A document on the Siali leaf-plate making activity
Rainfed agriculture has traditionally been the main livelihood activity for poor families in rural India, which is supplemented in varying degrees by dependence on forests, small livestock rearing, handicrafts, wages, and hunting and gathering. Improving productivity of agriculture is essential to enhance rural livelihoods but agriculture has inherent limits as a livelihood option for landless families. Thus, besides increasing agricultural productivity, the challenge is to develop livelihood opportunities based on other occupations that supplement agricultural income, offset its uncertainty and exploit the growing demand for niche products, especially in urban centres. It is in this context that the Siali Leaf Plate intervention assumes great importance for people living in the forest villages of the Kandhmal district in odisha. The Siali leaf-plant grows only in Sal jungles in certain parts of India, making it difficult to access. It has, however, remained the preferred raw material for making leaf plates for various reasons: its large size, its durability, and the obvious eco-friendliness. PRADAN first came down to the community in 2002 with the objective of increasing income levels by 100%, by way of forming Self-Help Groups (SHGs), providing training and technology to enhance and upgrade the product quality, and offering market linkages to directly sell the product to wholesale buyers and ensure higher profit margins. PRADAN's intervention has since led to the formation of Kandhamal Women's Leaf-plate Cooperative Limited for promoting the Siali Leaf plate makers.