Livelihood generation in rural Assam

Arecanut leaf plate manufacturing project aims to generate livelihood in rural Assam through setting up of micro enterprises producing high-quality disposable plates from usually discarded arecanut sheaths.


Arecanut leaf plate manufacturing project is a livelihood generation initiative undertaken by a national level non-governmental organisation, Dhriiti, to promote self employment among the rural youth of the North Eastern state of Assam. On realizing the potential of establishing a manufacturing company of disposable plates and bowls made form arecanut leafs abundant in north east, Dhriiti set up its first production unit in the Borpeta district of Assam.

Compiling the results of its extensive research and the learning from the pilot project, the arecanut leaf plate manufacturing project came up with an easily replicable production design. Keeping in mind the weather condition and existing shortcomings of this specific region an LPG based low cost machine, with changeable dies (iron plates designed to shape the arecanut sheaths) of different sizes was designed by Dhriiti with the help of Sandhya Engineering Concern in Howrah. Apart from the machines, the micro industry has requirements of store rooms for raw materials and the finished products, water tanks to clean the sheaths and a dryer to dry the cleaned sheaths. Thus, the initial investment cost of one micro industry comprising two machines, store rooms and a dryer is 2. 25 lakh. One such industry has the capacity to produce 15, 000 plates per month while generating 3 direct employment and 10 indirect employment options.

The major achievement of the project lies in its ability to develop entrepreneurial spirit among the rural youth, by providing them a dignified livelihood generation activity. As unemployment has been identified as a major cause of social unrest in the region,productive income generating venture such as the arecanut project is expected to divert the energy of the frustrated unemployed youth in a right direction. This project also has immense potential to provide a subsidiary occupation along with farming, which is the most crucial and yet underdeveloped aspect of the state’s economy. Setting up of the Tamul Plates Marketing Private Limited Company, by Dhriiti jointly with the rural producers, as a marketing support wing of the project in 2008 is another highlight of the project. As observed in most of the north eastern states, marketing and advertising is the most crucial aspects in which a small and micro industry fail to focus on. However, on realising the importance of creating an accessible, fair, competitive and sustainable market for its product, the project decided to have a wing exclusively focusing on the marketing function. Growing environment concerns has largely made this bio degradable product a desirable one in the national and international market.

However, like in all the small and micro enterprises, the arecanut leaf plate manufacturing project is also encountering few challenges in its operations. Some major issues faced by the initiative are financial crisis, mainly with regard to shortage of working capital, shortage of LPG to run the machines, and lack of community will to adopt it as a prime mode of occupation.

This case study was published in December 2011.

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