Helping Bridge The Inequality Gap Through Micro-Loans In Orissa

Rang De has been associated with the people of Orissa since 2010. Sulochana Paride is one of many Oriya women who have benefited from this association.

In 2014/15, Orissa’s Gross Domestic Product grew at 8.78% while the average per capita annual income was Rs 54,241 in the previous year (Press Information Bureau).

A state in sore need of micro-credit, we have been working in the region since 2010. Six years in and 9,179 loans later, we found that the average annual income per head at the bottom of the pyramid in Orissa is around Rs 28,710, about 47 percent lower than the official average — these are the people who get Rang De loans.

While the state appears to be booming on the surface, clearly a vast inequality exists between the haves and the have-nots.

We feel that an effective way of reducing this divide can be the provision of affordable micro-loans to rural and often first-time entrepreneurs.

Alternative livelihoods like construction provide men in Orissa an opportunity to earn when farming takes a backseat. Many of them are also returnee migrants who come back after a decade away from home

Orissa’s economy is largely agricultural and the composition of our loans is a reflection of this. The highest number of loans has been disbursed towards vegetable cultivation (over 2,000) followed by dairy farming (1,5000+).

One of the top rice producing states in India, a significant number of loans have also been disbursed towards paddy cultivation, paddy processing and retail trade of rice and puffed rice.

As the income registered by small farmland owners is typically low, credit has also been extended for alternative livelihood options such as grocery stores, tailoring shops and saree businesses.

We first partnered with Nari and Sishu Kalyan Samittee (NSKS) in Orissa. Working for organising and capacity building of disadvantaged communities in Balasore district, we have helped raise Rs 1.81 crore worth of crowdsourced credit.

Social Action for Rural Community (SARC) partnered with Rang De in March 2012. A community-based non-profit, SARC work for the socio-economic upliftment of disadvantaged tribal and rural communities.

Sonu Nag — a four time Rang De borrower who has built a living and a reputation by selling sarees to women in Malipali, Orissa

Sonu Nag availed one of 1,600+ loans that were disbursed to women associated with SARC.

Sourcing sarees from Kolkata, she retailed her wares to earn an income and support her three children over the last eight years.

As Orissa grew, so did her own district. She now purchases sarees from Sambalpur cutting down on cost. She has garnered a good number of customers and earns an average monthly profit of Rs 5,000. Availing four Rang De loans, she is now close to achieving self sustenance.

Darbar Sahitya Sansad (DSS) is another non-governmental organisation that has sought to use our platform to crowdsource micro-loans. Since February 2011, over 2,300 loans have been disbursed via DSS, which started as a literary platform and which has now evolved into a society focusing on livelihoods of people in the coastal region of Orissa.

22-year-old Sarbeswar’s parents had little means to support his education as floods frequently damaged their paddy harvest and the income that was to come with it.

He availed a loan of Rs 10,000 from Rang De to purchase materials so that he can participate in construction work. He hopes that over time, he will be able to serve the growing demand for pucca houses in Khurda district. At an age when most people spend their time in class, Sarbeswar is busy making ends meet for his family, and with pride.

‘’I am proud that I am able to contribute towards my family income by working from 10 am to 5 pm,’’ he told us earlier in 2016.

DSS supports a wide range of livelihood activities that are best suited to the borrower’s skills and economic viability. It also focuses on regional heritage and art.

Black Dhokra art native to Barakhama village, where DSS has a presence. In order to revive this dying art form, it is undertaking a craft based livelihood project under which artisans will be provided training, design improvement and market linkages so that artisans see value in practicing the craft. We are currently raising a working capital loan of Rs 5 lakhs for this project.

It is these cases of success that corroborates our belief in reaching out to the poorest of the poor. While the importance of policies based on macro economic data is undeniable, they only scratch the surface of extreme poverty.

Working with organisations at the grass root level has enabled us to better target our efforts towards poverty alleviation in 17 states, with Orissa having one of the largest share of our operations.

Over 200 small entrepreneurs from Orissa seek assistance to create new or strengthen existing livelihoods as a way out of poverty. As a Rang De social investor, you too can make a valuable social investment here.

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