Group entrepreneurship – a way of banking on the strength of the rural poor
For small farmers in dry areas of India, the deterioration of the environment and the social structures are making the struggle for survival more grim every day. Crop yields decrease. The introduction of cash-crops such as oilseeds is a mixed blessing at best, often meaning greater indebtedness to traders. Those engaging in handicrafts or whose economy depends on the collection of minor forest produce find it difficult to obtain raw material. Forest agencies and Tribal Development Co-operatives set up to break the monopoly of traders, have grown into just such monopolies. Not surprisingly, many a rural person turns into a landless laburer, or is forced to migrate to the city. Grim as the situation is, it is not entirely hopeless, for rural people possess resources that have kept them going in many adverse situations. Group entrepreneurship captures and mobilizes these strengths and can bring rural life back to a state of sustainability; ecologically, economically and socially.This article is based on very limited experience in tribal areas of Bihar and Orissa in India. The idea of group entrepreneurship comes from the people themselves and is now catching the attention of development workers around the world. Three points are covered: illustrations of recent group entrepreneurship; the reality of group entrepreneurship; and challenges involved in group entrepreneurship.