By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Jun 27: Twenty one Self Help Groups are giving new meaning to lives of women farmers in Khurkhul in Imphal West district.
Destitute in the past with very little means to earn a livelihood and support their families, many of them who are widows can now earn at least Rs 7,000 a month, they said.
As many as 616 Self Help Groups were established in different parts of the State between 2018 and 2020 under the credit linkage programme of the Manipur State Co-operative Banks (MSCB). The bank had provided a loan amount of Rs 5.33 crore to the SHGs on a much smaller interest rate of less than 1 rupee per month.
Loijing Self Help Group was among those founded during the period.
The MSCB had provided the 10 member group a loan of Rs 40,000, said the group's secretary Heikham Chanbi.
Chanbi, who studied upto Class X is a widow with two children. Before the SHG was formed, she had faced difficulties finding odd jobs to support her family.
"After my husband passed away, I faced immense hardship finding odd jobs to support my family. But after the Self Help Group was formed, life has become somewhat easier. I can now send my children to school and have enough to support my family," Chanbi said.
Each member of the SHG now earns about Rs 7,000/Rs 8,000 per month, she said adding the SHGs in Khurkhul are engaged in a variety of agriculture, horticulture and allied activities including farming (vegetables), weaving, fishery, poultry, piggery, apiculture, sericulture, making incense stick and bakery products etc.
The products of the SHGs are generally stored at the Rural Mart in Naoremthong. They have easy access to market to sell the products, she said.
Talking about the plans and achievements of the Loijing SHG, she said they have already procured a power tiller at subsidised rate (about Rs 75,000) from the Department of Horticulture to enhance their farming activities. The SHG is now planning to buy a tractor and they have about Rs 3 lakh in the bank, she said.
"Our SHG always strive to improve the living standards of the women farmers. Not a bank, but our SHG also provides loans to the members. This way the members have access to the required funds to grow their businesses," Chanbi said.
She further mentioned that last year, the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Imphal) provided the women farmers' Self Help Groups with machinery and equipment worth Rs 26 lakh.
Phuritshabam Roshita, a member of Leishembi Self Help Group, said her family's condition has improved a lot after joining the group.
"After joining this SHG, I have come to realise that I can earn better and support my family better," she said.
Even though the COVID-19 lockdown has affected businesses, she earns at least Rs 500 daily.
"During this COVID-19 lockdown, I earn about Rs 500 to Rs 600 daily by selling bread. I make breads at home early in the morning and my son would deliver it door to door," she said.
All the SHGs would meet on the sixth day of every month and they would collect the respective amounts to be repaid to the bank. Due to COVID-19 lockdown, they no longer go to the bank. Instead, the bank staff would come and collect the money, she said.
"We have never faced any problem in repaying the loan amount. There has been no issue at all. In fact, the bank even asked us to avail other loans," she said.