Degradation of Himalayan forests, essential for the support of mountain farming systems has negatively impacted traditional food security. Many farming families can no longer support themselves from their land, forcing males to migrate to urban centres in search of work. In response to these problems, Grassroots has been active with a Livelihoods Improvement Program to generate supplementary incomes through on and off-farm ventures.
Mahila Umang Samiti was set up in 2001 by Grassroots women, who hived out to form a collective of woman’s Self Help Groups to support and facilitate the growth of these micro-enterprises. Today over 2500 women in rural Kumaon are engaged in improving the quality of life for their families through the sales of hand knitted woollens, fruit preserves & pickles, natural honey, beeswax candles and natural spices.
Each and every business activity is directly controlled by the producer-groups. They own the assets and all are equal shareholders of the business. This arrangement enables the greatest portion of the consumer’s rupee to reach the producer. Umang distributes an annual bonus to all members proportionate to their individual contribution to the business. At Grassroots we believe the promotion of pro-poor business ventures in this way helps to balance the economy, ecology and equity concerns for rural communities.