A DNA India report recently warned that mass migration from rural to urban India would put immense pressure on urban infrastructure, leading to riots, price wars and other bad stuff. However all is not lost. Social ventures such as Himjoli are attempting to prevent that from happening.
‘Friends in the Land of Ice’
Himjoli was founded in 2009. They are a profitable social enterprise working with rural producers from the Kumaon region in the Indian Himalayas.
Their mission: To create profitable, sustainable jobs in villages and reduce migration to cities.
The rural communities of Kumaon traditionally produced enough for local consumption. Excess produce was sold in the local markets, where margins are small. Alternate sources of income have been tourism, usually providing seasonal earnings.
Rising prices for essential commodities led to large scale migrations from villages in to cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, in the hope of finding work to make better wages and to support the families back home. The exodus naturally results in reduced development of local populations, and no improvement in living standards.
Fair Trade Products
Himjoli realized that Fair Trade, not Aid is the only way to provide the villagers with an alternative to migrating to cities. In cooperation with 5 local NGO’s, Himjoli identified products that are in demand and can be produced locally, such as walnut chocolates, jams, soap, herbal tea’s, scarves and bamboo furniture.
Himjoli put together a marketing team to promote their products at shops in Indian cities and online via Facebook Marketplace. Distances from production centers in the Himalayas, to the end consumers in cities are large. Therefore, transport and distribution costs need to be tightly controlled. Himjoli retains a small sales organization with low overhead costs. These measures ensure that production and distribution costs are low.
Goods are packaged to be attractive to urban consumers and sold in cities where margins are higher. (See Facebook page)
The larger share of the profits goes back to the communities. Thousands of rural farmers and artisans are involved and consequently being benefitted.
Today, the products created in Kumaon are available direct to the end consumers. Operations have expanded to include tourist shops in Kumaon and Garhwal and distributors in Delhi and Bangalore.
The first year of operations resulted in gross sales of over Rs. 3 million (or US$ 67,500)
Himjoli plan to increase their product range, as well as expand into tourism and the mountain sports sector. They are keen to provide skills training to rural youth in carpentry, restoration work and hospitality management.