Aga Khan Economic Planning Board for India has worked extensively to resolve this issue and more than 40 farmers have been provided with support, technical know-how and loans to fence their farms. Partnerships have been forged with neighbouring Non Jamati farmers as well and the principles of joint buying for the fencing material have reduced costs by about 40%. Fencing has not only increased their yield of their farms and allowed them to be more relaxed but has also resulted in a significant appreciation in the land values of their holdings.
Indeed, our Jamati farmers have recognised the power of coming together with the Farmer Alliance today enjoying a strength of 539 unique members. Several farmers have heart touching stories to tell of the increase in their income as a result of the various training programmes they and their spouses have attended with trainings ranging from modern farming techniques, better use of fertilisers, horticulture, animal husbandry and financial planning. They have also benefited immensely from the 3 agriculture stores that have been set up which facilitate bulk buying and result in cost savings of about 15% on their inputs. An interesting partnership has also been entered into with the Junagadh Agriculture University where Jamati farmers are provided with high quality seeds in a unique model, where after using these seeds the Jamati farmers can opt to sell their produce back to the University at a decent profit, should they choose not to sell it in the open market.
Besides this support to the Jamat involved in agriculture in Saurashtra, EPB is playing an active role in making students and young job seekers in Saurashtra more “job ready”. About 165 students have been intervened with through the newly developed “Campus to Corporate” programme which aims to bridge the gap between what colleges teach and what organisations look for. Besides, the usual learning and counselling, students are also given real-world knowledge through guest speaker sessions and panel discussions. English is a key focus area and each student interested to get better at it, is assigned a “buddy”.
Another program that has been getting incomes soaring ever since its inception a few years back is a curated programme called ‘Maro Vyapar Mari Pragati’(My business, My Progress). Generally done over 5 Sundays by a group of trained volunteers, retailers (largely grocery store owners) are given lessons on areas such as inventory and cash flow management, use of technology among others. The proven track record and the recent Diamond Jubilee continuing education pledges taken by the Jamat have further spurred up the demand for this programme with some in Northern Saurashtra now requesting for a part 2!
Volunteers have also played an important part in assisting beauticians from across Saurashtra. EPB helps understand the need of these beauticians who are at first bought up to speed by TKN volunteers through customized programmes, after which they progress to doing courses with brands such as Loreal and Enrich.