Sindholi shepherds’ experiment with self-reliance

Coop. society has been helping shepherds and weavers for over half a century

The Kanakadasa Sheep Rearing and Wool Producers Cooperative Society of Sindholi village in Belagavi district has been helping shepherds and weavers for over half a century, influenced by the Gandhian ideals of Swadeshi, village industry, and self-reliance.

Started by progressive wool farmer G.K. Bekkinakeri in 1967, the society that began with nine members, two workers, and 10 sheep rearing families is today categorised an ‘A’ class society by the Department of Cooperation. It has over 500 members who produce around 32,000 shawls, blankets, rugs, and other products, leading to an annual turnover of around ₹6 crore.

“We serve over 2,500 families in 22 villages surrounding Sindholi. We have created thousands of direct and indirect jobs,” says Ramalingappa Anagolkar, chairman of the society and one of the founders. The society has never taken a bank loan since inception, the octogenarian declares proudly. Among his fondest memories are supplying blankets and rugs to the Indian Army during the Kargil conflict.

The society relies on the Khadi and Village Industries Commission for financial support and technical upgrade. It has built houses for around 100 workers, and has facilitated sanctioning of loans to over 10,000 shepherd families till now. All its members are covered under a group insurance scheme. An average family makes up to ₹400 per day. The society collects the thread and distributes it among weavers who use handlooms and pit looms to make shawls, blankets, and rugs.

Sale centres

The new generation of sheep farmers, who have taken over the society management, have set up two exhibition-cum-sale centres near Sambra airport and in Sindholi village. “We are also planning to have our own e-commerce website,” said Malleshappa Bheemappa, a young man who has recently taken over as secretary of the society.

But old loyalists have stayed too. Five women, who were the first batch of spinning wheel workers, still come to work. “Our children are settled. But we come as we still feel the urge to work,” said Gangavva Ramappa, who is in her 70s.

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