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From growing fruit, rearing tasar, encouraging millet production to rearing Kadaknath chicken, the two districts are trying to enhance income among families in mining-affected areas.
Kanchan Pradhan tends to her newly planted tasar host trees along with a group of women in a village in Keonjhar’s Banspal block on a sunny November afternoon. She is among the traditional tasar rearers in the tribal belt of the district, relying on host trees on the fringes of the forest for livelihood.
Pradhan and others in her village are now busy raising a plantation of tasar host trees on revenue land through financial and technical assistance provided by the District Mineral Foundation (DMF).
This is in addition to the rearing they practice on the forest fringes and is likely to add to their usual income. Since the skill and occupation has been passed to them over generations, the women are happy at the prospect of improving their income through a job they know well.
“Even my mother-in-law did the same work. If we can have more income through this, nothing like it,” she says, adding that her family of four currently earns Rs 80,000 annually by selling tasar cocoons to the state agency.
Livelihood and generating income security are a critical concern among mining-affected communities but has had negligible or no investment through DMF over the last four years. A DMF is a non-profit trust set up in mining districts to function for the benefit of mining-affected people and areas.
Two big iron-ore mining districts — Keonjhar (Odisha) and Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) — have, however, gone against the tide to make some investments to strengthen livelihoods, mostly geared towards enhancement of income among families living in mining-affected areas.
Delhi-based think tank, Centre for Science and Environment’s latest report District Mineral Foundation (DMF): Implementation Status and Best Practices documents livelihoods that draw upon the local resources, and through convergence and collaboration with local partners, are trying to work at income enhancement among farmers and women.
Convergence to build resources
Keonjhar has undertaken three livelihood initiatives — agro-forestry through Wadi (orchards), tasar rearing through plantations for mining-affected tribal families and pushing millet production and consumption in the district on the lines of the state government’s millet mission.
Dantewada is evolving an organic farming model and involving women self-help-groups (SHGs) in Kadaknath chicken rearing for livelihood and income generation.
The projects, the report states, have some basic commonalities. First, the initiatives seek to build upon the local available resources and the skill of locals.
oth districts have a sizeable rural population — 86 per cent and 76 per cent respectively — much of which is reliant on agriculture. The initiatives take this into account.
The Wadi project in Keonjhar aims to increase income of farmers through fruit-bearing trees but also by ensuring intercropping; tasar rearing accounts for the generational skill of the tribal women in mining areas.
Millet cultivation aims at climate resilience and improving consumption of millets for nutrition among people who grow them as well. All three initiatives are phased for implementation over five-seven years.