For economic empowerment

The efforts of Initiatives for Development Foundation, which has been working towards the financial inclusion of rural communities in the State

Kasuti artisans engaged in work.

It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you use that makes a difference,” said Zig Ziglar, an American author and motivational speaker once. This perhaps what succinctly describes the work that the Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation Initiatives for Development Foundation (IDF), founded by former bankers in 2001, does across the State.

Through its work, IDF enables people at the grass-roots level to see their full potential and become empowered. “As we were from a banking background, we believed that if we empower people economically, all-round development can happen eventually,” says Vivekanand N Salimath, managing trustee of the organisation. Hence, they decided to empower the underprivileged through entrepreneurship. IDF aimed to do this through holistic approaches involving social mobilisation, financial inclusion of the excluded sections and through the promotion of prudent financial practices and sustainable livelihoods.

Fostering entrepreneurship

IDF began their operations by collaborating with the Department of Women and Child Development to run a counselling centre. Here, members of IDF identified and counselled women to take up entrepreneurial activities and supported those whose startups were struggling. The success they experienced in promoting entrepreneurship through this project emboldened them to continue ahead.

This soon expanded into working with self-help groups in conjunction with a few other civil society organisations. Focusing on individual and group entrepreneurship, they enabled the self-help groups to expand their reach and livelihood opportunities. As many of them were engaged in artistic work, their skills were honed through a series of training. The groups, which are based out of Chitradurga and Dharwad, make handcrafted products using natural fibres like banana fibre. Alongside this, they helped generate employment by partnering with corporate clients, volunteers and institutions, and helping them showcase their work in 
exhibitions and craft fairs.

One such self-help group they work with is that of kasuti artisans. Initiated in 2010 with support from Hubballi-based Deshpande Foundation, it has grown by leaps and bounds. Branded as ‘Kai Krafts’, it has enabled the artisans to upscale production of kasuti products and improves their earning potential. By linking artisans with markets, Kai Krafts ensures that the artisans are paid fair wages for their work. “I have been associated with IDF for over 10 years. Our group has benefited immensely from the support they have given us. We have not only been able to update our skill set but also expand our reach and make a reasonable profit,” shares Nanda, an artisan.

They also work with small and marginal farmers by helping them supplement their income. “We worked with the government to create a programme that can build the capacity of rural people and create banking systems to enable entrepreneurship,” shares Vivekanand. “This included setting up a microfinance initiative that can help farmers access loans and other banking facilities more easily as many of them do not own lands in their name.”

What’s more, with a little help from IDF, farmers were also given a ‘kisan credit card’ that helped them get necessary banking services. Additionally, to ensure that banking services can be accessed in remote locations, a few residents were trained to become ‘business correspondent agents’. They enable a bank to offer banking services at low cost. This provided the financially excluded sections with an opportunity to develop their capacities in improving their livelihoods.

To ensure farmers get the support they need, IDF has facilitated the formation of various farmer producer companies, with farmers as the primary stakeholders. While eight are up and running, 20 more are being set up. “Their main function is to help farmers get a good rate at the market for their produce and help in procuring good quality farming tools,” shares TV Srikantha Shenoy, executive trustee of the organisation.

Better communication

One of the distinct ways that they reach out to farmers is by using technology. “We use it to showcase the benefits of using a particular method of farming or an innovative machine that can help make managing their farms better,” says Vivekanand. They often ask farmers who have implemented these techniques to share their experience during these sessions.

Through their work across the State, IDF aims to build the capacities of the economically poor through financial inclusion and literacy and ensure that they have a sustained year-on-year growth. Most of their projects have been implemented in Belagavi, Dharwad, Gadag, Haveri, Davanagere, Chitradurga, Tumakuru and Bengaluru. To know more, visit www.idfdevelopment.org.

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