Sustainable Livelihood

Formation of Farmer’ and Producer Organization 

SEWA collectivises poor and marginalised flood-affected artisans and farmers and demonstrates two start-up models of farmer and artisan producer organizations. Through this activity, SEWA facilitates sustainable livelihoods, establishes backward and forward linkages in the value chain, and links with other livelihood opportunities. Through this initiative, poor and marginalised farmers can achieve overall socioeconomic development and well-being, as well as build resilience to disasters and pandemic-related adverse effects.

SEWA has promoted two FPOs, one in the farm sector by covering small and marginalised tea growers, and one in the off-farm sector by covering rural women weavers. The FPOs have a total of 110 small tea growers and 140 women weavers.

Apart from the capacity building training, product diversification assistance, value addition support, and market linkages provided by SEWA and also provided financial assistance against equity share capital support to poor farmers and weavers to acquire the shares from their FPOs, which thus increases the share capital strength for better economic activity.

Initiative in small holdings and large tea plantations 

Assam is the largest tea-producing region in the world with around 850 registered Big Tea Plantations, and 78350 small tea growers (Govt. of Assam), and an estimated 68,500 unregistered small tea growers. However, the total numbers are around 0.2 million, as per unofficial sources.

In the present scenario, the conditions of the STGs show their manifold layers of dependency. The deficiencies in operational infrastructure and the absence of certain regulatory support have only accentuated the small growers’ dependency on a variety of external factors. Small tea gardens do not come under the purview of the Plantation Labour Act on grounds of their size. In addition, because of the limitation of funds, they are unable to provide living quarters and all the other facilities provided by the large tea estates to the employed labourers. On one hand, erratic weather, lack of irrigation facilities, and technical drawbacks affect the yield of their plantations, and on the other hand, the absence of regulation on the price front creates anxiety to sell their produce. In addition, these factors influence the cost of production and yield.

In the last few years, SEWA has been actively engaged with the Civic Engagement Alliance (CEA) and Save the Children, aiming to move towards a sustainable private sector. During this period, SEWA has identified and formed adolescent groups and Multi Actor Working Groups in consultation with other stakeholders to promote sustainability in the private sector with a focus on small tea growers through advocacy on responsible business behaviour.

SEWAs Approach towards Promoting RBB in the STG Sector

The focus is to advocate for creating an environment of responsible business behaviour among the small tea growers in Assam, with a focus on curbing child labour, child marriage and ensuring fair wages for women. Through this intervention, SEWA works mostly with STGs in the state, and their associations and  the supply chain companies that the STGs are related to. SEWA also provides capacity-building support for promoting an enabling organisational environment for decent work for women and reducing child labour. Women, children, and their communities, are sensitised and enabled to advocate for child rights and decent work conditions in the tea sector. However, major thrust is given to mobilise and strengthen the STGs so they can come together as a joint force in the form of collectives as well as encourage associations to attain the desired goal. As per our experiences over the last few years with small tea growers, it is very notable that most of the new generation of farmers are young, and they are very enthusiastic to work with responsible business behaviour to achieve the desired profit in their business. Hence, emphasis is given on those youths through promoting innovations, introducing relevant convergence with the allied sector, made tea production, etc.

The project advocates for the rights and deprivation of children and women working in the tea industry in order to build a mass movement to advocate for a sustainable private sector by encouraging responsible business behaviour within the industry. SEWA engaged with multiple stakeholders to undertake community based activities and lobby and advocate at the district, state, and national levels to catalyse the move towards a sustainable and responsible private sector, especially in the agro-based value chain. Apart from various trainings for small farmers, this intervention provides capacity building support to strengthen RBB adoption and promote the formation of Farmer Producer Companies (FPO/FPC) and CBOs.

Initiative in large plantations

Assam is the largest tea-growing region in the world, lying on either side of the Brahmaputra river. It has become the largest industry, generating the highest livelihood, revenue, and employment. Out of the state’s 33 districts, tea is grown in 16 of them. There are 761 large tea gardens (above 10.12 ha) and 68,459 small tea gardens (up to 10.12 ha) in the state. Tea is an important agro-industry in Assam, which contributes immensely to the state’s economy, supports about 20% of its population, accounting to more than 6 million people, and is the biggest contributor to the organised workforce of the economy.

The project reached out to ten tea estates in Dibrugarh district where  children, parents, teachers, tea garden management, and government departments including the education and social welfare department through sensitization, capacity building, and measures for setting up linkages to promote the rights of the children living in the tea gardens.

The plantation workers have been working for generations now, without much change in their standard of living. Besides poor socio-economic conditions, illiteracy, and overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions in the residential colonies, these conditions make the tea garden populations helpless to various communicable diseases and underfeeding. It is evident that the tea plantation workers live a life of vicious intergenerational poverty, being systematically excluded from mainstream society.

Our approach 

For several years, SEWA has worked to strengthen community-based processes and mechanisms for child protection by involving local civil society organizations (CSOs), adolescent girls’ groups, women members, government representatives, unions, associations, educational institutions, and tea garden management. SEWA has also been engaged on advocacy and mass awareness generation by involving the line department, tea gardens management, tea associations, multi-stakeholder groups, CSOs, corporates, SMEs, unions, and community members.

  • We work directly with marginalised children under the age of 18 (missing children, trafficked children, and children at risk of being trafficked, entering early marriage, or entering labor) at the community level. Community-based child protection mechanisms such as Child Protection Committees and Children Groups to address child labour / child trafficking will ensure a safety net for children. Further, adolescent groups were formed to train them in life skills.
  • Strengthening civil society organizations’ capacity to support children’s rights by generating necessary legal awareness among the community and local duty bearers towards the consequences of child labour, child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and child marriage.
  • Strengthening structures and mechanisms by facilitating and advocating with the government to ensure the successful implementation of existing preventive and rehabilitative laws and social protection schemes. inviting attention amongst government officials and law enforcement agencies and generating discussions towards the amendment of the Plantation Labour Act 1951.

Yarn Bank Support

Hand loom weaving has had an overwhelming presence in the socioeconomic life of Assam since time immemorial. The model that many weavers in Assam follow is that of home-based weaving. They weave in their spare time in their homes. And unsurprisingly, most of these weavers are women, especially in rural areas. Around 77.94%  of the total are women weavers in Assam. It is a common sight to see women working on their taant xaals (looms) in the afternoon. In fact, it has been considered an additional household chore to enhance family incomes and thus raise the standard of living.

However, this has been severely impacted due to the COVID lockdown and restrictions. Many of these women weavers have not only lost their livelihood but also their space of solidarity. They have not just lost their source of income but also a zone of comfort. The time that they spend weaving together allows them to come out of their daily lives and talk to each other. As such, their collective spaces are also shrinking. Thus, the blow of COVID-19 has been double-edged for these women weavers from Assam – it is economic as well as social.

SEWA promotes indigenous weaving for poor women who are economically and socially vulnerable by providing a range of supports, such as free yarn for weaving, training, designs, incentives, leadership training, etc.

SEWA assists in addressing the various challenges that poor woman weavers face. These weavers, who have fallen on hard times and a cash crunch as a result of COVID, are given yarn to continue weaving. SEWA establish a weavers’ yarn bank and provide cash for work under incentive support to 30 poor and marginalised women weavers. SEWA also assists weavers with capacity building, product upgrading, and developing marketing links, among other support.

Cash study of Pholumoni 

This scarf is known as a “Gamosa” in Assamese, and it is a traditional garment from Assam in northeastern India that is presented to guests, elders, family, or friends on special occasions as a sign of respect.

The Sagalikata Women’s Group has handwoven this Gamosa in the village of Lahuwal, Dibrugarh district, in eastern Assam. They are part of a group of women weavers supported by SEWA, as a way to improve their livelihoods and their quality of life, in this remote part of India. Pholumoni, who is solely responsible for earning bread for her family, must also care for her disabled husband. With this support, Pholumoni is able to send her children to school, save for future unforeseen events, buy medicine for her husband, buy more nutritious food for her family, etc.

Skill training 

SEWA is implementing various skill training programs to improve the employability of disadvantaged and poor women. SEWA is cognizant of the reverse migration that has happened in Dibrugarh district due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women who were earlier employed in various unorganised sectors lost their jobs due to the pandemic’s impact. SEWA start working best to re-connect them back to employment opportunities/self-employment. It is imperative that their skills be best utilised at this point of time and enable them to earn their livelihood while supporting the local economies. With the support of Give2Asia, SEWA offered skill training on babysitting, sewing and tailoring, making face mask etc. SEWA also provides entrepreneurial support to the trainee after the successful completion of their training.

Baby Sitter training

The workers in the informal sector need a fresh job or new skill to restart their livelihoods in the covid recovery period. SEWA provided skill training by targeting the local market demand of the informal service sector. Under these, a batch of 30 youths received free skill training on babysitting and home caregiving service. In addition, post-training placements for trainees are arranged in their local area.


The babysitter training curriculum includes: 

  • Basic Care for Infants and Children
  • Basic First Aid
  • Child Behavior
  • Age-Appropriate Activities
  • Emergency Protocols
  • Professionalism
  • Leadership
  • Growing Your Business

Tailoring training

With the goal of economic empowerment for women affected by the pandemic, this vocational training intends to provide skill training in sewing and tailoring for women to create sustainable livelihoods. The vocational training programme benefits those who are found in the vulnerable category due to the adverse impact of the COVID pandemic. During this training, beneficiaries learn and develop skills in sewing and tailoring.

SEWA already has well-developed content for tailoring, dressmaking, and embroidery. The course lasts four (4) months and consists of a theory class of 120 hours and a practical session of 360 hours.

MEDP Training

MEDP training on reusable face mask production (in two batches) was conducted at SEWA office during COVID Lockdown in the year 2020..

The skill training programme was attended by 60 SHG members from Dibrugarh town, where they were given inputs on theory on different types of masks, selection of cotton cloth, preparation of sewing machines and other accessories, cutting fabric for face masks, mask designing and stitching, and on more practicals and theory wherever necessary, while handholding support was provided on mask designing, stitching, and demonstration of proper use and fitting of masks, quality checking, safety checking, and child-friendly masks. The participants were also oriented on the business plan and entrepreneurship skills, and bank linkage.

Financial  Assistance to Farmers

SEWA provides cash assistance to 52 flood-affected marginalised farmers in the Dibrugarh district’s Khowang Development Block in order to restart their farming activities. The farmers of Khowang Block are facing recurring floods and land erosion from the river Buridihing. During this second wave of COVID the farmers of Khowang block also faced drought and excessive rain, which resulted in a significant loss of Kharif crops. The grant has helped the vulnerable farmers to procure good-quality seeds, irrigation of their farmland, crop protection barricades, fertilizer, etc. The grant also helps poor farmers survive until their Rabi crops are harvested.

The Give2Asia supported initiative provides livelihood restoration assistance of INR 7500 to 52 marginalised farmers in the Khowang Development Block.