Kohima, Sep. 26 : Thousands of employees who were working in other parts of the country returned during the lockdown. Many of them were laid off owing to the nationwide lockdown due to the pandemic. However, returnees and unemployed youths in Nagaland have found hope as the Kohima-based organisation Entrepreneur Associates (EA) has generated job opportunities for them.
Chief executive officer of EA, Neichute Doulo, spoke about how they had come up with an idea of creating employment opportunities for unemployed youth and returnees in the town.
‘Initially, EA thought of taking some minimum fees but since returnees and unemployed girls have no income for the last few months, we decided to give free training in making jams and provide them with job opportunities immediately,’ he said.
EA brought a trainer from ICAR to train their staff, who can later become the ‘trainer of trainers.’ At first, they trained both male and female. He thought that men would be happy to learn the art of making jams and food processing activities as well.
‘But somehow, it didn’t turn out like that. Whereas, women trainees took it up seriously. Hence, there was more success with the women than the men,’ he said.
Around 22 of them have been trained in two batches already. ‘Another 20 more people will be trained in the third batch, starting next week,’ he said.
At this time of the year, kiwi fruits are plentiful in Nagaland. But due to lockdown, farmers are unable to export them to neighbouring states unlike previous years. Thus, the kiwi market and its rate went down, unlike pineapple.
Sensing the situation, EA came up with the idea of making jam from kiwi fruit besides pineapple, he said.
The training will be able to help them to work at home and make money or they can come and work at EA training centre and earn an income of INR 800 per day.
‘In the coming year, EA is looking at taking up the food processing industry seriously and encouraging entrepreneurs to look at this as a viable entity,’ he said.
One of the major challenges is space constraint. The office does not have enough space to take in a lot of people at one go. ‘At the most, it can take about 12 people. But we are going to stretch ourselves to the limit and take in 20 people in the next batch,’ he added. By year end, it is targeting to train at least a hundred people.
“If we can train hundreds of people and give local jobs or local income, we will consider it a success,” Doulo said.
The CEO is hopeful that they will be able to create a better space and train hundreds of people in the coming years.
Ideally, the training should last for a month, but due to space constraints, a minimum of 12 days is being estimated for the trainees. The first six days is counted as ‘really learning how to make jams’ and on the remaining six days, the trainees are expected to ‘be skilled labourers and skilled workers’.
‘They should be able to function independently after that,’ he said. Besides teaching them how to make jams, trainees are also taught with basic business ethics and etiquettes.
‘As a food industry, trainees ought to practice the highest sense of hygiene in the kitchen. Therefore, when cooking, they should wear shower caps, put on face masks and gloves. These practices should become a habit for trainees who plan to enter into food processing. Trainees from the first batch have now started earning INR 800 per day by making these jams at the EA centre, which is a decent income,’ he said.
However, he was of the opinion that they can earn more if they make their own jam, have quality control and do vacuum packing.
EA realised that it can’t afford to keep on paying INR 800 for each trainee. Therefore, they are encouraging them to go back home and make their own jams and sell it in their neighbourhood. ‘Let people start tasting their food but also the customers should have faith that their food has been prepared with utmost hygienic practices,’ he shared.
The CEO said that EA has a target of setting up a proper training centre. At that time, it should be able to train 50 to 60 people at a time, he said. By then, they intend to include pickle-making as well.
“The Covid learning for EA is that agri-business needs to be encouraged and that we need to be seriously working on agri-sector apart from the retail sector and normal entrepreneurship that we do,” Doulo said.
Sharing EA’s latest initiative, he said they are targeting to reach 2000 street vendors and daily wage earners (women), to adopt a new lifestyle of having micro-nurseries for fruit trees. EA has provided fruit seeds, poly bags, and INR 2000 to each of the street vendors and daily wage earners in advance. In return, these vendors will pay EA with 100 fruit saplings.
This is a part of EA’s programme to plant two to three million fruit trees by 2025.