Udhampur women script inspiring success story as ‘agri-preneurs’

PTI, Jan 29, 2022, 11:15 AM IST

Image: Twitter/Udhampur District Administration

Udhampur: The Green Himalaya Self-Help Group has emerged as a brand in Bashat village of Udhampur district with the rising popularity of its ‘value-added products’ prepared from fruits and vegetables. Sushma Rani, the leader of the initiative, is credited as the person behind the success of this group of women farmers, or ‘Agri-preneurs’. Earlier, besides shouldering farm responsibilities, she used to prepare processed products only for domestic consumption, officials of the horticulture department said.

Inspired by the vast market potential of value-added products, she became interested in it and grew to establish herself as a successful agripreneur.

Her family owns marginal land where they cultivate seasonal vegetables, fruits, and staple crops.

Rani’s journey as agripreneur started after attending a training programme for women self-help groups in the art of fruit and vegetable preservation conducted by the department of horticulture.

During the training, they were told about technologies available to enhance the shelf life of locally available fruits and vegetables for better nutrition and health benefits, officials said.

With the launch of the Central Sponsored Scheme Mission -Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), the department identified a group of six interested women drawn from different self-help groups in Bashat village and provided financial and technical support to establish a low-cost preservation unit.

The unit was established with a total investment of Rs 3 lakh, with one lakh provided as subsidy on machinery and equipment like Pulper, Fruit Mill, Dehydrator, Hydraulic Juice Press, etc, they said.

In 2021-22, the department provided the group assistance of Rs 2 lakh for setting up a packhouse for handling fruits and vegetables. The group members were also imparted advanced training by CIPHET Ludhiana in which they learned new aspects and hands-on training skills especially in product development and packaging, they said.

The unit became operational in year in 2019 with certification from FSSAI and is presently engaged in processing and marketing of products like apple and apricot jams, pickle of knoll-kholl, lime, dhew, jimikand, aonla, candies of aonla and ginger, among many others, they added.

The group also learned the art of dehydration and started preparing dried fruits and vegetable products using solar power.

These value-added products are available under the brand name Green Himalayan Products.

During 2019-20, the production was limited to only five quintals with total sales at Rs 1.50 lakh with a profit of Rs 70,000. The production capacity reached 12-15 quintals in 2021-22 and touched Rs 2 lakh in sales and Rs 1 lakh in profit, they said.

The group is progressing leaps and bounds under the supervision of Chief Horticulture Officer Udhampur Salil Gupta and technical guidance of Manager-cum-Chemist Udhampur K S Sodhi.

Besides running their own enterprise, Sushma Rani’s Green Himalaya is providing direct employment to five other women and many unemployed youths as helpers, service providers, and middlemen, they said.

She and others from Green Himalaya Group are now master trainers for various institutions like NYK for training programmes in the district. The group has been recognized for its achievements at various Kissan Samelans and Fruit Shows.

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