Aid versus trade?

This week on the blog, our fundraising and events consultant, Mark Hoda, discusses the ever-thought-provoking issue of aid and trade with India. Feel free to respond to his post in a comment below, and always keep in mind that this reflects Mark’s personal opinion and should not be taken as representing those of Jeevika.

New International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, addressed the issue of Britain’s trade and aid relationship with India earlier this month at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham.

In response to criticism of the UK’s aid programme in India, she signalled that the basis of the relationship needs to move from ‘aid to trade’ as India becomes more prosperous. “Those are the discussions I am having with the Indian government at the moment,” she said.

Justine Greening MP

Jeevika’s contribution to this debate

By very happy coincidence, at the end of this month, Jeevika is holding a corporate reception with guest speaker, Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable, which will address this very issue of whether trade and aid should be linked and, if so, how.

Recent debate in the media about aid to India has cited its nuclear, space and overseas aid programmes as evidence that it does not need UK aid. However, isn’t Indian Government spending on high tech science and energy infrastructure vital to economic growth, just as it is for the UK?

Also, what is totally missing from the media is the extent of India’s poverty. Three hundred million Indian villagers live below the poverty line. This is equal to the total population of the United States, and greater than that of Brazil.

How can Justine Greening’s department fulfil its mission (“to lead the UK’s fight against global poverty”) if it does not continue to support projects in the world’s biggest poverty trap?

The benefits of aid and trade

In my view, the issue of trade and aid should also not be seen in either/or terms but as a symbiotic relationship. The UK Government and corporate sector should work with NGOs to deliver livelihood projects that provide a sustainable route out of poverty for India’s rural communities.

As well as helping to alleviate great human suffering, over time such aid interventions will also foster strong trade by opening up a vast, untapped market for British goods and services.

Photo of Justine Greening courtesy of The Guardian.

India Update: Live from the Field

It’s that time again – when Jeevika staff leave our London office behind, jump on a plane, and head for the field, to the heart of where our work is based.

This past weekend, our programmes officer Judith arrived in the city of Bangalore in southern India, where she’ll mostly be based for the next three weeks. To keep you up to date on our team’s various movements, we thought we’d give you a quick rundown on what the next few weeks will hold:

This week finds Judith heading to the campus of SCAD (short for Social Change and Development), one of our largest partners who are located in Cheranmahadevi, Tamil Nadu.

But she isn’t going alone – our project coordinator in India, Priya, is accompanying her, and they’ll spend this week running a four-day stakeholder workshop with our partners, as well as visiting some of SCAD’s projects.

SCAD in India

One of SCAD's fishery projects in Tamil Nadu

Next up, they’re heading east to the state of Orissa, to visit another one of our partners, JRP – Jeevan Rekha Parishad. This time they’ll be joined by our communications consultant Candace (that’s me!), who’s looking forward to re-visiting some of the same projects she saw last year, as well as new sites.

One such new location is Barhampur Island on the brackish lagoon of Chilika Lake. Earlier this year, we were grateful to receive a grant from the innocent foundation to implement another eco project on Barhampur, modeled after a similar project on the nearby island of Mahinsa.

Jeevika Trust

Judith and Priya on last year's visit with JRP

Lastly, Judith, Priya, and Candace will spend a few more days in Bangalore, finishing up the Impact Assessment that they’ve been working on for the last several months.

There will be many more updates to come from the field over the next month, so be sure to watch this space!

6th annual Walk for Water: Not just a walk in the park

Jeevika’s 2012 ‘Walk for Water’ on 30th September was a great success on quality, but thin on quantity! Our number of Walkers was well down from recent years, but those who did join us were excellent company: stalwart veterans like Carey and Emma, Jan, Debbie and Patricia, Richard and Vivi, as well as new faces: Jeanette with her daughters Sara and Jane and their families, Jenny with Bill and Julie, Clare from Church Grove, and others we hope to see again.

Better still, those who walked had really risen to the occasion with their sponsorship and between them raised over £1,500 from their various supporters.

This year’s Walk was the sixth we have done, but for the past 2 years we’ve faced a dilemma: make it tough or make it fun, or try to make it both? A fine afternoon’s walk through lovely parks and palaces and along the Thames can certainly be fun so why make it tough??

Well, it’s an effort to share what millions and millions of village women in India experience to fetch safe water for their families, walking up to 6 kms every day in the dry months – sometimes every night to avoid the heat – due to medieval standards of village water supply which Jeevika seeks to address.

Women get water in India

So we compromised – as you’ll read below. The day was organised by Emma and Becky: Emma has walked the past 2 years and kindly volunteered, despite her busy day job, to lead the preparations, and Becky, as our local community coordinator, tirelessly took on the local contacts, arrangements and publicity.

Thanks to our neighbour Graham Dillamore, who is Historic Royal Palaces’ senior estates manager, we were kindly allowed this year to pass through the Palace Gardens in order to get through to Long Water, thus reducing the long tramp round Barge Walk which we’ve done in previous years.

This time we all gathered at a fixed start point, the ‘Kcafe’ on the edge of Bushy Park, and by walking in one or two groups, we found it more sociable. There was also a carefully planned refreshment stop halfway round where the stragglers could catch up and stay together. And thereby hangs a tale! …..

Walk for Water

A shot from last year's 5th annual Walk for Water.

We’d decided to offer an extra boost to people’s sponsorships by providing 5-litre water containers for brave souls willing to carry them for the second half of the route in a poor imitation of what Indian village women do. But you try buying empty water containers! In the end Halfords’ fizzy blue windscreen-wash solution (NOT for drinking!) at £2.99 was the best bet and we lined up a few of these next to the drinks at the half-way point – for those who’d promised their sponsors to carry them.

But due to a little misunderstanding the leading group of walkers very nobly picked them up regardless, and even Sara’s 6 year old son William insisted on lugging one all the way back, even though it was almost half his size: he will go far!

Tea at the riverside Glass House was as delicious as ever, with Margaret’s lemon drizzle cake the highlight as in previous years – she’s a star. Becky’s idea of adding some ‘Indian sweets’ proved to be easier said than done – leading two of us up to Tooting to Pooja’s for gulab jamun, ras milai and other sticky sweets of all shapes and colours – an unforgettable shopping experience with half of London’s south Asians all politely jostling for sweets in advance of Diwali.

Walk for Water

A scene from last year's post-walk tea reception.

The weather was wonderful, and Jenny made a nice surprise speech about why, after successfully heading a big UK charity for young people, she’s been drawn to work voluntarily for Jeevika in leading our new strategic planning process, and then everyone slowly went off home – to use a memorable mistranslation by Gerard Hoffnung – “agreeably drunk and well fed-up”!

First photo courtesy of Public Media Texas.