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Dreams of better future mushroom among villagers

- Nabard loan assistance helps people eke out a living; bank official believes project will stem immigration

Meena Devi (56), a frail-looking homemaker at Kewal, who used to work as a daily wage earner, today is a proud farmer busy in producing mushroom on her half-bigha plot.

She purchases mushroom seeds between Rs 100 and Rs 120/kg from the mushroom production centre in the village and after 30-45 days, produces more than 6kg, selling them at Rs 150-170/kg. Not only Meena, more than three-dozen women in this village now have this opportunity to lead a better life.

Located some 25km southeast of Jamui district headquarters, the otherwise sleepy Kewal, under Gidhaur block in Maoist-ravaged Jamui today is known as mushroom gram (mushroom village).

The change in the fortunes of Kewal and its inhabitants was possible only with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Developmentís (Nabardís) vision of starting an oyster mushroom production and marketing through its umbrella programme under natural resource management (UPNRM).

In 2011, Nabard, under the rural innovative fund, had motivated the oyster mushroom spawn project through an entrepreneur, Mohan Keshri. The rural innovative fund project had another component ó of providing mushroom production training to 500 villagers across the district.

The capacity of the lab was production of 10kg spawn per day. However, the capacity of the spawn lab has been proposed to be increased to 30kg per day under the project. The spawn lab is the only one of its kind within the nearby districts and it has facilitated the mass scale production of oyster mushroom in the district.

The financial outlay of the rural innovative fund project was Rs 9.68 lakh and that amount has been utilised for the preliminary spawn production unit-cum-training programme implemented by Keshri.

According to Sanjeev Kumar, district development manager Nabard, Jamui, the positive approach has paved the way of mass scale production, spot marketing and complete utilisation of the spawn centre.

Keshri, who started mushroom cultivation at Kewal in 2006, had the opportunity to expand it with Nabardís rural innovative fund in 2011. At present, 42 beneficiaries have started production and 53 have been identified for the first year, Sanjeev said.

The successful implementation of the project would go a long way in providing additional employment to farmers and they would be saved from depending on rain. It will also arrest the large-scale migration of villagers after paddy harvesting, he claimed.

This year, a project by social action for rural development agency in the form of mushroom production and marketing under the aegis of Nabardís UPNRM programme was initiated. This project has been designed and sanctioned for trained beneficiaries of the earlier rural innovative fund project in the form of seed money for the construction of mushroom house and input cost. The project cost worked out to Rs 18 lakh, involving 150 mushroom farmers, Sanjeev said.

There are two parties involved indirectly in the ongoing UPNRM project ó Keshri for spawn production and a Koderma-based NGO, Sai Social Business for Rural Development, for a buy-back policy of mushroom.

Both the parties have been provided loans Rs 1.8 lakh to Keshri for spawn centre capacity enhancement and Rs 2.45 lakh for drier set to Sai Social Business for Rural Development. The social action for rural development agency is directly involved in the implementation of the project with the technical support of Sai Social Business for Rural Development, Sanjeev added.