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Kudumbashree’s role in sustainable development

Kudumbashree’s role in sustainable development

Changes in Kerala’s economy due to industrialization have led to a structural transformation, giving it a non-agrarian character, in terms of income and employment. The state is known for its greenery and agricultural productivity lost its name and fame because of various instances that lead the state to make decisions that were not sustainable. Sustainable development brings the notion of boosting economic growth by developing natural resources and ensuring social justice. The current scenario of development demotivates people’s involvement towards agricultural sector. The challenge of rejuvenating Kerala’s agriculture is with the fact that the agriculture and its practices are deeply tied to its developmental history. Kudumbashree, an organization in Kerala that works for women empowerment and poverty eradication. Their aims are to maintain and balance the resources of the state. The organization brought NABARD’s program named JLG (Joint Liability Groups) with the motive of promoting agricultural work by enhancing the economic development to the families. It enables in the collective farming and healthy participation of women, providing all the aids. People’s participation is not a replacement for expertise in development planning. It has to make maximum utilization of governmental and non-governmental schemes and policies without compromising on accountability and responsiveness to the people. Thus this paper explains how the organization helps in maintaining sustainable development in the state of Kerala.

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Keywords: Kudumbashree, JLG (Joint Liability Group), Sustainable development.


Kerala’s population has a vibrant record in discussing and debating the state’s challenges in economic development, there is something that is yet to catch the public imagination. This is the ongoing structural transformation of the state’s economy from an agrarian one, dominated by agriculture in both income and employment, to a non- agrarian one, dominated by non-agricultural activities. When I say “non-agrarian”, I am not only referring to the occupational shift away from agriculture but also the conscious destruction of feudal agrarian relations that came to an end with the Land Reforms Act. (Kannan, 2011, pp. 64-70). The author rightly qotes about how the transition has occurred in the soil of Kerala. The state being known for its beauty and greenery is losing its fame and recognition. While discussing about the statistics it shows that in 2004-05, agriculture and related activities accounted for only 22% of state income and 37% of employment compared to 22% and 57%, respectively for India as a whole. Data for 2008-09 show that in Kerala the share of agriculture and related activities in state income has come down to between 11% and 12% and, that the share of employment could be well below 30%.

The state has out number in population and female literacy rate too. The declining ratio of agriculture is having a bad impact on its people and to its soil. Sustainable development ensures the using natural resources judicially which enables us in saving it for future. The current challenge faced by the state is to overcome such changes that have occurred and to make people to involve in to agricultural sector.

Challenges in the State due to lack of agriculture.

Recent Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India published by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in 2008, Chennai explains about the food security. It states that the state is not food secure. The report also mentions that Kerala was the only state in India that was Least Food Insecure during 1998-2000. Later it retained its position in 2004-06 as well, with two more states – Punjab and Himachal Pradesh – joining the league. This is because it is now well accepted that food security is not entirely dependent on production but, more importantly, on the ability of all sections of the people to access food and consume an adequate amount as per the nutritional and health care centers. Kerala is the state which has high distribution of products across the state. Imagine the situation if the people of the state stop cultivation and farming. It will imbalance the food cycle in the state. Beside this, Kerala farmers are best known for their production and are quite efficient in making the best use of limited land available. They are very much known in crop selection and mixed cropping. And hence the state being very much known for its cultivation should try to continue to make it sustainable. Agriculture can be adapted as the best way among the people of Kerala to save our state for the future.

Kudumbshree and JLG

Kudumbashree is an initiative by the Kerala State Government that works with the objective of Poverty Eradication and Women Empowerment. The mission aims to eradicate absolute poverty within the framework of 10 years. The name Kudumbashree in the Malayalam language means “Prosperity of Family”. The program focuses upon the strong platform of the “Shree” of the family, .i.e.; the women. It was officially inaugurated by the Prime Minister Atla Bihari Vajpayee in 1988. The mission follows a process approach rather than a project approach by involving women to all the sectors which helps in their upliftement. The mission has adopted different methodology in addressing the poor through community-based organizations. The organization follows a holistic approach of empowering women socially, economically, politically and culturally.

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Organizational structure of Kudumbashree

The community structures by Kudumbashree at various levels include:

· NeighbourHood Groups :(KudumbasreeAyalkkoottam) comprising of 15-20 women members selected from poor families.

· Area Development Society :(Kudumbasree Ward Samithy) is formed at the ward level of local government by organizing 8-10 NHGs.

· Community Development Society :(Kudumbasree Panchayath Samithy) formed at the village panchayat level or at the municipality (town) or corporation (city) is a align of ADSs. (Kudumbashree, 2018)

The Kudumbashree network by 15th March 2017 had 2″,77″,175 NHGs affiliated to 19″,854 ADSs and 1073 CDSs with a total membership of 43″,06″,976 women Kudumbashree membership is generally open to all adult women, limited to one membership per family (Kudumbashree, 2018).

The slogan of the mission is “Reaching out to families through women and reaching out to the community through the family” (Kudumbashree, 2018).

The objectives of the Kudumbashree programme include:

· Identification of the poor families through risk indices based surveys, with the active participation of the poor and the communities to which they belong.

· Empowering the poor women to improve the productivity and managerial capabilities of the community by organizing them into Community Based Organizations.

· Encouraging thrift and investment through credit by developing Community Development Societies to work as an informal bank of the poor.

· Improving incomes of the poor through improved skills and investment for self-employment.

· Ensuring better health and nutrition for all (Kudumbashree, 2018).

JLG (Joint Liability Group)

Kudumbashree brought in NABARD’s concept of joint liability groups (JLGs) in collective farming in 2009. The step reduced the interest rate of farm loans effectively to 2%, as NABARD provided 5% interest subsidy on loans taken by JLGs at 7% interest rate. The process is very much active across the state and NHG’s member’s involvement to such sector seems very high. The process starts with the Kudumbashree community network identifying and assessing cultivable fallow land in the area of the local body. Once the land is identified JLGs are to be formed of five NHG members. The members are from the same NHG or from different NHGs. My respondent’s involvement in to JLG was based on the NHG memberships. Each JLG is controlled by the ADS to which the members belong. If JLG membership is from two ADSs, then the ADS to which the maximum membership belongs control that JLG.

Each JLG should possess a president and a secretary, this is very much required for registration and for the procedures in the bank. Joint discussions and collectives farming have gained very much importance across the state. The monthly progress reports should be submitted from JLG secretary to the CDS through ADS. Periodic monitoring is done accordingly. CDS further reports to the District Mission Coordinator of Kudumbashree. The State mission gets reports from the District Missions. Later after the selection and completion of all procedures the area and crops have to be verified by ADS president / secretary with the support NHGs.

Separate training classes are given to the members in order to give awareness and idea about farming. There is no compulsion to the members, and hence the participation is voluntary. Skill development include training on harvesting threshing and winnowing, special training program me in repairing of machines, training for bio fertilization and bio pesticides, and formation of groups of mobile mechanics. As of now Thrissur district possess 17826 JLG memberS and there are 4366 JLG group formed.


Ethnographic study has been conducted in Mambra of Annamanada panchayath. It is located in the Thrissur district of Kerala

The field and fieldworker

Ethnography is often considered the qualitative method par excellence involving the dynamics of the relation between fieldworker and his field. An ethnographer assumes that people know the best about their culture and the aspects of their lives and learning from them is the best way of drawing information and generating knowledge about their lives. (Michalko, 1980), (Ethnography; report summarizes ethnography study findings from university of cincinnati (representing the language of the ‘other’: African american vernacular english in ethnography)., 2014), (Donham, 2018, pp. 18-27), (Wardle, 2011, pp. 117-127).

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Ethnography is used as a tool for data collection. It includes fieldwork were researcher directly goes to the field and being one among them. Researcher analyses each and every behaviour of the participant. Researcher prefers women having at least 3 years of experience in the Unit. Thrissur consist of 23000 NHG units out of which researcher selected 2 units based on the participation in gender related activities and the statistics collected from the District Mission Office.

The study was conducted in Annamanda Panchayath of Thrissur District. The Panchayath has a Kudumbashree Chairperson, 18 CDS members, 7 ADS members and 267 NHG’s. Out of these, the researcher has selected 2 NHG because of their active involvement in gender-related issues and high women participation.

The two units selected for the research includes Sawparnika and Shalabam. Sawparnika Unit is one of the oldest units in the panchayath and it has been actively working for the last 14 years. The women in this unit take part in all the activities where each program or activities conducted were well organized and systematic because of long years of experience. The women are well updated with everything that is happening around and they were very open to sharing their experience with the researcher. The unit has the membership of 18 members. The involvement to JLG is very much high and the members has cultivated and received benefits since last ten years. The JLG group is formed and is planning to do banana cultivation. On the other hand, Shalabam unit has 20 members. It is one of the new unit which has 6 years of experience. The people were new to JLG and they just started forming the group and are planning to do tapioca cultivation. The researcher chose the unit not only to make a comparison between the units but also to cover different perspectives. The way of organization of the meetings was different, where the researcher found it unique.


The initiative of Joint Liability Group (JLG) brought reprieve to rural population through free credit to support and enhance sustainable livelihood practice. “JLGs, an informal group, comprising of 4-10 individual, generally from weaker section of the society, formed for the purpose of availing loan through mutual guarantee”. (Debabrata Samanta, 2015). This also enables in the upliftment of women by enabling her to be part of social activities and raise her voice in the form. Empowerment includes something that enables people to gain control over one’s own life. The study also tries to find the level of strength the unit members have gathered in their lifestyle by JLG. Women started interacting with each other which increases their socialization capability. Since India is democratic country and freedom of speech is the right bestowed with people, the study aimed to measure number of times members have become the part of some political activity. Hereby, testing how the essence of empowerment speaks to self determined change and how people change course of life with it. Our country guarantees equality and hence all its citizens are to be treated equally irrespective of discrimination on the basis of caste, class, creed, sex and religion.

Involvement to JLG for the women in Kudmbashree was also to make their leisure time utilized and engaged. There is lot of conflict which is emerging as the result employee and employer relationship. Women fail to join such company as they also fail to take care of household woks. The same was also noticed when the researcher interviewed the participants; they claim that JLG enables in formation of group with our own friends and unit members and hence the possibilities of having conflicts is very less. Positive relationships among members were noticed. It even makes our leisure time valuable with good profit. The timings of the work are also flexible unlike other enterprises.

There were no discrimination or group formations on the basis of religion. Occupation and financial background of the family members was also absent. Truth, faith and solidarity were observed among the JLG members and were working harmoniously. It was found from discussion that members come to help and support each other whenever needed. The members of JLG do come together for their as well as for the welfare of others. Profits and mutual benefits was also the main reason behind bringing them all.

The study also found that the livelihood support that JLG scheme offered has given some force to people’s way of thinking and they do feel significantly happy about it. all the participants in the unit have accepted that they feel empowered to take major decisions in their life without any dependence on any person. They admitted to have taken part in casting votes and raising voice at public platforms when they found it necessary.

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While Kerala’s agriculture continues to be a high value one in terms of value generated per unit of land, it has to successfully confront this new trial keeping in mind the fast-growing nature of the non-agricultural sector of the economy. This model has benefited in keeping the state’s resources sustainable for the next generation. The main motive of JLG is conserve the agriculture, so that we don’t want to depend on other states for food resources. In the similar manner natural resources is also saved. In that respect, the current challenge is qualitatively of a different kind in Kerala’s developmental history. Given its favorable factors and the possibility of converting some of its unfavorable ones into favorable ones, Kerala is well equipped to move to a higher level of agricultural technology to realize its potential productivity. The role of Kudumbashree in restoring, since 2003, nearly 31″,000 hectares of fallow land to cultivation points to the possibility of overcoming this obstacle. The planning mechanism now in vogue in the state has to take a hard look at agriculture, especially with a view to identifying its strengths and weaknesses and chalking out alternatives for further development. In such an exercise, two issues need to be addressed explicitly- one, the environmental dimension, and two, the need to create a skilled workforce.

Public investment in agriculture and related activities call for careful planning and coordination so that synergies can be generated by combining several schemes and projects. Since the basic constraint is both land and labour, solutions will have to focus on raising agricultural productivity and the incomes of farming households through a combination of farming and non- farming activities. Measures for covering risks in agricultural and related activities as well as providing adequate social security to those engaged in agriculture should form part of any new strategy. Perhaps the time has come for a stock-taking of the entire gamut of issues for meeting the challenge of agricultural development in Kerala’s fast-growing economy and its fast- transforming society.

Explaining in the perspective of women in Kudmbashree, it has benefited them for their economic development and gaining livelihood. It also enables in making the leisure time valuable. Women started taking decision independently and their voices are being heard in the forum. Involvement to social activities has increased maintaining equality.


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