Over these past 25 years, CCD invested its substantial resources in building localised community organisations. So far 14 Kalasam Women Federations involving 30,000 women members and 24 farmer’s producer organizations and their network called AHARAM involving 25,000 farmers have been promoted. These organisations are independently governing themselves with the localised community leaders and CCD transferred the roles and responsibilities to these institutions in a phased manner. The social capital built up in these COs in the form of mutual trust, cooperation and cohesiveness functions as a driving force.
With the strong foundation of social capital built up in the COs, CCD designed Community Social Enterprises (CSEs). The purpose was to graduate the COs into next orbit of livelihood collectives. The COs were transformed into CSEs with the purpose of reaping scale advantage, enhancing collective bargaining power of the primary producers, intervening in the value chain of the select produces, so that the communities can realise enhanced livelihood opportunities and incomes. There are 12 CSEs promoted around the crops such as millets, pulses, spices and paddy.
The GMCL promoted procurement centres changed the entire trading practice of medicinal plants that had been in existence for years. For each of the produce, based on the availability and demand of the produce GMCL facilitated transparent price fixation. CCD took efforts to list out all 326 plants used for medicine preparation and educated all the relevant stakeholders. The major players like Himalaya, Dabur, AVN and AVP were brought to the field and linked directly with the procurement centres through GMCL. It facilitated Rs. 8-10 crores worth of procurement every year out of the captive market of Rs. 500 crores. In the whole process the individual gatherers and farmers were able to get a better price. Many of the gatherers those who earlier did the gathering as the part time or free time work has taken it as the full time livelihood now. Instead of agents or intermediaries, some of the gatherers have established procurement centres as a group or as individuals.
The collective brand ‘Aharam’ and Kalasam Sacred Foods (KSF) built collectively by the network of FPOs promoted worked consistently for connecting distant markets for the produces such as pulses, chillies, coriander, rice and millets that are grown naturally without chemical inputs. Middlemen exploited the ignorance of producers on USP of their produces. Corporate organic buyers were brought to the farms resulting in fetching competitive price for the produces and building sustainable partnership. With the facilitation of forward and backward linkages, the farmers could realise an increased income of 20 to 30%. As a result, people understood that their produces possess special quality and complies with export standard. In addition to increasing area of cultivation, farmers have increased own consumption.
The community organisations - Kalasams, together with Maha Kalasams due to their strong social infrastructure and governance could demand the government systems legitimately and could establish the infrastructure for marketing like drying yard, machinery, storage godown in 100 villages to the tune of Rs. 30-50 lakhs in every village.
CCD has been consistently evolving programmes in response to the changing social, economic and environmental contexts at the micro as well as macro level. Its initial focus of arresting migration was kept as underlying principle in all the initiatives starting from SHGs for economic empowerment, social and community enterprises for livelihood security, connecting them with market forces for sustainable income opportunities. There are visible changes in many villages, where the farmers have started handling the markets with confidence and diversified their livelihoods to cope-up with the risks. These changes reinforce their determination to stay-back in their villages.
Earlier the agents and buyers used to disburse the purchase amount by cash, which the farmers and medicinal plant gatherers used unproductively. Now, due to the intervention of KSF and other companies, the amount is transferred directly to the bank accounts of farmers and gatherers resulted in asset purchases and productive use. In a nutshell CCD could establish successful and sustainable community social enterprise with strong community involvement, positioned the product as organic and premium product, created a niche market, increased the own and neighborhood consumption and created a retail market by creating an own brand Aharam.