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Traditional cuisine – The last link in enhancing the value chain

Nahari is an initiative connoting tribal women led traditional indigenous food sales corner set up successfully by BAIF in villages of South Gujarat. The concept of community owned and operated Nahari is an effort to promote tribal cuisine among tourist and urban community of South Gujarat and generate alternate innovative source of livelihood for tribal women.

Naharis have helped in popularizing traditional cuisine

Naharis are stalls set up by group of tribalwomen to sell delectable ethnic preparations of finger millet, lentil and traditional chilies and wild tubers and also seasonal forest foods, which are cooked in a traditional manner by the same group of women. The first Nahari was set up in village Ganpur, near Valsad, in the year 2006. The concept got originated when BAIF’s local team members were conducting study under the theme of eco health. Various activities and events were planned as a part of this study to assess the wildfood resources that are available and that are consumed by local communities.

A few enterprising women groups such as “Jai Ambe Mahila Mandal” and “Bajrangbali Mahila Mandal” took the bold initiative of jointly setting up a stall for selling ethnic cuisine. The strategy worked. Their surprise knew no bounds when they realized that their maiden venture had fetched them a net profit of Rs. 12,000. Encouraged by this success, the groups started supplying traditional home made food for various events.

The year 2006 saw these women setting up first Nahari outlet in village Ganpur for serving  authentic tribal thali to visitors. Traditionally, tribal thali comprises of ragi chapatis (called Nangli Rotla), urad dal and one local seasonal vegetable. Nahari women decided to serve these items along with 1-2 additional food items prepared from local produce.

The Nahari interiors have been designed deliberately with tribal decor to create a suitable ambience. Its quaint interiors nestled against an archetypal village backdrop makes it a perfect setting of modern and traditional harmony while amply demonstrating the culinary skills of these women.

Ganpur Nahari is run by a SHG of 17 women. This Nahari does an average daily business of over Rs. 1000 and has reached a self-sustaining level. Today, they get wages of Rs 50 per person per day of work apart from the profits which add up to their combined savings. They have made 3 sub-groups of 6-6-5 people whose duty alternates, so that one person will have to work only 10 days a month. Everybody has a different responsibility like cooking, serving, cleaning etc. They are divided into sub-groups to ensure that each group can complete all the activities needed to run the food corner. Apart from serving ready to eat fresh food, these women today have also started a sales outlet to market the products of Vasundhara Cooperative, with an investment of Rs. 5000 from the income earned from managing this food corner. Nahari today is doing brisk business, as is evident from the jingling of the cash register. Patronised by the villagers of Ganpur, residents of neighbouring villages as well as weary travellers who love to savour the variety of tribal delights, it has indeed become a prominent landmark of Ganpur village and a popular destination as well.

The entire activity involved lot of painstaking effort in the form of building internal capacity for management of enterprise, building confidence, providing required trainings and skills to groups of these tribal women and shaping Nahari as a viable business enterprise. BAIF also assisted them wherever possible with loans and one time infrastructural assistance.

Taking a cue from this, 7-8 such Naharis have been setup at locations adjacent to highways in South Gujarat. Further replication of this approach was undertaken in the year 2008, through BAIF’s Thematic Center for “Developing options for innovative livelihoods for rural and tribal communities through provision of hospitality services in rural areas’’. The concept stands well received by both tourists as well as local population. These are seen as a tool for empowerment of tribal women, while ensuring that the traditions and habits of the tribals are not lost on the path to income generation.

Emerging as a model

The Naharis are emerging as a model of women-led group enterprise in tribal setting which typically faces

problems in the form of most under developed regions characterized by vast untapped resources on one hand and under developed communities living at subsistence level and struggling to make a living, on the other. The regions are backward and are predominantly inhabited by tribal population, such as Kukana, Koli, Warli, Kotwalia, Kolcha, Nayaka. Tribal communities in this part are engaged in continuous struggle for existence and livelihood options are very limited to them.

Apart from creation of self-employment for tribal women near their residence, the Naharis have also helped in popularizing the traditional food based dishes amongst both tribal and non-tribal population in the region. Visitors have become aware about nutritional and tasty dishes of tribal communities and they cherish this experience.

The success of Naharis is also seen as recognition and reward to local communities for conserving and being able to revive their traditional food based knowledge and skills.Demand creation for local wild food resources is also expected to result into resource conservation actions. The initiative has helped in creating required financial incentive and providing opportunity for gainful employment for tribal women in their own villages without getting displaced. In rural areas the problem is that of underemployment rather than unemployment. Under employment is much serious as it means that these rural women are available only during part of the day when they do not have household chores. This work flexibility has proven most useful to tribal women who otherwise did not have many options of work in their own setting.

There is no looking back for these emboldened women who have graduated from being ordinary housewives to successful entrepreneurs capable of giving other eateries a run for their money.

BAIF Bhawan,
Dr.Manibhai Desai Nagar,
Warje, Pune, Maharashtra- 411058
E-mail: baif@baif.org.in

This article was originally published as an article “Promoting tribal cuisine among urban communities” in
SFAC, 2014, Krishi Sutra 2 – Success stories of Farmer Producer Organisations.