Bees in the Big Picture

21 July 2014  Today is the day that Jeevika delivered its final report to the UK Department for International Development (DfID).  This told the story of what we’ve achieved over the past 2 years with the £64,000 grant it gave us to promote sustainable livelihoods among some of India’s poorest villagers in the state of Odisha, one of India’s three poorest states.

It enabled us to select, train, fund and empower 300 women to become skilled bee-keepers and effective producers and marketers of honey. We hope this successful pilot project will now be expanded to other parts of Odisha and indeed into other states where we work.

This grant was paid directly to Jeevika who applied it to ‘Project Madhu Network’ which was implemented by our Indian NGO partner Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) based on the detailed project which we designed with them and obtained DfID funding for in 2010.

The numbers tell the basic story:

  • Prior to the project some of the women were collecting an average of 7.5 kgs per year of wild honey from the nearby forests (selling it in an unfiltered state, in unsterilized plastic drink bottles for a few Rupees where they could get it)
  • DfID’s grant allowed 750 bee colonies to be set up via 25 women’s Self-Help Group in ten villages comprised of 300 beekeepers + 60 other villagers (men and women) who were involved in related activities
  • By the end of the two-year project, the 300 beekeepers were producing an average of 36 kgs of honey from 3 hives each (this also included a little wild honey), as well as related products like wax and creams, generating an average income of £276 each per year and allowing 250 out of 300 women to access wholesale honey markets.

But there’s a bigger picture – in fact two bigger pictures! - extending far beyond the direct livelihood benefits of the villagers who participated in the project.

The first extends to the local community within Odisha, where the project has created waves of interest among state government, academic and other circles. A high-profile Honey Fair was organised by JRP in Bhubaneshwar the state capital on 24-25 March 2013 to publicise the Madhu project and promote development of bee-keeping as a village livelihood model in Odisha.

This fair was supported by state ministers for horticulture, agriculture and tribal affairs along with the National Bank for Agricultural & Rural Development  and the Odisha University for Agriculture & Technology.  JRP has joined with state government agencies to help support expansion of the Project Madhu model.

Three bee nurseries  have been established in the project area to address shortage of bee stocks to start hives, and the state Department for Horticulture has pledged support to establish further such nurseries. The University has established a pool of 50 apiarists to train new bee-keepers, and a bee help-line has been opened up to provide technical support to farmers on bee-keeping and crop pollination.  JRP has also published beekeeping manuals in Orya, in other tribal languages and a pictorial version of the manual.

Come back next week to read part 2 of the honey story

To help fund the expansion of Project Madhu Network

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SANITATION – enabling hygeine, dignity & security

Jeevika Trust works in villages that do not have sanitation systems of any kind. Open fields and non-farmable wooded areas are their lavatories. Men and boys relieve themselves during the day. To maximise privacy, women relieve themselves at night. Mothers and fathers accompany their small children but, when young boys and girls are old enough, they go alone. Night-time presents a dangerous situation for adolescent boys, girls and women – and an opportunity for deprived (if not depraved) men who seek illicit sexual pleasure or retribution – as the Badaun rape case highlighted in our blog demonstrates.

women toilet india

Our partners - WORD in Tamil Nadu and JRP in Odisha – work closely with families to bring hygiene, dignity and security to village life. Both partners train women and men to build toilets for themselves. This involves learning how to make latrines, construct toilet shelters with hand-made bricks, fit toilet pans and doors, and paint and line walls with tiles. Due to the scarcity of water, the toilet is serviced by using water from a bucket to sluice the waste away. By western standards, this is still a basic form of sanitation. For villagers living in remote villages, owning your own toilet is close to luxury.

JRP also provides sanitation facilities in schools. This includes a system of water collection tanks which catch the monsoon rain and makes it available for drinking as well as for use in the school latrines with links to a wash basin so that children may wash their hands. Toilets in schools are vital in attracting and keeping pubescent girls at school. The education of a pubescent girl ends when school toilets are not available.

girls school india

Eco Clubs are also formed in these schools for students to learn about the environmental cycle and enables them to use water, soil, seeds and saplings to plant out their own kitchen garden and provide shade within the school grounds. The fruit and vegetables they produce contribute to the midday meal the school provides (often an incentive for poor parents to send their children to school). In these ways, children learn about hygiene, the value of privacy, and the need for environmental sustainability.


Help villagers build more toilets & water harvesting systems

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Can better sanitation reduce rape in India?

The Badaun rape case has shocked the world, with the disturbing image of the teenage girls hanging in the tree being shared millions of times on social media.  It has highlighted once again the fact that the Indian Government has done little or nothing to address the sanitation needs of poor women in rural India. 

india toiletTwo girls stepped out of their house in Katra Village in Uttar Pradesh on a hot May night, two months ago to relieve themselves in the fields- just like millions of other women in the country do. They never returned and their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the village the next morning.

A postmortem examination confirmed that the girls had been raped and died from strangulation as they were hanged while still alive. The girls belonged to a Dalit family, who are the poorest of the poor, illiterate or semi literate with little or no assets. The alleged perpetrators, who were arrested only after a public outcry and the local police officials investigating the crime, belonged to a higher class.

The incident has once again raised the specter of poor or no sanitation in villages. Lack of basic facilities, like toilets inside every household, is a root cause of several social and health related problems not only for women but also for men.

According to the 2011 census, 53 percent of households in India did not have toilets. The figure was much higher in the rural areas, almost 70 percent.

Several reports have indicated that a high number of rape incidents take place when women defecate in open fields. Women unlike men can step out of their houses only when it is dark, as extra responsibilities inside and outside their homes, family size (most families are at least seven to eight in number) and cramped surroundings do not give them the privacy for their ablutions.

Access to proper toilets, preferably inside each and every household, will help women maintain a measure of basic dignity and of course privacy. This in turn will reduce the risk of any such untoward incidents. Many parents pull girl children out of schools, as soon as they reach puberty, as most Government owned educational institutions have poor or no sanitation facilities.

india toiletLack of sanitation can lead not to only rape and assault but also health hazards. A number of health related issues including diseases like Urinary Track Infection (UTI), constipation and poor menstrual hygiene are a consequence of lack of sanitation.

While building toilets are important and a pressing need, it is important to generate awareness about hygiene and sanitation, especially among youth and adolescent women.

Jeevika Trust through its partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa have constructed toilets in schools and homes and provided facilities such as overhead tanks and pipes and faucets to ensure running water and promote proper hygiene among students, adolescent girls and rural women.

 During the election campaign, Narendra Modi made a statement ‘pehle shauchalya, phir devalaya’ (toilets first, temple later). Now, with a Prime Minister who purports to understands the importance of toilets, it is important that the newly elected Government prioritizes this issue, and builds toilets in private and public spaces to end open-air defecation.

Support Jeevika Trust in building toilets and providing young girls and women the dignity, security and privacy they are entitled to.

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Sanitary Napkins, a taboo…

Jeevika Trust want to address the conservative taboo that menstruation is dirty and meet the needs of girls and women of reproductive age in village India to have access to hygienic, cost-effective, eco-disposable sanitary napkins. Access to sanitary napkins is a health issue and the UN have branded the stigma a “violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to dignity.” Ideally, the women want to make them for themselves and other poor villagers.

And we would love to hear your ideas about how we can help them do this.

menstruation women india

Do you know why sanitary napkins are more than a piece of cloth?

  • 74% of rural women use unsanitized cloth during menstruation
  • In the poorest villages, where there is no access to a spare piece of cloth, women will use gunny (hessian) bags, sand, ash, rice husk or newspaper to stem their flow which creates Reproductive Tract Infections
  • The same piece of cloth is often used repeatedly over a long period of time – and sometimes by women in the same household – and not adequately washed or dried, which is unhygienic
  • Lack of access to menstrual hygiene – which includes sanitary napkins, toilets in schools, availability of water, privacy and safe disposal – sees some 23% of girls drop-out from school.

Are you aware that menstruation defines the life of women and girls in India?

  • Average menstruation age is 13.4 years – in many villages this is considered the age from which girls can marry
  • One in 6 girls in India begin child-bearing between the ages of 13-16
  • 50% of all girls urban and rural have no understanding of this basic biological process
  • Maternal mortality in India represents 15% of all deaths of women of reproductive age
  • Taboos around menstruation include being required to sleep outdoors, not being able to touch food consumed by others, attend family functions or enter temples.

india rubbish

Some ecological & health impacts of disposable napkins

  • Most disposable pads end up littering village roadsides or are burned in huge trash heaps which release toxins from plastics into the atmosphere
  • Popular branded sanitary napkins/tampons, eg. Stayfree, Whisper, Playtex, Tampex, etc, are made up of plastic fleece, plastic-based gel, polyethylene and chlorine, all of which are highly toxic and are linked to cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and Reproductive Tract Infections
  • It is estimated 58,500 million pads would be generated each year if every woman of reproductive age in India used disposable sanitary napkins
  • A disposable pad is estimated to take between 500-800 years to decompose.

Central Government solutions in 17 States have cost Rs 44.21 million = approx. £440,000

  • While this has so far provided 15 million school girls, new mothers & women prisoners with sanitary napkins, supplies are insufficient and do not adequately address need for safe disposal.

Jeevika has many ideas about how to address these issues but is still developing a suitable strategy to enable village women and girls to design a strategy to make & dispose of sanitary napkins for themselves & others in a cost-effective, hygienic, eco-friendly way.

If you have any ideas you would like to contribute to this strategy – no matter how wild – we would love to hear from you!

Email now!

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Will the new Government offer a People-centred Policy?

Following our recent election coverage and political analysis of poverty, Priya (our programme co-ordinator in India) gives her view on the outcome.

“If we have to build a modern India, then we will have to first give dignity to the Indian woman,” says Narendra Modi, the newly elected Prime Minister. Is this mere lip service to win the elections or will women enjoy a more equal status under the new Indian Government?

With an overwhelming victory for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies Narendra Modi promises to focus on people-centered policies and effective governance.  Will the rule of his Government consider the needs of disadvantaged minorities and live up to their inclusive manifesto?

india women

There is the pledge to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been pending approval by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) since 2010. The Bill will reserve one third of political seats for women to encourage equal opportunity and the political, social and economical condition of women is expected to improve drastically nationwide.

Schemes focusing on the welfare of the girl child in urban and rural areas of the country have been included in the Manifesto. It promises dedicated Women ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), skill development for tribal minorities and all women Mobile Banks to boost employment opportunities. To emphasise progress in the personal security of women, the BJP intend to set up fast track courts to deal with heinous crimes against women and senior citizens, and open more hostels for working women.

child labour india

Health facilities for all will be provided with the launch of Universal Health Insurance and trauma centres in all districts. The Government proposes to invest 30 per cent of the health budget in promotion of preventative good health care.

For the first time in the BJP’s history, they have listened to the citizens representatives and a panel has been set up to enable NGOs to voice their grievances.  The NGOs are particular that candidates are of high calibre with clean records and not those who would run on muscle and money power. Basic issues like water, sanitation, illegal constructions and rehabilitation of slum dwellers are command demands, although it does not mention specific programmes for the welfare of disadvantaged communities.

At Jeevika Trust, with support from our partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa, we engage with women from vulnerable and impoverished communities. Many are Dalits and Tribal villagers who face discrimination on a daily basis. The NGOS we work with serve as a connection between Government structures and local communities and create awareness regarding various schemes in education, health and livelihood. We can only hope that the policies of the new Government enable poor rural communities, especially women and children, to receive their entitlement to livelihoods, education, health and human rights that holistically serve the social and economic inclusion of disadvantaged communities.

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Why Do We Tolerate Poverty? Part 2

Gurcharan Das puts his finger on a question which Jeevika sees as vital to the whole issue of addressing Indian poverty, especially rural poverty – what is the correct role for, and expectations of, the State? Unfortunately the legacy of Nehruvian socialism still lingers on, with its implicit expectation that the state provide not only a framework for delivery of individual and community livelihoods, but also the delivery itself.

india village

The State – including increasingly, as Professor Sen points out, regional state governments, – should concentrate first on what only the State can do: as Das puts it 

Prosperity is indeed spreading, but it is happening amid appalling governance. Indians despair over the delivery of the simplest public services. Where the state is desperately needed—in providing law and order, education, health and drinking water—it performs poorly. Where it is not needed, it is hyperactive, tying people in miles of red tape.

As to the way forward, Professor Sen disappointingly, in his essay on tolerating poverty, concludes only that ‘there is work to be done’: we are left to infer that someone somewhere needs to persuade the Indian media to tackle its caste-based bias and better discharge its responsibility to educate its public about the symptoms and causes of India’s poverty.

Meanwhile at village level there is indeed real work to be done: at the interface with village communities, the role of the state needs to be radically redefined to synergise with the energy, compassion and ‘grass roots’ versatility of the thousands of proven NGOs active in rural India and the disciplines, technologies and enterprise of a much better engaged business sector. The BJP will now be free from the constraints of its coalition last time round, to deliver on both its pro-business mandate, and its signals to the rural poor.

india bees

A symposium on ‘The Dilemma for Rural India’ organised by Jeevika last December at Wolfson College, Oxford (*) confronted the question – who is accountable for the historic and continuing failures to build expanding livelihoods and prosperity in village India in a way which might counter massive unplanned urbanisation?

The State is normally blamed for these failures, but are expectations of the State to both plan (e.g. the National Rural Livelihood Mission) and to deliver not misconceived? As between the three sectors – state, private and voluntary – where should poor village communities expect more effective help to come from? A properly functioning synergy between the three sectors has been missing.

oxford university

Jeevika advocated an improved ‘Tri-sector model’ for rural development, based on Schumacher’s thinking, under which a different synergy between government, business and NGOs at the interface with local communities can deliver sustainable village prosperity; they suggested that the poor track record of completed development projects based on such a synergy needs to be better understood and learned from, and the model given higher political and media debate.

To leave the last word with Gurcharan Das: In the end, India’s story is one of private success and public failure.

(*) The Dilemma for Rural India: urbanisation of village prosperity?’

organised by Jeevika and the Programme for Contemporary South Asian Studies: for papers relating to the symposium please visit the ‘Open ForumUsername Password jeevika@hampton

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Why Do We Tolerate Poverty?

Why do we Tolerate Poverty? asks Amartya Sen: is it a failure of information, of hope, or of compassion?

Prospect magazine carries an article in this month’s issue entitled ‘Why do we Tolerate Poverty?’ by the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen. This essay echoes the book ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its contradictions’ published by Professor Sen and Jean Dreze last year, which is instructively reviewed by Gurcharan Das for the Wall Street Journal and by The Economist.

Sen’s analysis focuses on India – its unique scale of poverty and its public attitude to such poverty, – with some invidious sideways glances at China. He argues that the most convincing explanation for the apparent ‘tolerance of the intolerable’ by Indian electors is public ignorance – rather than either a conviction that poverty is irremediable or a failure of human compassion and moral sentiment. And he goes on to blame the failure of India’s media to ‘inform public reasoning’ about the reality of the country’s poverty, due to ‘hardened social stratifications of caste, class and gender’.

india homeless children

Many would rather blame a failure of middle-class social conscience, arguably due to those same stratifications – or as The Economist puts it:

a ruling elite defined by caste, but also by gender, education and income, has an utter lack of interest—verging on contempt—in improving matters for the rest. Newspaper editors and readers, judges, NGO activists and academics are also drawn largely from privileged backgrounds, and care little.

Others who, like Jeevika Trust and its NGO partners, are active in rural India would say that ‘Indian poverty’ is not a single static thing, that Indian attitudes to slum poverty in exploding metro-cities and provincial towns, and to grinding deprivation in the age-old hinterland of village India, need very different explanations. Massive unplanned urban migration is changing the face of India, impoverishing both the city margins and the villages, but in very different ways.

women workers india

As authors of ‘An Uncertain Glory’, Messrs Sen and Dreze were closely involved (Mr Dreze being a member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council), in the Indian Congress government’s economic change of tack after surviving the 2008 recession: it embarked on a programme to more directly address rural poverty through such moves as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and more recently the Food Security Act, at huge cost to the state, while simultaneously de-emphasising programmes to stimulate and facilitate business enterprise and active job creation. Congress has now had its chance, and it has failed village India.

Professor Sen’s historic association with evolution of the Human Development Index as an economic measure, and with ‘human capability advancement’ via education, health-care, better nutrition and other measures of human well-being, are very much in line with what E.F.Schumacher – a co-founder of Jeevika Trust – called ‘economics as if people mattered’. As such Jeevika’s work for the building of village livelihood in India is shaped by the same instincts as those which drive Professor Sen.

However, as Gurcharan Das comments in his review

it is difficult to understand why Messrs. Sen and Drèze in particular insist that only the state directly deliver food and employment through its bureaucratic machinery ……… Instead of “make work” schemes, why not create sustainable opportunities for employment creation by eliminating regulation and other impediments? ……

This is the first of a two part analysis of India’s response to poverty at home.  The second part will be published later this week.

Meanwhile, to contribute to our mission to alleviate village poverty please click here

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[To be continued in Part II].

Life for the World’s Biggest Democracy

This is the fifth week India’s 814.5 million voters  (the worlds biggest democracy) are at the polls in a 6 week long general election. The results will arguably be swung by who can inspire the youth as half the population are under 24.  The youth are pressing for a change from successive governments failure to improve life conditions despite burgeoning economic growth.

india women voters

As it stands there has been rapid, chaotic change, with 20% of the population moving to urban zones in less than a decade. Whilst malnutrition rates in children have marginally improved since the 2009 election, in Mumbai the ratio of toilets versus population is infamously 1:30.

At Jeevika Trust we work with the most disadvantaged people in village India to slow urban drift and tackle the roots of poverty. As a small charity we can avoid expensive bureaucracy to instigate effective solutions in health & nutrition, water & sanitation, and livelihood to encourage the growth of self reliance. At our 2013 symposium at Oxford University we hosted influential multi-disciplinary experts to debate and engage with future solutions.

india self help group

The changing life conditions the media and the people are concerned with are primarily inflation in food prices and corruption. The populist pledge of the new anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party to have more urban planning is largely useless without a complementary rural livelihood development plan.

Despite the rhetoric of the British government that aid is no longer necessary, India is still a developing country. The New Delhi professor of economics Jyati Ghosh cites growing inequalities and a lack of job creation contributing to

failures of the development project so far: the persistence of widespread hunger and very poor nutrition indicators; the inadequate provision of basic needs like housing, electricity and other essential infrastructure; the poor state of health facilities for most people; and the slow expansion of education.

india electric

Whatever the elections outcome, India’s people will continue to desperately need the Indian government, the business sector and international NGO’s to work together the help people on the path to self reliance.

Donate now to support village India support itself 

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Can you imagine a country where 3,000 children die from hunger every day?

Despite dire headlines warning of the increased ‘heat or eat’ dilemma here in the UK our perception of ‘poverty’ is often relative. We think in terms of white sliced bread versus artisan sour dough. But in a grain exporting country such as India how does it reach the stage of no butter for the bread for a third of the population?

In 2012 India’s Planning Commission described the situation by stating “if it is not in a state of famine it is quite clearly in a state of chronic hunger.” The country comes second to last in the Global Hunger Index with a staggering 43.5% of children under 5 undernourished.

India starving kid

It is common for people in rural India to eat just one meal a day – a large serving of rice with a watery gravy. This lacks vital nutrition and starvation deaths are a hollow counterpart to 8% economic growth per annum. The Food Security Bill 2013 subsidises wheat and rice for two thirds of the population, keeping people fuelled with carbohydrates but not essential protein.

Can you imagine living where 3,000 children die every day from hunger? The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has labelled it a national shame.

Food prices are prone to wild fluctuation, and distribution to the needy suffers from corruption and inefficiencies. In 2011 I worked in an orphanage in Tamil Nadu where the local official demanded a bribe worth more than the rice the children were entitled to in order to stamp the ration book.

Here at Jeevika Trust we work through our Indian NGO partners to build village livelihoods. We focus on nutrition & health for the most marginalised. We also secure equally vital water & sanitation. We enable women to work in Self Help Groups to gain family income, to set up kitchen gardens, to cultivate honey for sale and for their families.

India free lunch

Our reach maybe modest but it is effective. Reputable NGOs do what the government still can’t do. Every little helps.

And with YOUR help we can say NO to starvation and make more people self-sufficient.

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Tarka and friends ‘Life’ – an album for India

They seem two worlds apart – the highly visible world of rock’n’roll, popstars and fashion in California, New York and London, and the vast unseen world of India’s 600,000 villages where one in eight of the planet’s population still live in extreme deprivation. Yet the unnecessary and much grieved death in 2008 of a young 42-year old highlighted a slender thread between the two.

It’s that thread which led record producer Barney Cordell, when planning an album in tribute to his younger brother Tarka, to single out Jeevika Trust. As a small charity working through its grassroots NGO partners in India we can effectively dedicate the royalties the artists have generously waived to a memorial project for Tarka in village India.

This month the album itself has finally been born with a fanfare of publicity. So we owe Barney a huge thank you, and wish this creative act all possible success.

Tarka and Friends: Life  is the title, produced under Barney’s label Room 609.  Please, please buy it now!

tarkaIt’s a haunting collection of tracks by Lily Allen (Shelter Me), Tarka’s mentor Evan Dando (Lovely New York) and other artists with close links to Tarka. The album echoes a collection of his own songs which Tarka would soon, but for his death, have released under the title Wide Awake in a Dream -  which Tarka himself described as ‘a compelling story of (his) heady days in New York City’.


That slender thread between the two worlds was Tarka’s own life. His legendary producer father Denny’s sudden death of cancer in 1995, and failure of his own musical career to take off, seem to have impacted Tarka deeply and he took a year out in India where he later admitted he ‘rode a motor-bike and took loads of drugs’. We don’t know how else he spent that time, but it seems to have made a deep impression on him and drawn him back: only days before his suicide he had just returned from another stint in rural India, and it is this link to India which Barney has wanted to celebrate with Jeevika’s help.

Jeevika has been focused, since our foundation in 1970 on the endemic poverty of life in village India. The Indian government has always prioritised industrial and urban development: it annually watches millions of rural people drifting into city slums, and is neither systematically investing in infrastructure to accommodate them, nor facilitating systematic growth of village livelihoods.

Jeevika’s projects for water & sanitation, health & nutrition and women’s income generation have been addressing this vacuum over the past 10 years.

Bee keeper

A new model for village livelihood is needed: neither government nor the business sector is taking the necessary initiatives, and  it is left to NGOs to move things forward. Jeevika is launching this year a ‘tri-sector’ model in which the roles of the state, private and voluntary sectors – are redefined.

So once again, we hope you’ll respond to this blog by ordering your copy of the new album on line at and recommending it to your friends.

Thank you.