Tata Steel OMQ Division provides entrepreneurship opportunities in Mushroom Cultivation to rural women

Joda: Women empowerment through promotion of alternate livelihood opportunities has been the hallmark of Tata Steel’s CSR sustainable livelihood initiatives. With an objective to provide entrepreneurship opportunities to the women in villages, Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS), the CSR wing of Tata Steel has started providing training and required facilitation for Mushroom Cultivation in its mining areas of OMQ (Ore, Mines and Quarries) Division.
The ever demanding market with sound profit margin of Mushroom inculcated interest within the women Self Help Groups (SHGs) from Joda, Khondbond, Malda and Bichakundi area for Mushroom Cultivation. Although curiosity was always there, but lack of guidance and handholding support was a major obstacle in the path of their dreams. With the active support of TSRDS, a total of 174 women of 16 SHGs in these rural areas came forward and took up this venture earnestly. TSRDS also ensured all related infrastructure like shed and water tank, training and skill up-gradation for Mushroom Cultivation. Skilled resource persons from Vision Trust, a reputed NGO having expertise in livelihood promotion, gave them all necessary training during the month of October 2016. TSRDS provided 75% of total financial requirement for the venture and SHGs themselves invested balance 25% requirement in the form of spawn, paddy straw and polythene.
In the first season of Oyster Mushroom Cultivation in 2016-17, starting October 2016, all the 16 SHGs reported a handsome profit of more than Rs 1 lakh and it is still continuing. A leading SHG in this front namely Maa Samaleswari SHG of Biachakundi could generate a sound profit of more than Rs 30,000/- from 287 beds of Oyster Mushroom Cultivation .Their initial investment in this enterprise was only Rs 7000/-. “The result was overwhelming for us although the market rate slipped down from Rs 160 per kilogram to Rs 120 during this season and we are expecting more profit within next fortnight as the production is still continuing,” said Ms Chandini Sandil, Secretary, Maa Samaleswari SHG. They are now geared up for next season of Paddy Straw Mushroom. Ms Gauri Karua, President, Maa Samaleswari SHG said: “We had seen loss in the year 2014 and 2015, but this year the output was remarkable for us.” She thanked Tata Steel for the right support and technical knowhow provided to them. She shared how their visible success has also motivated other women in the village for Mushroom Cultivation. Most importantly the male members of the family are also supporting them psychological and physically.
Earlier some of these women were home makers and some were wage labourers and they were struggling hard to meet their lives. But through this intervention, they are now able to extend supporting hand to their family. This is the scenario in case of other SHGs who are also getting similar results due to the Mushroom Cultivation.
Looking at the demand and profit, these women are overwhelmed and have shown further interest for Paddy Straw Mushroom Cultivation in summer and rainy season. To make the business sustainable, the company is gradually phasing out from the project in each season of cultivation so that they can continue the process even without the support of Tata Steel. This has brought a phenomenal satisfaction and smile in the faces of rural women in these areas.