LIVELIHOOD

Conventional definitions of enterprise and livelihood sectors tend to demarcate farm and off-farm opportunities. But people's enterprises are not defined only in spatial terms but also socio-cultural and environmental ones. Farm-based occupations still contribute the major aspect of production economics in rural India, more particularly in the largest and most populated states like Uttar Pradesh.

In the context of rural UP, it is critical that new ways and means of strengthening the livelihood of the poor communities are found. Our experience has demonstrated that the community groups show strong impetus to engage in conservation-linked production, internalize environmental issues and are best prepared to develop innovative, conservation-linked micro-enterprises.

Since the majority of our rural households are dependant on agriculture, and growing agricultural crops involves very costly inputs, new conservation-linked livelihood based on land management are indispensable.ASHA Education And Welfare Society has developed a comprehensive action-model called Gender Sensitivity approach to Entrepreneurship Linked Income Generation for Self-Enterprising Person.

It builds incumbent and aspiring leaders from the communities that are already involved in micro enterprise or at the stage of launching one. It identifies and builds on their entrepreneurial skills, problem solving creativity and risk taking behaviour patterns. The direct link of this sector to environment conservation, stabilization within the economics of the villages or habitation, cultural expression with respect to equity and self-worth, role of local institutions, media and government and above all the value to traditional indigenous knowledge attached to such farm driven livelihood are enormously felt to be indispensable in the states like Uttar Pradesh.

Depending upon our grassroots experiences and experiments with large numbers of Self Help Groups, we very firmly experience that generating market-led livelihood and micro-enterprises with a Strong Service Driven Approach, capacity building and skill upgradation, promoting entrepreneurship development, continuing the progressive enhancement of income, ownership, bargaining power and quality of life etc. are some of the essentials that are needed to be integrated into a definite strategy to make SHG's women and farmer partners in the mainstream, and not beneficiaries.

Micro-credit without a very focused and plan driven long term organizational commitment and back up support on livelihood and micro-enterprises can never help the members to become the mainstream partners. Hence, the practice of SHGs shall still keep their members within marginalized and deprived status of development unless the focused and market-led livelihood and micro-enterprises are integrated into it for the betterment of their quality of life.

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