11 April 2023, Hyderabad: In South India, a group of tribal women are leading a movement towards healthier community diets. By processing millets and marketing nutritious products, these women are creating a ripple effect in their communities.
When K Ramamma, who had never travelled far from her tribal hamlet, boarded a plane for the first time to represent women entrepreneurs from her community at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Assam, it was a big leap not just for her but her entire tribe.
Her journey began in September 2019 when she took the bus from her village in Bhadrachalam to attend a training program at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad.
Despite her basic education, Ramamma persevered through the challenges of the training at ICRISAT.
“I learned about dietary diversity, how recipes are formulated for better nutrition and also about quality control, food safety, book-keeping, business planning and how to market what I make,” says Ramamma.
Ramamma and her fellow entrepreneurs currently run licensed processing units that source local produce to supply nutritious food to childcare centers in their community. Their units are partly supported by a government-run cooperative.
“We aim to create self-sustaining units that will not only provide for our families but also educate our children and we hope to continue our journey as “nutrition entrepreneurs” in our communities for years to come,” says Ramamma.
The impact of their work has been significant. A baseline survey conducted prior to the project showed high rates of anemia among women and children, with many children being underweight and stunted. In response, energy-dense food formulations comprising millets, sorghum (jowar in Hindi), and pulses were selected following acceptability studies. The nutritional outcomes from their usage have been positive.
Through this project funded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, and the Commissioner of Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Telangana, 74 tribal women farmers in Telangana, India have been trained so far. Their success is a testament to the transformative power of empowering women and communities.
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