Food and inclusive economic growth
Since 2012, the National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) has implemented village adoption programmes (VAP) to educate students on the various problems that farmers face at the grassroots level. The aim of this programme is to help the Indian food processing sector accomplish its objective of inclusive growth by integrating the underprivileged into the mainstream economy.
There are approximately 500 programmes in the institute’s food processing promotional initiatives, including training and expert lectures, awareness camps on food processing and value addition, postharvest management, product development and entrepreneurial development. More than 125 potential entrepreneurs are associated with different teams and have been in the process of finalizing their ventures in the agro-food processing industry. In fact, a few have already initiated work on their ventures. These VAP teams have also identified about 50 prospective entrepreneurs in their respective villages and adjoining areas, who will be given further training to establish ventures in the agro-food processing business. They will be put through a one-week training programme. Those who are selected will be taken in for a one month EDP programme to regional centres followed by three months of industrial training. During VAP 8, approximately 250 such entrepreneurs were trained in selected pilot locations for one week.
VAP teams from the institute are closely working on different micro and medium level projects with selected potential entrepreneurs to guide and share relevant information. These teams have shared customized project reports for initiating and supporting their ventures in the domain of agro-food processing and value addition. Along with their respective mentors, students have taken approximately 150 Product Development Training Programmes to different villages and practically demonstrated how to prepare products like jams, jellies, pickles, fruit-based beverages, banana chips, dried banana flakes and biscuits, among others. They also shared leaflets that outline the process flow charts and estimated expenses.
These VAP teams have worked with various self-help groups in different locations to form backward and forward linkages for their product and process development, besides promoting their products in the market. Such organised efforts have led to the revival of about 115 existing self-help groups and the creation of 28 new ones. Under the “MAKE IN INDIA” programme, almost all existing groups have completed the process of cataloguing traditional recipes of their respective locations. All this information was subsequently documented in the form of a small booklet. There are about 500 such unique recipes. With the aid of scientific intervention, these recipes can be standardised for mass production and sold in the domestic and international market. Out of 500 unique recipes, 12 have been selected for a research programme under the “MAKE IN INDIA” initiative. The programme aims to standardize these recipes on the one hand and develop machinery for their mass production on the other. The main objective here is to project India as the “Food Factory of the World” and capture the global food market in the near future. The food industry is actively involved with NIFTEM in this initiative. Various groups have compiled information on existing food preservation practices and documented them in the form of booklets. Thus far, about 200 such methods have been documented by various teams.
In its bid to achieve inclusive growth, these VAP teams have networked with various district administrations to create tangible infrastructure like roads, access to potable water, drain repair, creation of sanitation facilities through greater awareness about various government schemes and subsidies for constructing pucca toilets in houses, development of school buildings, plantation drives and addressing meal quality concerns in various mid-day meals schemes. Amazingly these efforts have yielded the construction of more than 220 pucca toilets in associated villages, besides 27 vermicomposting units. Approximately 38 initiatives for the renovation of roads, drains, school building, Anganwadi infrastructure and installation of clean drinking water sources have also begun work. More than 450 dedicated programmes that address basic public healthcare issues have also been organised in these adopted villages.
Under its village adoption programme, Team NIFTEM undertook an initiative to open a Gyan Kendra (Village library) in the respective panchayat office or at the village school. So far, approximately 24 such libraries have been created. Since its inception, Team NIFTEM has enriched these libraries by collecting and contributing numerous books on management, subject textbooks, current affairs, general knowledge, homemaking, food processing, agriculture management and good agricultural practices.
In the recently completed VAP 8, the <g data-gr-id="50">Swachh</g> Bharat Abhiyan scheme was taken up rigorously and about 35 dedicated programmes were organised to raise awareness about it, leading to cleanliness drive in schools and their respective villages. These teams also created Core teams in village schools to sustain the campaign. Fortunately, these efforts will be directed towards establishing a primary processing cum pre-schooling centre in the village, which could become the hub for hands-on training for farmers and rural youth in food processing and also provide limited CA storage for their perishable fruits and vegetables, etc. Attempts are being made to develop a Hybrid Energy System (Solar+ Biomass+ Grid Electricity) to run theses primary processing centre.
Set up by the Ministry of Food Processing Industry, Government of India, the National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) works as the apex promotion organisation for various food processing industries.
The author is Vice Chancellor, National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship & Management