Rautela, 40, with the help of her husband, rallied 162 villagers, mostly women, from Jhala in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district, and formed a farmer-producer organisation (FPO) – Upla Taknor Krishak Utpadak Sanghatan — in May last year. The organisation produces apple chutney and jam. It was in March this year that Rautela sent the chutney to Modi. Two months later in May, the head of the frontier village, Harish Rana, received a letter from the PMO in which Rautela’s pickle and her efforts were appreciated by the PM. That set the ball rolling.
Rautela, like most marginal apple growers in Jhala, was barely managing to make ends meet till even about a year ago. However, with institutional support from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) as well as the hard work of fellow villagers, she became a catalyst of change for a number of apple growers there.
Talking about the idea behind the FPO, her husband Bharat Rautela, 42, said, “It was painful for marginal apple growers like us that our produce was wasted to a large extent — due to various reasons including early fall, low prices and non-availability of transport. It was then that we came to know about a government scheme wherein villagers can form a group and get assistance under UNDP to start a food processing unit in their village.”
He added: “The machinery was provided free of cost by UNDP and during the first season, we sold jams and chutneys worth Rs 15 lakh. Since this was the first year, the fixed expenses were high, but we still managed to make a net profit of Rs 1.2 lakh. This season, we are expecting to cross Rs 30 lakh worth of produce, with a target of achieving net profit of Rs 7 to 8 lakh.”