Testing innovative women’s collective enterprise models

3ie’s Swashakt program is funding nine projects to enhance viability, scalability and returns of collective enterprises and generate evidence to promote women’s economic empowerment. The four-year-long pilot projects (below) span agro-processing, non-timber forest produce and rural retail sectors. Other Swashakt projects are testing new enterprise support models or scaling up existing enterprise support models.

Swashakt is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and LEAD at Krea University is our grant management partner.

Testing innovative collective enterprise models in farm, non-farm and services sectors

Collectively run agro-processing enterprises in India’s Eastern Gangetic Plains

Implementing partners: Sakhi, Bihar and Centre for Development of Human Initiatives (CDHI), West Bengal
Sector: Agro-processing
State: West Bengal and Bihar

The project has set up two types of women-led and collectively-owned agro-processing enterprises. The first is bio-inputs processing group enterprises in Cooch Behar, West Bengal, that offer a potential source of income to farmer collectives producing vermicompost and azolla, among other organic farm inputs and pesticides. The second type — a makhana or prickly water lily seeds processing group enterprises in Madhubani, Bihar — leverages a niche high-value traditional crop that grows in ponds in the villages where existing farmer collectives are functioning. The project is firmly anchored in existing farmers’ collective associations.

Photo essay | Reviving makhana processing in Mithila

Strengthening women farmer producer organizations in tribal communities of Gujarat

Implementing partners: Area Networking and Development Initiatives (ANANDI) and Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad (GIDR) (evaluation)
Sector: Non-Timber Forest Produce
State: Gujarat

This pilot project has set up a cooperative women’s enterprise, RASKUM Mahila Producers Company, to produce and market organic products using non-timber forest produce from 50 forested villages in Dahod and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat. The project is building capacities of small and marginal women farmers’ and organic producers’ collectives. The aim is to improve and diversify production and streamline the quality-control procedures while providing knowledge, training, tool banks, common processing, storage and packaging for organic produce. Through these technical inputs and by helping the women’s collectives expand their reach to wholesale and retail markets, the project seeks to help the enterprise realize better prices. This project will leverage ANANDI’s existing experience with the Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission (MRSRLM) to strengthen collectives.

Enhancing the potential of women’s rural retail shops in Bihar

Implementing partner: Institute of Livelihood Research and Training (ILRT)
Other partner: Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS)
Sector: Non-farm
State: Bihar

According to a microenterprise survey (JEEViKA, 2017), kirana or small local grocery shops and retail shops that sell medicines, apparel and other goods made up more than a third of all women’s economic enterprises in rural Bihar. To support and enhance the earning potential of kirana shops owned and operated by women’s collectives, JEEViKA developed the Rural Retail Shops program. This program is supporting block-level nodal grameen bazaars or rural retail shops, which can make bulk purchases, sell products and supply to village kirana shops. In this pilot project, 3ie is funding the implementation and formative evaluation of technical support to nine grameen bazaars to serve 360 kirana shops across three districts of Bihar.

Building a toolbox to power rural women’s collective enterprises in Jharkhand

Implementing partner: Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support (NEEDS) (implementation) and 3ie, IFMR (evaluation)
Other partner: Jharkhand State Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (JSLPS)
Sector: Non-farm
State: Jharkhand

This pilot is supporting three women’s economic collectives engaged in the bamboo value chain in Deoghar district of Jharkhand. The project seeks to leverage self-help groups (SHGs) promoted by the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (Aajeevika) to pilot and generate evidence for a comprehensive toolbox to support women’s collective enterprises. The toolbox will include components to:

  • improve the business processes of the women’s collectives through organization development;
  • incubate and accelerate enterprise development through mentorship and coaching;
  • establish multi-actor partnerships; and
  • promote digitization and ease of collectivization