The Case for Continued Aid to India

When people learn that my work supports woman’s livelihood development in rural India, they often dismiss it. Why? In the wake of UK-wide budget cuts, righteous anger has been stage-managed by the mass media. Public critique has been focussed away from the costs of failed global financial institutions and a decade-long war of questionable legality in Afghanistan, and fed towards the Department for International Development’s spending.

Within the wider nationalist castigation of aid, there is particular opposition to India being a beneficiary. It has an economic growth rate of 6%, a space programme, its own international development aid programme, and a growing club of billionaires. This is part of a simplistic reduction of worldwide poverty trends to headlines.

For ‘worldwide poverty trends’ please read children with abscesses the size of tennis balls for want of less than a tenner to visit the dentist, three families sharing a hut smaller than your living room, and one meal a day rather than three – the same meal of rice and gravy, every day.

Research by respected scholar Andy Sumner has proved that the majority of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries like India, China and Nigeria: “Only about a quarter of the world’s poor – about 370 million people or so – live in the remaining 39 low-income countries…a dramatic change from just two decades ago when 93% of poor people lived in low-income countries.”

I have lived for extended periods amongst the trends I describe above, not visiting from a hotel but from a hut in the village, collecting my water (when the pump worked) in a bucket.  For me it is the most unlikely things that pierce a conscience hardened by backpacking and volunteering at orphanages throughout the developing world – I could happily play with barefoot kids, but when I realised they had no dolls I cried bitterly.

Volunteer in India

When I meet people who recite headlines, I am spurred like Victor Mallet of the Financial Times to share the need for a concentration in efforts as the overwhelming scale of the challenge for everyone to have a life with dignity grows – that the population overall is set to expand by the equivalent of the entirety of Europe’s in the next 50 years.  This combined with global warming amounts to quite literally grave consequences.

Have you ever volunteered at home or abroad? This December 5th is International Volunteer’s Day and we’d like to hear your stories!

Video: Water-wise gardens and tips from Cleve West

Last month, Jeevika had the pleasure of hosting an evening event with landscape designer and two-time RHS Chelsea winner Cleve West at The Lensbury in Teddington.

Cleve West

Part of Cleve’s talk focused on helpful tips for caring for vegetable gardens, and we’ve put together a short video highlighting his suggestions. They include:

  • Add organic matter to the soil.
  • Don’t be fooled by dry-looking soil.
  • Water regularly well every couple of weeks.
  • Water seed beds before sowing seeds.

There are a few other tips in there as well, but you’ll have to watch the video to find out what they are!

Beyond learning about how to care for our gardens, an important focus of the event was raising awareness about water wisdom, as well as creating a link between our vegetable gardens in the UK and kitchen gardens in village India.

Here’s an idea of the various kitchen garden and water projects Jeevika has sponsored in India:

  • Project Madhu – in addition to beekeeping initiatives, this project also helped 100 tribal women develop and sustain kitchen gardens.
  • Project Mousmi – over a three-year period, we helped provide safe clean water to 1,600 villagers in tribal forests in Orissa.
  • Project Ooranie – we helped revive three traditional rainwater-harvesting systems, or ooranies, in Tamil Nadu, which now provide clean water to 970 families in three villages.

So next time you go to water your garden, think about a host of Indian women villagers possibly doing the very same thing halfway across the world.

Do you have any tips of your own to share about caring for our gardens?