Swayam Krishi - Development of women

Narayankhed, June 27th, 1999: Mr. Vikram Akula, Director of Swayam Krishi Sangam called on rural poor women to draw on their inherent strengths and foster economic development and a positive change in their living conditions. Speaking to the women members of Swayam Krishi Sangam on the occasion of a meeting organized in Anthwar village to commemorate the completion of one year of rural development work in the Narayankhed region, he explained that the organization is striving to empower the poorest of poor women in the area with support from non-resident Indians.

After using Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methodologies to understand local conditions, Swayam Krishi Sangam staff then organize poor women in the village into core groups of five members each, where eight such groups constitute a Sangam [banking cooperative] in a village. The purpose of the Sangam is the economic development of the members through income generation loans. The women are encouraged to save five rupees per week, and two women from the group are eligible for a loan of two thousand rupees at the end of four weeks, followed by two more women at the end of eight weeks and the last member at the end of another eight weeks. The loan is repaid with an interest of 20% by the end of one year by the member.

Narayankhed being one of the most backward and poverty-ridden regions of Andhra Pradesh, the organization had decided to work in the area since June 1998. 253 women members belonging to 51 self help groups in 14 villages of Manoor and Narayankhed mandals have so far received 366,500 rupees of loans, with the support of which the women have taken up various income generation activities to improve their livelihoods, Mr. Akula explained.

The organization is also trying to look at the health needs of the rural poor, Mr. Akula said. Out of the loans disbursed so far, nearly one hundred thousand rupees has already been repaid by the women, with interest. He urged more women to come forward to take advantage of the services of the organization. The coordinator, Ms. Rama Laxmi, noted that the impressive repayment rates prove that the poor women are credit-worthy.

Durgamma, leader of Raipally Sangam [cooperative] remarked that with the support of Swayam Krishi Sangam, the lives of poor women are changing for the better. Earlier, these women had to depend on village moneylenders for their credit needs. Anjamma from the same Sangam said that she took a "pregnancy loan" that she used to purchase nutritious food during the time of her pregnancy. As a result, she had given birth to a healthy baby boy. Other Board Directors of the organization-Mr.... Chandra Prabhakar, Ms. Namrata and Ms. Kavita-also participated in the meeting.