We promote sustainable agricultural practices to increase yields and conserve the local ecosystem by helping in the production of marketable products from banana bark.
Banana cultivation is an important agricultural activity in large parts of India, especially in the southern states. In fiscal 2020, ICICI Foundation identified three village clusters, comprising 24 villages across Madurai, Namakkal and Thanjavur districts in Tamil Nadu. We launched comprehensive initiatives for our trainees to participate in the value chain of banana cultivation and associated value-added products in these village clusters.
This intervention consists of two key initiatives:
Over 2,400 people in these villages have been impacted by these initiatives till March 31, 2020. Almost half of the beneficiaries have been women.
ICICI Foundation has designed a comprehensive programme with multiple initiatives that impact all parts of the banana cultivation chain. The initiatives are developed to promote sustainable agricultural practices and enhance income of all members who are involved in the chains including landless farmers.
The villagers are provided pro bono training in multiple disciplines, based on their specific job roles in the banana agriculture chain. This is done with certain objectives such as improving yields from cultivation, conversion of farm waste into bioinputs, promoting market linkage for better price realisation and making of value added products from leaves and bark.
As on March 31, 2020, nearly 2,000 people of Tamil Nadu benefitted from the training under these interventions.
In addition to provide training, we help villagers in setting up various ancillary infrastructure. We set up the state’s first macro-propagation nursery which undertakes production of plant clones from parts of an existing plant. We also collaborated with farmers in creating vermicompost pits and farm ponds, set up a commercial bio-fertiliser unit and also created a demo farm for banana cultivation. Our teams have facilitated funding from various government programmes for agricultural activities including setting up of drip irrigation facilities.
Our multifarious initiatives have ensured a marked reduction in input costs and is expected to lead to significant improvement in yields in the 2020 harvest season. The farmers are now earning additional income by planting vegetables and herbs in between the two harvest seasons.
Local farmers have traditionally treated banana leaves and banana bark either as low-value generating by-products of banana cultivation or as agricultural waste.
Our team identified that banana bark is in high demand as a raw material for manufacturing furniture and other household items both in India and abroad. Compostable and disposable plates and other single-use crockery manufactured from banana leaves and food products made from the stem of the banana trees are also marketable value-added products. The team concluded that creating these value-added products could become a sustainable trade in the long run and generate additional sources of livelihood in the region, especially for women.
We adopted a multi-dimensional approach to address various facets of this opportunity. Multiple training interventions were designed to help local people develop requisite skills to manufacture value-added products from banana bark, banana leaves and banana stems. We laid particular emphasis on mobilising women, who were hitherto homemakers, for these pro bono vocational training programmes.
As on March 31, 2020, over 400 people have been trained to manufacture these products. Most of our trainees now earn sustainable livelihoods. They have either transformed into micro-entrepreneurs or have found employment at local manufacturing houses who in turn supply to larger organisations.
In order to further catalyse manufacturing of products from banana bark, our team collaborated with two local entrepreneurs, who were suppliers of banana bark products in the region, to set up a manufacturing facility in Namakkal district. The facility was designed under ICICI Foundation’s guidance and provides a secure working environment to over 200 employees.
More than 50 of our trainees have already joined this facility and have started earning a regular income. The ICICI Foundation team supervises and handholds both, the entrepreneur and the employees to ensure smooth and just operations.
This manufacturing facility is also a benchmark for financial inclusion for micro-enterprises. We have ensured that bank accounts have been opened for entrepreneurs and employees. The employees of the facility receive salaries directly in their bank accounts and have been provided well-rounded financial education.
We expect this comprehensive value chain intervention to grow substantially over the next few years and revolutionise banana cultivation in the region.
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