Rassaa – Stitching Together the Tribal-Urban Divide

By auther pic. Divya Tiwari

October 14, 2020

Rassaa – Stitching Together the Tribal-Urban Divide

The Tribal Farmer Women Looking Hopefully Towards a Better Future

When the youth of the country thinks about the extremely marginalized and forgotten part of our society, positive change is bound to begin. Not many venture to improve the lives of those women, who are hidden amidst thick jungles, where no road or mobile tower has reached, or where the women are forced to earn a living in exploitative work conditions.


The women from tribal villages of Jharkhand and Odisha have no land ownership and are forced to earn their livelihood as farming labour or stitch jungle leaves through wild grass together for a meagre amount. Their wages are not even close to the Government decided rate for a day’s effort. The area, hidden from the world, is therefore ruled by middlemen who underpay these women so drastically that despite working hard all day, they are not able to make ends meet and often eat only once a day.


Mokshita Chanana, Archana Gautam and Sagar Chanana founded Rassaa to help these marginalized Tribal women from Jharkhand and Odisha to become self-reliant and live with the dignity they deserve. The organization works with tribal women farmers in the following three areas:

· To increase their income from minor forest products,

· To upskill them for higher paying jobs, and

· To provide them with market linkage at a fair trade price.


Rassaa supports tribal women Farmer Producer Organizations, Micro-Enterprises, and Self Help Groups in creating sustainable livelihoods and building efficient supply chains through the production of environmentally valued products.

Rassaa - On a mission to impact and enhance income for 1,00,000 tribal families of India by the year 2030

Rassaa has invested in developing the rural supply chain of forest products in the poorest districts of Odisha and Jharkhand, therefore, supporting a vast network of 3500 tribal women farmers. The organization has invested time and effort to create a viable process oriented system in place. They have built market linkages, created new products and processes, demonstrated quality innovation and procured sufficient orders to keep the women farmers both busy and happy.


The tableware that team Rassaa is so proud to create is made from the Siali Leaf that grows on the Siali Creeper in the forest. The women collect the leaves from the forest to weave them together using Wild Grass from the forest. The leaves are then converted into plates and bowls and sent ahead to happy customers across the nation. The benefits of the Siali leaf are not known to many. Not only is the tableware biodegradable within a month but also has several health benefits. Siali leaf is Antioxidant, Antibacterial, and Anti-Inflammatory in nature and also comes with a surprising advantage of being Anti Diabetic as well. The conscious consumption on the environment friendly plates and bowls add more meaning to life when you are aware of the hard work and struggle behind this handmade, fair traded and sustainable product.

Women farmers collecting wild grass and Siali leaves from the jungle to create biodegradable tableware

Rassaa has been instrumental in the overall development of the functioning of the women farmers as an autonomous professional unit. They have helped the workers in the following areas of work:

· Training and Development

· Financial Management

· Quality Management

· Productivity Improvement

· Upskilling

· Capacity Development

This has resulted in direct income enhancement of tribal women farmers by a surprising 30-40 percent in the last 2 years! New high paying jobs have been created and the women have displayed enthusiasm in learning new skills to create new products for the market. As a result, an increase in profitability is evident due to operational efficiency. The market reach has also increased from their respective States of Jharkhand and Odisha to the further reaches of the country like Delhi NCR, Gujrat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. However, the icing on the cake that has truly helped the women in unsurpassed ways is the eradication of the middlemen from the entire product lifecycle until it reaches the hands of its customers.


The COVID 19 outbreak and the lockdown measures have resulted in a loss of livelihoods and economic distress for tribal communities. They have lost almost 60 percent of their annual income coming from this season due to lockdown restrictions. This roadblock has also resulted into a business opportunity for Rassaa. Demand for leaf based bio-degradable cutlery, which was already growing due to ban on single use plastics, has up surged due to the growing risk infection of COVID. Consumers are adapting to more disposables than re-usable cutlery. In the disposable segment, Rassaa provides an affordable Green solution which positively impacts lives of the most marginalised community – the tribal women of India while also creating a positive impact on the environment.


While the progress is slow, it goes without saying that it is sure to reach unprecedented heights of success. The road ahead is promising for both Rassaa and its precious human resources who joyfully undertake difficult tasks for making the lives of their families easier. The women farmers are now able to take healthy nutritious meals for their households and also provide their children with quality education for a secure future.


After the market eases and Rassaa explores the windows of opportunity beyond disposable cutlery, the organization plans to diversify into other product offerings from the forests. These are Tamarind, Lemongrass, Nuts and Berries, Oils and Wild Honey.


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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at shilpi@csrbox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.


Divya Tiwari is a seasoned content writer with over 20 years of work experience. She holds an MBA degree from IIM Indore along with Triple Masters Degrees in Development Studies, Media Business Management, and Philosophy. She has worked in various capacities with National and International NGOs, Top Corporates, and several Ministries for projects that range from Training, Capacity Building, E-Learning, to Media and Communications. She has written and hosted English programs for All India Radio, Delhi. Her deep interest in Animal Welfare helps her engage with various Animal Welfare Organizations across the country in various capacities. She is an advocate of a cruelty-free sustainable lifestyle and regularly blogs on related issues and solutions. Apart from her writing engagements, she is also a social entrepreneur helping rural communities take their craft to centrestage. She is based out of Delhi


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