ODL for Ecopreneurship: Promotion of Multiple Livelihoods among the Women SHGs in Tamil Nadu, India

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Livelihoods // The non-availability of productive employment to the increasing population results in wide spread prevalence of poverty and under nutrition. The rural employment opportunities are declining due to a general decline in the rural economy. In India between 1992-2001, there was a sharp decline in the employment growth rate from 3.8% to 2% while there was an increase in the growth in overall development in terms of GDP from 5.4 to 5.9%. The recent World Bank estimates indicates that nearly 30 percent of the Indian population is living on less than $1 a day, and the percentage of rural poverty is likely to be much higher. Among the several causes of poverty, declining rural employment is the most important contributing factor for the rural poverty. While there have been many attempts to combat poverty, their limited success implies that it need a new and innovative strategy. Responding to this the Government of India has recently passed an act on National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which guarantees 100 days of employment to every household. // Over 65 % of the population depending on agriculture, 1.8 % i.e the present rate of agricultural growth decelerated from 3.8% during 1990’s. The number of people supported by each ha of cropland was 4.6 in 1950 and now it is 9.6 and expected to continue increasing. But the National Sample Survey indicate an overall decline in growth rate of employment especially in the sector of agriculture, which is the primary sector contributing to a significant proportion of the total employment in India. The dwindling employment opportunities for the agricultural labour communities in rural areas are an important concern for the livelihoods of the labour families and the rural economy. Hence, there is an increasing push to diversifying their livelihoods from primary agricultural sector in to farm and non-farm based small and medium enterprises which is the next important sector in providing rural employment especially among rural women. In India, small scale enterprises are the second largest employment provider to the Indian workforce after agriculture. Though it provides considerable size of employment, only 13 % of them are located in rural areas and serving rural communities. Hence it is essential to promote employment generation opportunities in the rural sector especially among the socially and economically disadvantaged groups. The organized sector is not employment intensive and organized self employment is the only opportunity in the future. Thus, there is an urgent need to refocus and develop a ‘New deal for the Self Employed’ especially for the rural women, landless and the tribals. // Harnessing the benefits of science and technology is crucial to realize Sustainable Development in improving the rural living standards as envisaged in the UN millennium development goals. Though the developments in biotechnological sector are tremendous, access to the cost effective biotechnological innovations for small holders is still very limited. Large and medium scale industries are gaining advantage from such technological innovation. Apart from limited access and availability of suitable technologies to suit the scale and capacity of rural women and men producers, imperfect skill and capacity building efforts based on their learning ability and pace, methodologies adopted, extending hand holding support throughout the process of enterprise development etc are few constraints which limits the entrepreneurship among rural women and men. // With regard to the institutional support services, state sponsored agricultural extension services provide support services to the farmers whereas the institutions which facilities rural entrepreneurship is very limited. But attempt has been taken through state sponsored women development schemes in which efforts to evolve or promote science and technology based interventions are limited. In this back drop it is hypothesized that science and technology based microenterprises promotion coupled with microcredit and microfinance has the potential to develop rural entrepreneurship, diversify livelihood strategies, create employment opportunities and enhance the annul income of the poor households. // The paper discusses in detail on how the demystification of technologies available in the shelves of research institutions can help to take the benefits of science and technology to the rural societies using a field experience in establishing ecoenterprises managed by rural women Self Help Groups. Special focus is given on the process involved in facilitating learning through learner centered learning material preparation (like entrepreneurship qualities, successful case studies, market linkages, diversifying products etc), the interactive nature of the training programmes as well as learning materials developed in their local language by understanding their educational and social background, existing knowledge level, learning needs and their learning styles, attitudes, and their cultural background. // Paper ID 394