After their agonizing experience in cities during the lockdown, migrant workers, in very large numbers, are back in their villages. Can the rural economy sustain them? Will they find ways of earning? The rural employment programme, MGNREGA, offers hope. But it remains to be seen whether in the current context it is the solution.
Rural areas have for the longest time been denied the investments which could have generated the economic activity needed to keep people from migrating. The current crisis is an opportunity to have a better understanding of how this can change.
In our search for answers we turned to PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action), an NGO devoted to nurturing rural livelihoods. PRADAN works in seven of India’s poorest states — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
It has been behind initiatives for boosting agricultural productivity and linking farmers to markets through cooperatives and producer companies. PRADAN’S work has led to several successful examples of income generation.
It has promoted the National Smallholder Poultry Development Trust (NSPDT) which supports 11,351 women poultry farmers across 23 cooperatives. It has also nurtured the Tasar Development Foundation (TDF), which works with 20,000 farmers to rear cocoons for silk. PRADAN has been at the forefront of organizing women into self-help groups and linking them to financial services.