Empowerment for sustainability
The case story below is from a real Project experience. The writer has had the first hand experience and was the one who has envisioned, initiated this project and was part of the processes.
The processes and the innovation – the ‘Community Insurance ' itself won the writer an international recognition from SDC/IC – Inter cooperation in the year 2004. This scheme eliminated the need for the conventional insurance cover offered by the Insurance Companies. The idea of ‘community insurance’ has evolved as an alternative to address the inherent problems of conventional insurance faced by the marginal/ small farmers.
The scheme is to be managed locally and by the beneficiary SHG, (self Help Group) and is designed to be supported by the NGO in the initial stages, eventually to be purely community managed/ operated activity for empowerment and local self reliance.
This project was one of the SDC/IC NGO Programme initiatives for livelihoods that has got successfully implemented in Kerala. The project conceptualized in the year 2003 was named MGBIP (Malabari goat breed – improvement programme). « Malabari » is a native goat breed found in the Northern regions of Kerala.
The process of concept development was essentially a participatory one that involved dialogue at various levels ; meetings and workshops, with farmers, NGO groups and technical experts led by the Programme coordinator, Mr. K. S. Sebastian.
The primary objectives of the MGBIP
1. Enhance the quality of the local goat stock by selective breeding of ‘Malabari’ breed and its derivatives & mainly by adopting better management practices through a participatory process.
2. The MGBIP primarily as an alternate income generation activity in homestead farming system in Kerala for the economically backward women farmers ; aims to improve their income level. And these women who, chiefly dependent on very small - holdings and ruminants for their livelihood.
3. Improve nutritional status of the poor families, through goat milk consumption. Goat milk has very many benefits as a nutritional substitute for the poor and is especially very good for children and the aged persons since goat milk is easy to digest, is a wholesome diet and has medicinal value.
Community insurance as an innovation for local self reliance
Emergence of the community insurance - the processes :
Considering the vulnerability of goats that often succumb to injuries, accidents and disease and thereby loss for the farmers. Insurance for the animals against death is obligatory on the farmers participating in the MGBIP. High insurance premiums and the complex formalities followed by the formal insurance companies for insuring the animals have proved these companies unpopular with the farmers. Further the veterinary support available in rural areas continue to be very poor ; thus the process and the related expenses involved in obtaining fitness certificate or postmortem report from a veterinary doctor in rural areas is often time consuming and expensive. As a result farmers do not realizing adequate compensation for the losses they suffer due to the death of their animal, on the contrary, in worst cases they incur additional expenses in the process.
At the backdrop of this scenario : at one of the MGBIP quarterly review workshops of the network the in the year 2003 ; the facilitator Mr. K. S. Sebastian, discussed the idea of a ‘community insurance’ to mitigate the problems faced by the farmers and as an alternative to the regular company insurance. The idea was well taken by the group of farmer representatives and the NGO staff. But the scheme did not take off then, since there was a feeling that it involves lot of risks for the farmers as a group taking responsibility of managing an insurance scheme. On the other hand farmers continued to be unhappy with the ‘regular’ company scheme.
Informal discussions/dialogue and consultations on the possibility of evolving an alternative - community managed insurance in MGBIP continued at regular farmer interactions and meetings in various NGO locations. The end result of these interactions over several months resulted in a workshop involving the farmer representatives from 40 groups and 10 NGO staff coming together in October 2003. During this meeting the idea of community insurance was elaborated and several suggestions from the farmers incorporated for practical field application.
The final result being the acceptance and adoption of the community insurance with all the operational detais in the year 2004 to tideover the problems of small farmers in the project context of MGBIP.