A small but meaningful intervention by the Himachal Pradesh government has taken these rural women on their journey to economic empowerment during Covid crisis.

The case in point is of the Sudarshana Self Help Group (SHG) of women in Gram Panchayat Samoli in remote Rohroo sub division of Shimla district.

The 25 village women in the group are making jams and chutneys from the C grade apples available locally, selling them across the country and are earning good profits. ( Rohroo forms part of the apple belt in Shimla district).

“We had attended a three-day workshop organised by Horticulture Development Officer Dr Kushal Mehta sometime back, wherein we were trained in making quality products from apples. We were taught the minute details about the fruit and various stages of fruit processing. With those tips, we started making apple jam and chutney for sale. This has added to our household income and women are happy about it,” said Sudarshana, who heads the SHG in Samoli.

She said the apple jams and chutneys made by the rural women are available in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Delhi. The products from Samoli Panchayats would soon be available in many other cities in the country.

“The apple chutneys are being sold from Rs 400-800 per kilogram,” she said. Elated by the response, the women are also keen to expand the sale of pickle, chips and sauce made from apples now. The provision of interest free loans by NABARD is also helping the women improve their household economy through small ventures.

Horticulture Development Officer, Rohroo, Kushal Mehta said looking into the success of the Sudarshana SHG, the department plans to organise more such workshops for rural women in other gram Panchayats in Rohroo subdivision. “This will build the capacity of women in different areas and they can benefit economically from this, like the women in Samoli,” he said.

He said the Nodal Officer Dr Dev Raj Kayath and then Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, Amit Kashyap also had a role in this empowerment of women. “They stressed on the trainings to make the rural women self-reliant during Covid-19 crisis so that the rural economy is strengthened,” he said.