Sustaining Our Planet’s Future

Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs – Brundtland Commission 1983

Priya Anand, the author of this blog, is India Coordinator for Jeevika Trust. She works with Jeevika’s partners to build their capacity to deliver livelihood projects that are innovative & sustainable

It is always a great idea to align ourselves with thought-leaders in whichever field we operate in. With sustainable technologies and methods being truly the need of the hour, Auroville became Jeevika’s training ground.

In 2013, Auroville conducted a customized workshop for our partners from Tamil Nadu and Odisha that focused on sustainability. The workshop enabled our partners to visit innovative alternative livelihood opportunities being undertaken by rural women. Most importantly, it exposed our partners to an alternative style of living that was simple, eco-friendly and enabled people from different communities, religions and countries to live together in peace and harmony.


Inspired by Auroville, our partners have since implemented environmental activities such as repairing and desilting traditional reservoirs to conserve and recharge ground water, planting mangroves to protect coastlines and prevent soil erosion and have installed smokeless chulhas (stoves) to create smoke-free environments within the home.

Late last year, I received an invitation from Auroville, to the workshop: Exploring a Sustainable Future. It focused on the need to move from being an industrial-growth society to a life-sustaining society and addressed the all-important issue of the impending environmental crisis and concepts of sustaining and rejuvenating planetary resources.

Focused on the individual, the change agent, it gave me an opportunity to revisit Auroville and examine the environmental crisis through concepts of sustainability like water harvesting, waste-water treatment, solar energy, earth construction, organic food cultivation, community-building and wellness. This was done through a mix of classroom sessions, practical demonstrations and site visits that focused on environmental campaigns spearheaded by individuals and non-profit organisations.

india water pollution

The workshop also highlighted the transformative belief in the ‘Power of One’ with audio-visuals of how various individuals – acting singly or in a group through their unwavering commitment and perseverance – have succeeded in bringing about change.

Some key learnings I took away from the workshop were –

  • All of us should have a life purpose of consequence to the world beyond oneself, which brings about a positive change in the world.
  • A small change at an individual level can grow into a empowering project that changes the neighbourhood and/ or a community
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world.

The process of our inner exploration has now begun!

I, as one among them, plan to inspire and work with Jeevika’s partners to continue to integrate interventions that relate to the environment and initiate innovations that are more integral, unifying and comprehensive in their vision and action and provide local, cost-effective solutions. Watch this space!

Help Jeevika Trust to support and sustain the environment, simply…

just giving secure donate button

We, as women, have earned freedom of speech

Our volunteer Geraldine of innocent foundation shares her insights into how our project with our partner JRP works on the ground.

JRP supports villagers in strengthening the ecological resources of their environments. In Barhampur village, they have set up self-help groups for women, to train them on farming activities so that they can make a living.

How do self-help groups work?

JRP supports 6 self-help groups (SHG) of 15-20 members each.  That’s 100 marginalised women members getting together to improve their situations. Each woman gives 20 Rupees per month to belong to the group. JRP gives a revolving fund of 10,000 Rupees per year. A revolving fund means that funds remain available as they are invested in activities which repay the money used from the account. Self-help group members can start intra-lending towards productive activities. JRP also assists them to set up a bank account so they can save money there.

Self-help groups are empowered to make change happen. For example, when latrines need to be built, SHGs receive the money and organise for artisans to complete the work. JRP has learned it is safer to give the money to SHGs and train them rather than to individuals (e.g. a co-ordinator) as, this way, there is accountability and the money is well utilised.

india toilet

Some self-help groups have also put rules together, which their members have signed up to: if someone commits a crime, for example, the person is judged and need to pay 3000 Rs.

What was life like before the project?

Some self-help groups were put in place before the project started, and they had received money from the government, but the money was badly used, in some cases siphoned off to feed individuals’ addictions. There were also relationship problems whilst the groups were forming.

They weren’t able to save much money.

What has changed in the village since the project started?

The project has brought security to the whole village. Now, thanks to JRP training, the villagers are able to make much more profit from their activities and save money in the bank, which they can use when needed. They can also get microcredit from rural banks and loan schemes which provide cheaper access to finance than traditional money-lenders.

When I asked one of the self-help group members about the achievement she was the proudest of, she initially sounded self-deprecating: I haven’t achieved anything in my life. Then she thought about it and added: Actually, we as women have earned the freedom of speech. Before, in my family, I wasn’t able to talk to make decisions. Now I can give the money to men.

The sanitation system is improving as latrines have been built. On one of them, the following message was painted: Jeevika Trust/JRP with this toilet have improved our dignity. Another message read as follows: I am only going to give my girl [for marriage] to a house which has a latrine.

Ten women were trained to build smokeless chulhas. These stoves are replacing the old chulhas, which create smoke women inhale whilst cooking, leading to respiratory problems.

smokeless chula

They have planted lemon, chili, papaya, banana and coconut trees to both generate income and protect the island from high winds and exposure to the Bay of Bengal.

Education is improving as some teachers received support from JRP. The number of children going to school is also rising. The school now has one computer and a cooking stove, latrines and solar lights.

One thing they also organise is a deep clean-up every couple of weeks in the village: they get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and divide themselves into groups. One group goes to clean the school, another one to the port, and so on. They have brooms, kerosene and matches. Anything that can be burned gets burned so the village stays clean and there is less ground for mosquitoes to develop.

What was the impact on women’s lives?

One of the women explained that, as a self-help group member and small enterprise owner, she was empowered to make decisions. Belonging to a self-help group and generating profit is a truly empowering process for women previously excluded from economic processes.

Women have got together to learn how to cultivate the ground. They can now communicate with each other and work together.

Villagers are so enthusiastic they’ve become entrepreneurs and are keen to expand. For example, women have asked to mill flour. JRP has listened to their needs and organised for 10 group members to be trained on using flour milling instruments. Women have already divided the different tasks between themselves: some will get the wheat, others will be using the flour milling machine, and others will be selling the flour.

They plan to import wheat from other villages in order to produce more than 200kg of flour each month. They can then use this flour to make sattu for example, an Indian sweet nutritious paste. They also plan to rent the instrument to people from other villages who are keen to make their own flour. This activity was not part of the original brief and is very promising.

What are the challenges?

Cyclone Phailin, which hit the Orissa coast in October 2013, has had a devastating impact: 1000 coconut trees were uprooted, fishing nets of more than 100 fishermen were washed out in the seas, 100 boats were damaged, 12 vermi-compost pits were completely destroyed, 100 kitchen gardens were destroyed as well, and so on. The villagers received extra money thanks to an emergency appeal made by JRP and are now re-building everything.

Now other villagers are keen to get involved in self-help groups and income-generation activities. 12 new self-help groups have been formed, even though they are not supported by JRP. At this stage, JRP can ‘only’ support 100 members, who were identified through a needs assessment at the start of the project. They currently can’t afford to help the other self-help groups.

There is very limited access to healthcare. When women are about to give birth for example, they have to go a long way to get medical support. JRP organised health camps after the Phailin cyclone in October 2013: a team of doctors came to the village to provide free emergency treatment. They came twice and had a huge response. They gave antibiotics and treated people for infections and injuries following the cyclone.

What are the villagers’ hopes for the future?

In the future, they would like health assistance to be provided in the village. They would like even more toilets in the village so everyone has access to a latrine.

To help the women in Chilika Lagoon achieve their hope for more toilets and regular medical care please donate now

just giving donate button


World Toilet Day 2014

1.5 million children die in India every year from diarrhoea.

Last week we ‘celebrated’ World Toilet Day (19 November). What does your toilet look like? Is there a mirror? What colour is the rug? Is it en-suite? Is it in the open beside a railway line or in the field behind your school? Jeevika Trust build toilets in India’s villages and schools.

Our projects are changing things for the 23% of Indian adolescent girls who drop out of school when they hit puberty due to a lack of toilet facilities. With rooftop rainwater harvesting systems we have a simple eco-friendly technology that fits the local context, and doesn’t drain low groundwater reserves.

india toilet

India is a land of contradiction – nearly half the 1.2 billion population defecate in the open, but more than half have a mobile phone. People in the West find it hard to understand how money can be poured into providing water and sanitation for years, yet still the need is so great. It is true Indian government grants have funded the building of toilets for the majority of people below the poverty line. But these builds are of poor quality, and there has been little spent on promoting awareness of hygienic practise in the community.

We work with our five trusted grassroots NGO partners on hygeine awareness workshops. Despite a renewed dedication by the new Indian Prime Minister Nahendra Modi to provide toilets for all, this cannot happen without experienced support from the NGO sector to change cultural attitudes.

When you donate to Jeevika Trust you give dignity and health, so if you’re feeling flush don’t get bogged down in guilt and donate here now.

just giving donate button

Jeevika Trust at Small is Festival

To explore and celebrate the approach of Jeevika Trust founding father E. F. Scumacher to sustainability and poverty the Small is Festival happened in Bristol in September.  There was a rammed timetable of debates, workshops and music.  Jeevika Trust were represented with a talk on ‘Schumacher in Village India.’

E. F. Schumacher India

I introduced the scale and suffering of poverty in village India. The wide reaching meaning of ‘jeevika’ regarding right livelihood financially and vocationally on a human individual scale, respect for the environment to support livelihoods now and in the future and the enabling conditions necessary for livelihood were touched upon.

Ooranie water reservoir redevelopment and school roof top rainwater harvesting are appropriate technology that fit the context of the project without overloading the community with difficult to up keep modern solutions. I described organisation of producers into Self-Help Groups for human scale self reliant local economy’s that are integrated and protected from global fluctuations.

Schumacher infographic

Photos courtesy of Arran Hodgson

Appropriate knowledge was illustrated by the Project Madhu Network bee-keeping initiative to stop wild bees being raided for honey then destroyed.  Involved in this is the state level framework for a standardised product. The tri-sector was introduced by way of a description of the Oxford University Symposium ‘The Dilemma for Rural India: Urbanisation or Village Prosperity.’

The only divergence with Schumacher’s approach in village India is the focus on women. Empowerment at the heart of the family has been proven to be the most effective and reliable method.  

jaipur brass band

Photo courtesy of Kaucus Sound-Film

 It is amazingly gratifying to see Schumacher held is such esteem by so many forward thinking experts and the ‘Small is festival’ cultivated a positive view for the future of the world and its people.

To support us in furthering Schumacher’s vision donate here now

just giving donate button

Dancing away the barriers!

Jeevika’s 8th Stakeholder Workshop was recently held at the Vishtar Training Centre  near Bangalore in Karnataka. Eight women and eight men from our five partner organisations came from Tamil Nadu and Orissa to take a fresh look at Gender Equality – most importantly, how to achieve this more efficiently and effectively within our project activities?

workshop india

But why look at Gender Equality, when already we successfully work with women to provide safer, cleaner water; have helped women become producers of organic compost and fertilisers, bees & honey, crabs, prawns & fish, cashews, bananas and vegetables; and have helped families gain access to toilets in villages and their children to toilets in schools? Because the more we have worked with women the more we have found the need to look further ahead strategically than when we first put women at the heart of our Mission.

Now the daughters of the women we have already worked with need access to low-cost, hygienic, eco-disposable sanitary napkins so that they can stay in school to receive a better education than that of their mothers; so they become more aware, more self-sufficient and confident; so their own children might live and work in a better world.

So what did we take away from our workshop? Following discussions, brainstorms, games, exercises, work groups and feedback sessions, partners agreed that all future projects need to consider the time women already spend undertaking their family responsibilities before loading them with additional project activities. And secondly, their menfolk need to be included in discussions related to project design.

Men need to understand why it is that women are given priority in income-generation and other activities; and why it is relevant for men to play a supportive role (eg. in marketing and other external roles that women are often reluctant to employ).

Workshop participants also took away some great singing and dance routines to break the chain, an on-line song & dance campaign to highlight violence vs women: in between the serious stuff, we danced our socks off!

one billion rising

If you would like to support Jeevika Trust bring Gender Equality to its women’s income-generation activities in some of India’s poorest villagers

just giving donate button

A Day in the Life of an Indian Wife

All women of the world worry about the same things: themselves, their family, their work.  Sometimes the lived daily experience of this is quite different.  This is Meenadutta’s story, as told to Geraldine Visser.

india honey bees

“I wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, 4 at the latest. I first do all the household work: the different activities like cooking or taking care of my in-laws. I then send the children to school so they get there at 8. Then I take some food.

I have time to do all the income generating activities like honeymaking or knitting from 12 until 3. I was trained [By another NGO] to knit different designs. After 3, I am busy with household again; I take care of my in-laws and children. I go to bed at 11.

Before the project we were in the 4 walls of the house. Now we are involved in different activities: beekeeping, and also vegetable growing. We can also go out: if there is a honey fair, we all go and sell the honey there. We make good profit and it is very helpful to the family. We are feeling very proud because we are mixing with you people [NGO members from the state capital city and European volunteers].

We are not alone.

I would like to use my savings to buy a sewing machine. My dream is to unite all the women members and bring a strong platform to start a wool production centre where we all work together getting good income to support our families. We could sell our wool products at the market with the honey.’’ 

india gardens

Tribal women find they face less discrimination when they act in a group.  Despite India’s booming economy Meendutta has problems getting credit from the bank for her business.  With perseverance and the support of our NGO partner JRP that should change. Communal Self-Help groups provide a supportive atmosphere for livelihood activities.

To help Meendutta and other women like her 

just giving donate button

Strengthening Ecological Resources with Pramila Jena

This story was told to Geraldine from innocent foundation who recently visited our Eco-Berhampur project in India.

JRP has been working for nearly two years in the village of Barhampur, on the Chilika Lake Lagoon. They support villagers in strengthening the ecological resources of their environments.

One of the ways to do this is through vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is the process of composting using a mixture of food waste. Villagers use cow faeces, mix it with vegetable peels, and add a kilogram of worms.

Vermicompost acts as a natural nutrient-rich fertiliser and soil conditioner – perfect for the villagers to use on their crops. It encourages organic farming and high yields. Using this vermicompost, they have already produced 600kg of vegetables and cashew nuts. They also sell the vermicompost to other farmers to use on their crops.

india vermicompost

Pramila Jena, along with other self-help group (SHG) members, has been trained to look after a vermicompost pit as she had some land she could cultivate. Before JRP started the project, her husband was more involved with the farming. Thanks to JRP, women received training to become small-scale farmers. She has learned how to cultivate the ground so now she and her husband do the same things. She adds: “My husband was very supportive and wanted me to be involved with JRP to keep on being happy.”

Pramila Jena has a beaming smile on her face and is very happy to belong to the self-help group. Her family business has grown a lot: not only do they look after a vermicompost pit, they also fish, farm prawns, and cultivate cashew nuts. Which all means that her children have a much more diverse diet than they did before the family became involved with JRP and the family has more household income.

One of the other key advantages of vermicompost is that food waste is removed from the village, therefore reducing the number of mosquitoes and houseflies, and providing a more sustainable environment.  

Please join innocent foundation and add your support the strengthening of the Chilika Lake Lagoon ecosystem and our other projects now

just giving donate button


Crab and Prawn Farming

This story was told to Geraldine, a volunteer for Jeevika Trust who visited India courtesy of innocent foundation.  Thank you Geraldine and innocent! 

Project Eco works with impoverished tribal families in the ecologically-vulnerable Chilika Lake Lagoon. Its goal is to develop sustainable lagoon-linked livelihoods such as crab, fish and prawn cultivation.

Santi is one of the women who has benefitted from the project. With JRP support she has started a prawn farming activity.

india story

“My name is Santi. It means ‘peace’ in Hindi. I am 52 years old and I have one son and two daughters. One daughter is married, but not the other one. She is still at school. I used to have two sons but one died three years ago. The other one is independent, he works and earns money to feed his own family. I also have five younger brothers, whom my husband helped to get educated. Now they are settled in various positions in Bhubaneshwar [Orissa state’s capital, 3 hours’ drive away from the village] and they don’t come to visit. Even though they grew up in the village, they don’t care how we live. I feel very sad about the situation.

Before JRP started the project in my village, I wasn’t working. I was dependent on my husband, who works outside the village but earns very little money.

After Renoo [project coordinator from JRP] came and spoke about prawn and crabs cultivation, I joined a self-help group and was able to invest 5000 Rs towards crab cultivation. I learned the skills to cultivate crabs and prawns, and also learned how to increase banana and coconut production. Since the project started a year and a half ago, I made 70,000 Rs profit. Now I feel very rich.

Fattened crabs are hand picked for harvest

Every day, I wake up at 5 in the morning. I first send my children to school then look after the crabs and prawns cultivation. I have lunch at 10am, then snacks at 4 and dinner at 8. I do all the family work in the morning and then I am free. In my spare time, I plan where I need to invest my money and what I need to buy.

My life has changed now: I used to have a thatched home, now I have a cemented home. Only the ceiling is still thatched. I also opened a stationery shop, which is looked after by my daughter-in-law. Thanks to all these activities, I was identified by the government of Odisha [Indian state in which Santi lives] as someone who could be trusted to make things happen so got extra help from them.

We save the extra money in the bank and I can use that money when needed. I don’t need to ask the other women for money. I didn’t have to ask them for money when my daughter’s husband died three months ago. He was a fisherman and disappeared. It was tragic.

I have hopes for the future: I hope I can build a cemented ceiling on my house. I also hope my son and daughters will get educated and don’t have to depend on anyone.”

Crab and prawn farming are some of the most profitable activities on the island, producing commodities which can be exported to foreign countries.

To support our partner JRP in continuing to establish Self-Help Groups in village India please donate now

just giving donate button

Bees in the Bigger Picture – Part 2

As we said in our last post…..there’s a bigger picture – in fact two bigger pictures! - extending far beyond the direct livelihood benefits of the villagers who participated in Jeevika’s bee-keeping Project Madhu Network. In the first place there’s the local community ‘big picture’ which we outlined last week. And we touched on that word ‘pollination’, which is the key to a far bigger picture still, one of global dimensions – namely the crisis facing honey-bees as pollinators of 80% of all the fruit & veg that we eat.

bee pollination

We need bees.  In Europe 4,000 vegetable varieties, and worldwide over 70 of the 100 crop species which give us 90% of our food, are bee-pollinated. Albert Einstein is often quoted forecasting that “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination…no more men”.  A clear objective of Project Madhu, beyond providing means for village livelihood, was to counter the risk of deforestation in the project area, and improve crop production, through enhanced bee pollination from the new 750 hive colonies. This has been a fruitful success, with crop yield more than doubling.

This crisis became the subject of a huge debate in 2006-7 arising from evidence of ’CCD’ or Colony Collapse Disorder experienced in America, and subsequently spreading elsewhere – even reportedly to Kerala in India. By 2009 a lot of research into the causes of CCD was being published, but here we are 5 years later, still uncertain whether CCD has a single or principal cause, or a cocktail of causes – pesticides such as ‘neonicotinoids’ sold by the likes of Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, or deadly mites which infest bees such as the varroa mite (or indeed ‘miticide’ chemicals used to control such mites), or even electro-magnetic interference from mobile phones or phone towers which have been shown to impact bees’ navigation.

america bees

However, according to a 2010 UN report, CCD causes, even in the US, less than 10% of all bee deaths. The great bulk is due to a combination of broader challenges such as degradation of forest and other bee habitats; progressive loss of food sources and pollen sources and loss, through air pollution, of scent trails to locate them; wide-spread use of agricultural pesticides and insecticides; and in the US the extensive practice of transporting hives of bees in lorries over huge distances to pollinate monocultures like almond trees – e.g. as many as 20 million bees in a single truck-load.

No wonder that bees are under terminal pressure from these causes, when they are simply trying to do their job. And this is why not just Project Madhu, and any expansion which may follow it, but Jeevika’s overall strategy on bee-keeping in rural India, will be looking not only to address village poverty but also make a contribution however modest to this global crisis which the bees – and all of us – are facing.

To save the bees and the future of man

just giving donate button

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

just giving donate button