Case studies

A New Opportunity for Women

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It is never an easy task for a woman, especially a woman from a socially excluded group, to break the shackles of society and stand on her own two feet economically. But 43 year old Kamla Devi is doing just that. She’s one of the 8000 determined, enterprising and progressive women from the tribal heartlands of Jharkhand who’s becoming financially independent thanks to income from our lac livelihood model.

 
Training and new techniques

“Lac farming used to be a seasonal affair and women’s participation was negligible,” Kamla explains. Her community was completely unaware of the value of lac – an insect-produced natural resin that is vital in the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetics industries. They also had no idea that there were different strains of lac that can be produced year-round using a variety of different tree types.

In 2013, Kamla attended a series of training workshops organised by partner Udyogini in association with the Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums as part of our lac livelihood model. At these workshops she learnt about the benefits of pruning, using pesticides and the different strains of lac.

The workshops were revolutionary: “It [lac cultivation] doesn’t need much time and labour” enthuses Kamla. “The process is very easy. You just need to know some techniques and maintain the timing.”

Kamla uses the secateurs that she was given in the training workshop to prepare brood lac bundles - sticks containing the lac producing insect - which are then tied to trees to inoculate them for lac production.

 
A threefold increase in income

Following the training in July 2013, Kamla started cultivating the Kusumi variety of lac on Ber trees. “We are now making optimum use of trees available here,” she says.

Her new-found skills have been extremely successful as she explains how lac cultivation gives very good yield and profit compared to other kinds of traditional farming techniques: “Lac production is four to five times higher [than before],” she says. “In the first season we sold lac scraps and got a profit of around 10,000 rupees. This year we earned 31,000 rupees. This is very encouraging, not only for me as an individual lac farmer but for many other women in the locality.”

 
From housewife to leader

As a female school dropout from a tribal community, Kamla could never have imagined that she would be anything other than a housewife. But today she’s looked up to and regarded as a skillful woman in her local community.

Indeed, with her knowledge and success, Kamla is today mobilising other women in her community to follow in her footsteps and choose lac farming as a viable livelihood.

“The role of women has increased manifolds since the project began,” she explains. “They have realised that economic self-dependence will come with this new source of earning a livelihood.”

Kamla has used her profits to send her children to school. “It is possible only because of lac,” she reflects. “I am confident that more funds will come [from lac] and the lives of my kids will improve.”

Indeed, to achieve this aim she is planning on setting up a nursery of Semialata trees, like brood lac farmer Suneera, to increase production of lac in her community and her dream is to buy an autorickshaw so she can transport lac directly to markets.


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