Mahua and millet cookies: Marginalised rural women in Chhattisgarh bake and sell cookies made of traditional grains

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Read full article By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi @ GaonConnection Photo Credit: By Arrangement

The Jay Maa Kali self-help group in Kudalgaon village of Bastar district, which comprises 11 women, bakes cookies with little millet, kodo, finger millet and other traditional grains, scented with mahua blossoms. The group has earned about Rs 20,000 in two months.

It’s around one in the winter afternoon, and Lili Thakur, president of Jay Maa Kali self-help group (SHG) in Kudalgaon village in Bastar block of Bastar district, is busy. She and 10 others, clad in saris sit inside a room furnished with plastic chairs, steel utensils and different kinds of jars. They are all set to bake fresh batches of hand-made cookies for the day.

The women, ranging in age from 25 to 42 years, work every day from 11 am to 5 pm in the village’s community hall, to make nine varieties of cookies — including the popular multigrain version made with grains such as kodo millet (koden), little millet (kutki) and finger millet (ragi) as well as refined flour and whole wheat flour.

Some of the members sit on a thin mattress to knead millet dough while others press small balls of ready dough between their palms to shape the cookies. Finally, the cookies are placed on a baking tray and head to the waiting oven, to be baked at 180 degrees centigrade.

It’s been over a month since this group of women (some of them are tribal people and some from other backward communities) in Bastar began baking cookies to sell at Bihan Bazaar, which retails products made by self-help groups in Chhattisgarh, and other retailers.

So far, they have made 750 packs of 250 grams each (priced between Rs 80 and Rs 120), sold them for Rs 75,000 and earned a group profit of Rs 20,000. This has provided them a source of income at a time when pandemic has hit most livelihoods and income sources.

“I help make about thirty to forty packets every day. The dough is the hardest to make. Sometimes, we use tutti frutti, cashew and dried mahua flowers, which we are very fond of, for added flavour and crunchiness,” Mamta Thakur, a group member told Gaon Connection.

These women have earned a lot of appreciation for making nutritious cookies this festive season while becoming self-reliant. Such snacks made with millets are in tune with the Centre’s efforts since 2018 to promote millets through its nutri cereals initiative.

The cookies are marketed under the brand name of Tribal Taste through Tribal Tokni, the marketing platform of non-profit Arya Prerna Samiti, based in the district headquarters of Jagdalpur. The website will list the products this weekend.

According to Mohit Arya, who runs non-profit Arya Prerna Samiti, which trained the women, 20 to 30 per cent of the cost of the cookies goes to the group — between Rs 20 and Rs 30 a packet. The retailer gets about 15 to 20 per cent. The money directly goes to the group’s account. “We are yet to calculate the pace at which they make cookies, since they are still new to the job. Once we do that, we wish to give them a full thirty per cent as their share,” Arya added.

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Posted on

January 5, 2021

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