SHILLONG, Oct 02: What started as a plunge into uncertainty has turned into a path that many can certainly rely on for their future.
Layland Marak is an entrepreneur from Ganolgre village under the Rongram Community and Rural Development (C&RD) Block, West Garo Hills, who is engaged in a unique business of processing and sale of Aloe Vera products through a Self Helped Group (SHG) named Chizingjang.
Aloe vera is a tropical plant which is widely known for the range of health benefits it offers. Layland is considered a pioneer by the people of his village and is attributed to be the driving force behind the Chizingjang SHG and its aloe vera business.
Many vouched for his excellent leadership skills and praise him for his commitment and contributions towards the development and transformation of Ganolgre. Today, his efforts have taken the SHG to new heights and he hopes to create more opportunities to support his fellow community members so they too can achieve their dreams.
Layland is the fifth of seven siblings whose parents were farmers before they both passed away when Layland was still very young.
This unfortunate incident changed his life completely. This would be the last time the siblings would ever live together under one roof. Having no one to look after them, they were left with no choice but to move from the village to stay with their relatives elsewhere.
Layland moved to Williamnagar while his other siblings moved to other locations wherever their relatives could offer a home.
At Williamnagar, Layland excelled at school and showed keen interest on pursuing higher education. After completing his matriculation, he move to Tura and completed his 12th standard from Government College, Tura.
He then got himself enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Unfortunately, tragedy struck again. During his second year in college, he contracted an eye disease and had to undergo surgery.
Though finding a jobin this backdrop was tough, Layland became a school teacher at the Jengjal Primary School, West Garo Hills in 1995. Through this job, he was able to support his two sisters and pay for their education. He supported them for five years until they too found work and became financially independent.
On October 2, 2002, at a time when the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (NERCOMP I) funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was in its initial phase, Layland was selected to be one of the members of the newly formed Self Help Group (SHG) named ‘Chizingjang’, and also to be a Community Organiser under the Natural Resource Management Group (NaRM-G) formed under the project. In the same year, he was sent for training on Book Keeping at the Ganolgre Community Hall. Again in 2003 he was sent for training on Livestock at Tura. Today, Layland is a key member of the Chizingjang SHG responsible for driving the activities of the group which comprises 78 members.
In 2004, the SHG purchased 4 buses which they used to ferry passengers between Asanang and Tura. However, they stopped this business after 4 years because it was not making enough profits.
Other than this, the Chizingjang SHG did well with other activities under the project and this was noticed by NERCOMP which decided to organised a two-day training on Aloe Vera at the Ganolgre in 2006. Six months later, the SHG received 40,000 saplings from an Aloe Vera training institute in Karnataka. But after planting the saplings, the SHG had to put the activity on hold as they did not have technical expertise for processing the Aloe Vera. It was only in 2008 that the business was restarted with the laying of a foundation stone for a new Aloe Vera processing factory by the Deputy Commissioner of West Garo Hills. The new factory comprised machinery which includes juicers, charmers, cutting tables, filling machines, sealing machines etc. which were obtained with the efforts of Layland, under a special scheme of the government of India and the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).
The processing unit was built using funds from a special Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY) - DRDA scheme which was introduced in the year 2010 and channelized through the NERCOMP project. IFAD contributed 10% towards the building of the processing unit, the community contributed 30% for building infrastructure and supply of boulders, chips, etc., and the remaining amount was funded through the scheme.
While the aloe vera processing unit was being set up, Layland spent a significant portion of his time honing his skill and understanding aloe vera by participating in various workshops organized by IFAD both within and outside the state. Upon returning, he made sure to share his experiences with other members of his SHG and with the community, and to apply this new knowledge on processing of Aloe Vera.
As his practical knowledge on aloe vera increased, Layland eventually became a master trainer, imparting training to other aspiring entrepreneurs who wishes to start work in aloe vera.
Layland’s determination did not end with aloe vera and his SHG. When he was attending various trainings on aloe vera, he also attended those on livestock and fishery.
For fishery, he also approached the Fishery Department in Tura, West Garo Hills for support. Using their support and the knowledge that he has accumulated, he started his own fishery business by building a 1,800 square feet fish pond.