduced to these women by competent trainers during workshops organized by CORD. This has helped them to start their own self employment ventures.
In addition, CORD arranged special training to twenty one women on extracting pulp from the fruit which is considered a delicacy and can be used to prepare a number of confectionary products. Training sessions were conducted by official trainers from the Palmyrah Development Board, the authority responsible for the development of the industry. Trained women could extract about 6 liters of pulp and earn around Rs. 400 per day during the fruiting season.