Habitat Based livelihoods
Creation of sustainable livelihoods without further impoverishment of the environment has been argued as one of the topmost priorities in the national sustainable development. The habitat construction sector is a great generator of livelihoods. The role of sustainable habitat technologies and their contribution to livelihood creation has been evident in various contexts of social housing programmes, reconstruction in post disaster situations and setting up supply of affordable technologies while catalysing demand in the markets accessed by the rural poor. Thus poverty alleviation can be addressed significantly through livelihood creation and promotion of habitat security in an integrated manner.
Access to “pucca” and eco-friendly building materials and techniques has to be augmented if we are to meet the demand of adequate safe and sustainable housing by all in rural areas. In addition, adequately trained artisans and an overall delivery system needs to be ensured. Building technology based livelihood opportunities produce “affordable” goods and services to service this demand. They do so by creating large numbers of jobs in a decentralised manner and create wealth in the local market. They have the ability to bring a large number of poor into the economic mainstream and they do so without causing large scale environmental damage.
The habitat and infrastructure sectors contribute to livelihood creation directly and indirectly at all scales from micro-level producers of materials and artisan services to mega scale infrastructure and housing projects. Besides the production of building materials, all activities that contribute to fulfilment of basic needs such as provision of drinking water, sanitation, chulha building etc., can all become livelihood based activities locally in a village. Thus two critical aspects are dealt with:
a) Supply of affordable building products to rural families that enables them constructs eco-friendly and cost effective housing and community facilities. This may be through financially profitable small businesses run by local entrepreneurs, SHG groups and local artisans thus enhancing local economy.
b) Delivery of ‘eco-habitat’ related services through formal and informal groups of trained artisans, masons, plumbers, and other delivery agents. This not only helps in local job creation, it also creates human capital within the rural communities to help them join the economic mainstream.
The concept of entrepreneurship development in the building sector has come to assume significance in government policies. One such scheme is the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana launched as an integrated programme for self employment of the rural poor. The objective of the Scheme is to bring the assisted poor families above the poverty line by organising them into self help groups through the process of social mobilisation, their training and capacity building and provision of income generating assets through a mix of bank credit and government subsidy. Flexibility has been given to the DRDAs/states in the utilisation of funds for training, sanction of revolving fund, subsidy for economic activity based on the stage of development of groups. In addition, funding is also available through Khadi, and Village Industries Board, and the NABARD REDP programmes.
Habitat based micro-enterprises need to be designed as techno-entrepreneurial packages consisting of product inventories, hardware – equipment and accessories as well as softer inputs such as training for various aspects of the enterprise ranging from marketing and business management to actual production of building materials and construction. In addition, it would also include links with financing institutions for enterprise support through a combination of grant, subsidy and credit.
Some technology options that are amenable to decentralised production and rural enterprise creation are: micro concrete tiles, ferro-cement roofing, stabilised earth blocks, RCC door and window frames, concrete block, FAL-G (fly ash lime gypsum) blocks and vertical shaft brick kiln, to name a few.
The village Panchayat has a significant role in helping local entrepreneurs and SHGs to seek financial assistance facilitating land and infrastructure for setting up production and ensuring the use of their products and services in all rural programmes.