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Two women-led food processing units opened in India

Ms Satyavathi Rathod, Minister for Scheduled Tribes, Women and Child Welfare of India’s Telangana state, recently inaugurated a moringa (drumstick) processing unit in the state’s Khammam district and a dry mix (ready-to-cook foods) unit in Bhadrachalam. Both the units are wholly owned by tribal women, who were trained in food processing and entrepreneurship at ICRISAT. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathy Dry Mix Unit will supply ready-to-cook Jowar meal (Upma mix) and ready-to-cook multigrain meal (Khichidi mix) to government nutrition programs and anganwadis in the tribal region. Sri Rama Moringa Processing Industry will sell moringa powder in markets.

The food products being produced in these units have very good nutritive values. Both children and adults can consume them. These will be supplied to children in schools, ashram schools and anganwadi* centres to keep them healthy and help them grow. Plus, the units are providing employment to tribal women, the minister said during the inauguration.

ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) established the unit in collaboration with partners and has implemented two other programs as part of the collaboration – Nutri-Food Basket program (March 2017) and Giri Poshana (September 2018). The collaboration aims to transform tribal women into entrepreneurs, localize production and address malnutrition. Accordingly, 80 tribal women farmers from Bhadrachalam, Utnoor and Eturnagaram in Telangana were trained by ICRISAT in Hyderabad. After training, ICRISAT helped the women form Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) to manage the food processing units. With the latest opening, four food processing units of this type have been opened in Telangana.

The women will produce hygienically packed, safe and nutritious foods in the units, which are designed and equipped with machinery as per guidelines of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The food products will be sold under the Girijan Co-operative Corporation (GCC) brand as well as in the open market.

“ICRISAT cherishes the successful partnership with the Department of Tribal Welfare in this significant move towards women empowerment. This project has leveraged locally available nutritious dryland crops to support the economic independence of tribal women while ensuring means of nutrition for their communities,” said Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

The project brings together key aspects of ICRISAT’s mandate: nutrition, food safety, sustaining small businesses and gender equity. Turning dryland crops that are locally available and consumed into healthy smart food products helps promote dietary diversity, address malnutrition and create sustainable livelihoods. The project also spurs creation of local value chains that are key to making vulnerable communities sustainable, especially post COVID-19. To continue empowering Telangana’s tribal communities, more food processing units will be established and the communities will be supported to run them.

“The ready-to-cook Jowar (sorghum) meal (Upma mix) and ready-to-cook multigrain meal (Khichidi mix) made in the dry mix unit provide balanced nutrition and energy through local nutritious crops such as millets and pulses. The ready-to-cook format is convenient for cooking in anganwadis and homes, and the foods have been an emergency ration during COVID-19 lockdown,” Dr Saikat Datta Majumdar, Chief Operating Officer, NutriPlus Knowledge (NPK) Program, ICRISAT.”

“Equipped with state-of-the-art leaf cleaning, drying and packing equipment, the moringa powder processing unit will produce high quality powder from moringa leaves grown by the tribal community without fertilizers or pesticides. The moringa powder will be marketed as a health supplement. Moringa is said to provide as much as seven times the vitamin C in orange, 10 times the vitamin A in carrot, 17 times the calcium in milk besides being a rich source of potassium, iron and protein. The unit will thus provide substantial value addition to locally grown moringa and bring additional income for farmers in the area,” he added.

Project: Setting up of eight processing units in ITDAs of Utnoor, Eturnagaram and Bhadrachalam through Joint Liability Groups (JLs) of Telangana.
Partners: Integrated Tribal Development Agencies, Tribal Women-led Joint Liability Groups, Girijan Cooperative Society, Anganwadis (Ministry of Women and Child Development) and ICRISAT
Funders: Department of Tribal Welfare, Government of Telangana
CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)

This article was featured in ICRISAT Happenings #1892

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