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SHGs help combat iodine deficiency disorder

Nov 29, 2007

Small salt producers in the Indian western state of Rajasthan are partnering NGOs and the government in the campaign against iodine deficiency disorders. According to the WFP, Nawa now produces iodised salt as per the national standard.

At the initiative of the World Food Programme (WFP) and Micronutrient Initiative (MI) through an implementing agency – the Centre for Community Economic Development Consultant Society (CECOEDECON) identified small salt producers in Nawa tehsil, around Sambhar Lake, the oldest and most important centre of salt production in Nagaur district in northwest Rajasthan, as key partners in combating iodine deficiency disorders (IDD).

A campaign was launched in December 2005 focusing on the salt production site, the most crucial area to ensure supply of iodised salt,and to enhance the capacity of small salt producers to produce good quality salt.

Salt industry is one of the oldest in the country, where small salt producers in Rajasthan account for 10% of the entire production. In Nawa alone 953 salt units are in operation, producing around one million metric tons (MT) of salt – highest in Rajasthan. Yet quality has been a major concern.

WFP and MI, along with grassroots organisation CECOEDECON, have identified and organised 15 Self Help Groups (SHGs) from over 160 small salt producers in Nawa and Rajas areas.

These producers were provided productive base through upgrading their skills and equipment. They have been provided with free of cost crusher-cum-salt iodisation plant (costing approximately Rs 3.5 lakhs each) and free supply of potassium iodate for one year (element used for iodisation of salt).

According to the WFP, the small salt producers in Nawa now are engaged in producing iodised salt as per national standard, contributing to an additional one lakh MTs of iodised salt to the state. This will increase people’s access and have a positive impact on the health of about 25 million people in Rajasthan and neighbouring states.

In Nawa, the SHG members have been provided with group insurance cover of Rs 50,000. Their institutional capacity will be further strengthened once an apex cooperative is formed. They will then be able to develop market linkages, ensure salt quality and strengthen their access to institutional credit.

Encouraged by the success of this SHG experiment, many other people in the area have shown in joining them. Now they are convinced that SHGs have the capability to make people to think in terms on increasing their production base and they provide a more assured source of funding at a lesser rate of interest than a moneylender.

Fighting iodine deficiency

Rajasthan has banned sale of non-iodised salt throughout the state. The Salt Commission of India has also setup a model salt farm on 15 acres at the cost of Rs 35 lakhs. Salt Commissioner, Sunderesan hopes that this will showcase how quality salt can be produced in the field itself and provide free technical know-how to small producers.

The government is also taking steps to improve welfare of laborers in the salt sector. Hundreds of houses are being built for them under Namak Mazdoor Awas Yojna.

Nutrition awareness campaign was also organised across Nawa and Rajas blocks, using folk media and community meetings, in order to create awareness about the importance of consuming iodised salt and generating demand.

Iodine is one of the essential micronutrients, required for normal body growth and mental development. According to experts the requirement of iodine is 150 micrograms per person per day.

About 1.5 billion population of the world is at risk of iodine deficiency disorders, out of which more than 200 million are in India alone.

According to Nune Mangasaryan from UNICEF, nearly 57% households in India were presently consuming iodised salt, out of which 26% were using inadequately iodised salt.

The UNICEF state representative, Dr Satish Kumar said that efforts were being made in Rajasthan to distribute free iodised salt in the tribal areas and ensure its availability to larger sections of population through the public distribution system.

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