National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) conducted its maiden ‘Gramya Utpadya Mela-2018’ from 4 to 6 December in Shimla. Around 20 different stalls were put up with various products ranging from food products to woollens, bamboo furniture, etc.. There was music and dance as well.

The exhibition was organised by self-help groups (SHGs) and farmer producing organisations (FPOs) from other parts of Himachal Pradesh and other states such as Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana.

“We have complemented the SHG initiative by providing the rural groups with skill development training to make the products sellable, realising the worth of the products in the wider market, which otherwise was produced for leisure. Exhibitions like this have helped groups come up with success stories over years. We are still learning new things from events like this and are striving to be better every time. Also along the way, we are creating awareness and educating the public on the concept of SHGs,” said Rishab, a NABARD official.

District level officials keep track of the performance and products of SHGs to selct them for exhibitions.

The event was a market intervention by NABARD to help the groups, bridge the gap between producers and consumers, which for Himachali tribal groups had been quite difficult monetarily and spatially. The exhibition has given them the ideal platform to serve their dishes, rejuvenate the ‘pahadi’ heritage and talent. NABARD has also set forth the path for tribal women to learn entrepreneurial skills.

“Though the expo is during weekdays, the range of products with Christmas and New Year around the corner and also the central location has helped increase sales,” the PRO said. The 3- day event generated sales of Rs 9 lakh.

A unique tribal group that joined the exhibition is from Pangi Hills, which has 400- 500 farmers, producing exotic forest products like black cumin, honey extracted from heights, walnuts, etc. Pangi, being one of the remote t r ibal areas of Himachal, is covered in snow for 6 months. The self-help group, Pangi Hills has come out of the shackles of its topography and conventional style of marketing and has adapted to newer ways. The group has its own website to order products.

“The products are natural, no pesticides are added. The website has eliminated the market intermediaries and spatial barrier, and now we have supplies reaching as far as Karnataka, Gujarat and Kolkata. The role played by women in our success shouldn’t go unnoticed, they make handloom products out of the waste of sheep, which has abundant demand in the market,” said Dem Chand, representative of Pangi Hills. He also extended his thanks to NABARD for helping them from 2016.

Ravi Bhimta, member of an SHG from Sirmaur said, “We have spices which are organic. We understand how pesticides affect health. Farmers almost stopped producing these organic products because they didn’t have proper market to sell. But SHGs with help of NABARD have picked it up and are now earning good money and selling at reasonable prices. This is helping women and farmers.

“These groups of people are soldiers, who have come together to help and empower, lifting the other, setting a brilliant example of unity among the rural communities. They are beating the stale ideology of rural communities being downtrodden, by becoming financially independent and competitive,” said the NABARD official