Tura, March 12: Residents of Matchinanggre village under Selsella development block in West Garo Hills, about 54km from here, have found a way to economic independence through self-help groups (SHGs).
The villagers’ main occupation is agriculture and they mostly grow areca and cashew nuts. There are around 83 households in Matchinanggre.
Bristibala Marak, 42, a mother of four, drew inspiration from her sister Albo to start a self-help group in 2004. “I was really inspired and motivated by my sister Albo, who was part of an SHG. My sister told me they had registered their group with the block office and received financial assistance for starting pig rearing and poultry farming,” she said.
Initially, Bristibala found it difficult to motivate people but her sheer dedication resulted in a group of 10 women starting a SHG in 2005.
In 2010, the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project, an initiative of the International Fund for Agriculture Development and the North Eastern Council (NEC) selected Matchinanggre for the pilot project. Under the scheme, the village was divided into two resource management groups — Matchinang Songma and Matchinang Chimeseng. Subsequently five SHGs were formed — Old Matchinang, New Matchinang, Rambola, Watnang and Jarambong.
In November 2011, the West Garo Hills Community Resource Management Society, an implementing agency of the project engaged its partner NGO, Socio-Economic Welfare Society, an organisation under the A’chik Baptist Church, for implementing the project. “We mobilised the villagers for formation of the groups and started income-generating activities by releasing funds to the beneficiaries,” said Fredrick D. Momin, an NGO worker.
Bristibala availed of a loan of Rs 5,000 at the rate of one per cent for rearing pigs. In a year, she repaid the amount and sought an additional Rs 10,000 loan. “I took loans thrice to increase my income. I have sold 20 to 25 piglets at Rs 1,200-1,500 each in the last three years,” she said.
“With the profit, I have started a tea shop at the Kalchengpara market. Now, I earn a monthly income of Rs 20,000-22,000,” she added.
Like Bristibala, 50 other women who are part of different SHGs, have taken up poultry farming, pig rearing and other activities to supplement their livelihood. “I started rearing pigs and poultry and now earn a sustained income through the year,” said Tengsime Marak, 22. A school dropout, Tengsime was married at 18. “My parents were supportive and they encouraged me to join the Rambola SHG and it has helped me immensely,” she said.
Her husband, Silgrak, was given technical training for starting a motorcycle repair workshop. “Today, we are confident of sustaining ourselves,” he said.
The villagers have also started other activities like breeding Banaraja birds, setting up a nursery and a demo plot for plantation of oranges, bananas and other crops to augment their income. “We feel empowered. We are not hesitant to approach government departments for funds,” said Tengsime.
Matchinanggre has received grants from different line departments, seen roads constructed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme, households electrified under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Project and water tanks and toilets constructed after the project took off.
Most of the villagers are literate and their children go to school. But concerted efforts are required to ensure that they continue their education.
In the last three years, people have become more conscious about their rights and are making efforts to send their children for higher studies.