|Livelihood Programs of AT India|
578 far-flung villages bounded by the mighty Himalayas, typify the poverty and hardship that characterizes most mountain villages of India. But a closer look reveals a heartening phenomenon. These remote villages have been integrated into a unique community owned enterprise, creating alternatives to a subsistence economy, where there were none. The result being- villagers producing premium finished products like tasar silk and organic honey for distant high-end markets; them hosting urban tourists in their quaint village homes; highland villages fully commercializing dairy operations. All this in tandem with protecting their biodiversity.
AT India initiated its livelihood diversification programme 14 years ago in 1994. It commenced operations in the sericulture and bee-keeping sub-sectors by adding economic value to the available oak leaves, diverse nectar and pollen rich herbs and shrubs, in the project area. Currently, AT India has 6 livelihood sub-sectors under its ambit (viz. sericulture; bee-keeping; dairy development, organic spices cultivation, eco-tourism, and dwarf bamboo) with approximately 10579 beneficiaries. AT India's approach to livelihood development is not merely to provide local communities with income generating opportunities but also to enable them to consistently increase their incomes.
Each of AT India's livelihood programs was conceived with a conservation dimension to ensure synergy between their economic and ecological principles. By building the villagers' economic stake in their surrounding forests and natural resources, AT India has revolutionized community perspectives on the use of these resources. Although, the project has not reached the stage where measurable impacts through reduced levels of extraction can be claimed yet the substantial regeneration work being undertaken with the help of the local communities is an indicator of their shift in perception. A far sighted approach towards natural resources is further evident through the large number of saplings being planted on private lands under AT India's nurseries and plantation programme.
Value Chain and Business Development Service (BDS) Model
To attain economic security under its various livelihoods activities, AT India adopted a Value Chain and Business Development Services (BDS) approach. This strategy is being implemented in a number of economic sub sectors including the sericulture value chain of oak tasar and eri silk; beekeeping and honey processing, Varieties of organic spices, dairy development, dwarf bamboo, eco-tourism and other organic commodities. The BDS model involves the following:
. Organization of the community into entrepreneurial groups, to capture and generate economies of scale;
. Training of entrepreneurs to act as commercial technology transferors at the community level thereby providing incentive for input services to enhance the production and productivity;
. Creating provision for establishing stand alone output services for collection, distribution and marketing services; and
. Linking producer groups with financial services.
This strategy has multiple long term implications as AT India in the long-run wants to graduate from the organizational aspects of production, processing and distribution and focus only on upgrading technology and establishing market linkages.
For the year 2014, AT India has worked with the following numbers of beneficiaries in the said sectors:
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