How two Kudumbashree units in Kerala scripted history
Sanjeevani and JARMS, two Kudumbasree units in Malappuram district in Kerala, secured ISO Certification for Amrutham Nutrimix, a food supplement for children
“We were felicitated by the merchants union the other day. Now we feel like businesswomen,” Ummusalma P’s happiness is palpable in her voice. Sarambika C adds: “There is a change in people’s attitude. Our work is being respected.”
They head the Sanjeevani and JARMS Kudumbashree units at Malappuram in Kerala that secured the ISO 22000:2018 certification in Food Safety Management for Amrutham Nutrimix, a nutritional food supplement for children. It is a first-of-its-kind achievement for the product manufactured by 241 units of Kudumbashree, a community organisation of ayalkoottam or Neighbourhood Group (NHG) of women in the State.
Under the Integrated Child Development Scheme, Nutrimix is provided as free take-home ration to children in the age group of six months to three years through anganwadis, fortnightly. A cereal-based powder mix, it was developed by the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) at Kasaragod in Kerala. The first production unit was set up in the district in 2006 and within a year, all districts had Nutrimix units.
Neelofar Illiaskutty, chief technical officer, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)-CPCRI, who was instrumental in formulating the mix, says that efforts were on from 2002 to come up with a food supplement for children. “We did a three-month trial at an anganwadi at Bedadukka Panchayat in Kasaragod with a mix containing wheat, soya, coconut sugar, jaggery, Bengal gram, groundnut and the like. It was found to be effective in improving the health of children, especially those with low birth weight. The Panchayat came forward to train self-help groups to make the mix. Later, when it was rolled out across Kerala through Kudumbashree, we had women coming from all over the State to be trained,” says Neelofar.
The ingredients in 100 grams of Nutrimix are wheat (45 grams), soya chunks (10 grams), Bengal gram (15 grams), groundnut (10 grams) and sugar (20 grams). In 2019, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Kerala, United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) and Kudumbashree Mission went for fortification of Nutrimix by adding 11 micro-nutrients to it. According to Kudumbashree, Nutrimix is now supplied to 33,115 anganwadis in Kerala, covering nearly five lakh children. Each child is provided with 3.375 kg of Nutrimix, per month.
“Even though the anganwadis remain closed due to the pandemic, we ensured that the mix reached the children via teachers who delivered them directly to their homes. After some initial glitches in purchase of raw materials, the production and distribution went smoothly during the lockdown,” says Ummusalma, who has nine women working with her.
A complete meal
Manjeri-based JARMS has six members and 90 anganwadis under its purview. “We homemakers had met through the ayalkoottam. JARMS is a name coined from the first letter of the names of the founding members. Although some of them had to leave the group due to personal reasons, we didn’t change the name. The Certification has boosted our confidence. We are getting enquiries from other units about the Certification and how to go about it,” says 49-year-old Sarambika. Now, 1,569 NHG members in the State are earning a livelihood through the units that manufacture an average of 23,000 metric tonnes of the mix per month, with an annual turnover of ₹169 crore.
Sanjeevani also makes Nutrimom, a product for lactating mothers, while JARMS’ manufactures Gravipro, a mix for pregnant women. Nutrimom, made from dry fruits, has being given away on a pilot basis to five panchayats in Ponnani block of the district. Gravipro has ingredients such as badam, cashewnut, pista, bajra, groundnut, wheat, corn and ragi. “Being the only Kudumbashree units in the State that market Nutrimom and Gravipro, we are now giving training to 20 units in Malappuram,” explains Sarambika.
- Kudumbashree or the Kerala State Poverty Eradication Mission was launched on May 17, 1998, at Malappuram, and it started functioning on April 1, 1999, under the Local Self-Government Department of the Government of Kerala. It has a three-tier structure — Neighbourhood Group, Area Development Society, and Community Development Society. In 2004, the Supreme Court of India, in a public interest litigation filed by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties directed State Governments to ensure supplementary nutrition to children as well as pregnant and lactating women, and which eventually led to the launch of Nutrimix.
- Certain Nutrimix units are into production of therapeutic food for pregnant and lactating mothers in tribal areas of 11 districts. Ingredients of the mix include rice, wheat, black gram, soya bean, groundnut, sesame, Bengal gram and green gram.
Some of the Nutrimix units are also making value-added products. “Sanjeevani has been manufacturing Nutrimix biscuits and cakes in different flavours. We used to give it to children who come to anganwadis,” says 51-year-old Ummusalma. The Government has also brought out a recipe book containing over 110 items that can be prepared using Nutrimix, which include biryani, pulao, sweets, desserts, savouries and breakfast items. An official with Kudumbashree says that certain units prepare special Nutrimix in which they use cashewnuts and badam instead of soya and groundnut. This is usually made as per order, especially for malnourished children and elderly, and costs more than the regular Nutrimix.
The success story of Sanjeevani and JARMS also has a lot to do with the production of a wide range of food products other than Nutrimix. Sanjeevani, for instance, has its own brand of flours, curry powders and masalas. Among JARMS’ products are pazhampori mix and bhajji dool, which can be used to make banana fritters and spicy snacks respectively, in addition to flours and payasam mix.
“Our lives have changed for the better through Kudumbashree. There was a time when we were called ‘unniyappam’ makers. But the ISO Certification has brought a new identity,” Ummusalma concludes.