By Jane Namchu,21 June:‘Himal’ Self Help Group of Bouchen, East Sikkim has been making their presence felt as it brings lollipops and pedas to the market.
The 15 all-male member group from Bouchen village got together in May 2003 with the initiative of Sikkim Rural Development Agency and they started contributing Rs 30/- per month. The village in a rocky hill side has difficulties growing crops but all the 100 households have cows. This set them thinking as they had ample milk in the area but no place to sell.
Under Swarnajayanti Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY), a centrally sponsored scheme for self help groups, milch cows were provided to the self help group. When they passed their second grading in December 2006, the group which was stuck on its quest, was provided a three month training by SRDA in the village itself to produce milk products. A loan of Rs 2,94,600/- was also provided, helping them to expand their self-employment scheme.
Shri Man Singh Tamang the Head of the Group said with the loan and their own extra investment, the group bought a deep freezer and a small dairy machine to help them to produce lollipops, pedas. The group collects 60 liters of milk everyday from the village and turns it into 200 packets of lollipops, 100 packets of pedas, 750 gms of ghee and ½ kg chrurpi and paneer. The self help group has been able to successfully carry out the activities and was adjudged the best self help group in Jorethang Maghey Mela in January this year.
The nearest market for Himal SHG is Rongli, which is 13 kms, Rhenock about 24 kms. However, they face tough competition from Kalimpong producers who sell similar products and already have their presence in the market. One of their difficulties is getting livestock insurance. Shri M S Tamang says they have to go to Kalimpong in neighbouring West Bengal for insurance of their animals and a veterinary doctor is also required as rearing livestock is the main means of livelihood in the area.
With milk being easily available, the SHG wants to expand its activities but it lacks the facilities to market fresh dairy products. Secretary, Shri Wangdi Bhutia says if a refrigerated truck is provided or loan available, the fresh milk from the village could be provided to nearby towns of Rangpo, Rongli and this could benefit not only them but the village as a whole.