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Tribal women-owned food processing unit launched in Utnoor, Telangana

Mr Allola Indrakaran Reddy, Minister for Endowment, Law, Forest and Environment, Telangana, inaugurated a tribal women-run food processing unit in Utnoor on 2 November. The Komaram Bheem Peanut Chikki Industries that the minister opened is wholly owned by first generation tribal entrepreneurs. The unit will supply to government nutrition programs and anganwadis in the tribal region.

This food processing unit is part of a successful collaboration between the Tribal Cooperative Finance Corporation Limited (TRICOR), Tribal Welfare Department of Telangana State, Government of India’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs and ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP). This collaboration aims to localize production and address malnutrition, besides improving economic conditions of tribal communities.

“I am delighted to inaugurate the Komaram Bheem Peanut Chikki Industries in Utnoor today. This unit is a testament to Telangana government’s commitment to development and welfare of tribal populations in the state. That the unit is owned and run by women is another reason for celebration,” the minister said.

Mr. Indrakaran Reddy and Ms. Ajmera Rekha inaugurate the unit.

The food processing unit is designed and equipped with machinery as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines. It will ensure production of nutritious food products meeting national and international market standards. ICRISAT has trained 80 tribal women farmers from Utnoor, Eturnagaram and Bhadrachalam in Telangana to manage food processing units that are being set up in these blocks.

The training covered food safety management systems, machine operations and maintenance, and quality control. The women will produce hygienically packed, safe and nutritious foods for their communities. ICRISAT has enabled the women to form Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) to manage the food processing units.

“This is a great example of the values that form the basis of ICRISAT’s work – empowering women and the less privileged. Such success is only possible through partnership, and working with the Department of Tribal Welfare has been a wonderful opportunity and their leadership is greatly appreciated,” said Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

This project brings together key aspects of ICRISAT’s mandate: nutrition, food safety, sustainable small businesses and gender equity. The project has leveraged locally available dryland crops to create healthy value-added Smart Food products that promote dietary diversity and in the long run address malnutrition in vulnerable communities.

“ICRISAT will continue to support the project towards sustainably scaling up this unique initiative to promote economic independence of tribal women and ensuring the nutritional security of their communities,” said Dr Kiran K Sharma, Deputy Director General-Research, ICRISAT.

The project trains tribal women to be “Nutrition Entrepreneurs” and is critical to ensure evolution of local value chains around local food production and consumption to make vulnerable tribal communities sustainable, especially post COVID-19. Going forward, this initiative will empower tribal communities by establishing more units and build their capacity to run the units in a sustainable manner, contributing towards not only health and nutrition, but sustainable livelihoods as well.

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