Jeevika Partners extend helping hand to flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu

by Priya Anand, India Co-ordinator at Jeevika Trust

A flooded hut in Tamil NaduThe monsoon rains that lashed Tamil Nadu in early December 2015 were unprecedented and were the worst that the state had experienced in over a Century. They caused flooding across the State, bringing normal life to a stand-still. The human toll in the devastating floods was over 190. More than 2500 villages were badly affected and 60 percent of the capital city Chennai was under water. The District of Cuddalore was one of the worst-affected regions, where over 50 villages were under water. Apart from the death of 49 people, over 50,000 huts were damaged during the floods in Cuddalore district and hundreds of families spent weeks together in relief camps. Heavy damage was inflicted on standing crops, cattle and infrastructure.

Cuddalore was ravaged by a tsunami in 2004 that killed 640 people along the district’s 57 km coastline. Since then, it has been hit hard by multiple cyclones including Nilam and Thane, and the district’s cup of woes brimmed full with the recent rains. The armed forces—the army and navy in particular—and 50 teams of the National Disaster Response Force did a good job of mitigating the impact by rescuing stranded citizens and distributing essentials. The floods brought out the best in residents of Tamil Nadu and volunteers from nearby States like Karnataka, who provided support in the form of cash and relief materials. Impromptu rescue teams were formed to rescue those who were stranded and residents who were not affected opened their homes and offered food and shelter to victims. Corporates such as Cognizant, Tata Consultancy Services, State Bank of India and Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. have also done their part by pledging funds to help victims. Several NGOs complemented the official machinery in delivering essential items to residents in the flood-affected areas.

Mithra Foundation distributing aid in Tamil NaduTwo of Jeevika’s partners in Tamil Nadu, Mithra Foundation and SCAD, played a key role in supporting flood-affected villagers. Mithra Foundation, our partner working with HIV positive individuals and their families in Trichy and Cuddalore districts, with support from various NGOs – including Jeevika – and individual contributors from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, was able to provide 23,000 kilograms of relief materials in kind to flood victims from 33 Flood Affected Villages in Cuddalore District. Essentials like food (milk, rice, oil and lentils), clothes (sarees, dhotis, children’s clothing, undergarments), sanitary napkins, torches, blankets and toiletries were also provided.

SCAD, which focuses on rural underprivileged communities was able to support victims in Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Tuticorin districts. It collaborated with local NGOs such as EKTA Nambikkai Centre, Killai, Cuddalore, GOD Trust, Institution Rural Development Trust, and Joseph Rural Development Trust in Kanchipuram to have an easy access to villages not reached by the Government.

distributing aid in Tamil NaduAfter a careful door-to-door assessment of affected villagers, especially women and children, SCAD provided relief kits to meet their needs. Flood relief kit materials included some 23 items including dry rations, dress, note books, oil, soap, food as well as basic things like bed sheets, dress materials, biscuits. etc. Kits have now reached 1325 families across four districts and over 2500 people from 24 villages received medical care from medical personnel in mobile vans. Close to 1500 individuals received essential items such as clothing, food items, blankets and mosquito repellants.

SCAD was able to effectively enlist the support of schools and colleges that are associated with it, and students and staff of both the rural development teams – as well as the educational institutions – played a key role in raising resources and collecting relief items.

Both Mithra and SCAD will continue to engage in rehabilitation efforts in the months to come. To find out how you can support their efforts, please contact us.

HDR: Progress made but a long way to go

by Andrew Redpath, Executive Director at Jeevika Trust

The UN’s latest Human Development Report was published just before Christmas, and has hit not only Indian but international headlines – with a corresponding level of explanation and, it must be said, defensiveness from Indian sources – because it has again confirmed that India’s positioning at a dismal 130 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) contradicts the ‘shining’ image that India cultivates as a global country with its own nuclear, space and foreign aid programs.

 

Reactions of the India press to the country’s positioning so far down the HDI are partly sober and partly determined to show the upside and how fast the picture has been changing in the past 15 years.

As the planet’s soon-to-be biggest single nation, set to overtake China in population within 20 years or so, India is weighed down by awesome facts and statistics. These include, for example, the sheer scale of ‘below-the-poverty-line’ (BPL) poverty – the 8 poorest states in India containing more BPL poor than all 28 developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, – and child malnutrition – India has one-third of global undernourished children. More importantly, India has failed in one Five-Year Plan after another to apply clear and radical urbanisation or village development strategies to address the urban/rural balance and the challenge of stagnant rural poverty and unplanned ‘urban drift’: 70% of the population or about 830 million people are still classed as rural, and of these more than 300 million – compare that with the entire population of the US or Europe – are BPL.

 

As The Hindu newspaper emphasises in its report of 16 December 2015, “There is now no doubt that the last 10 years were a time of extraordinary human development in India”.   It goes on to record that between 2009 and 2011 India had witnessed the fastest-ever decrease in the percentage of its ‘below-the-poverty-line population’, that between 2000 and 2014 India’s Gross National Income more than doubled  and its Human Development Index value went from 0.462 to 0.609 , a far higher increase than in the previous 15-years.  “This was driven by improved economic growth and increase in life expectancy as a result of improved health care, and less so from improvements in educational outcomes, which have been harder to achieve, especially for women” – an important admission given the critical role of nationwide education in any definition of human development.

In terms of the oft-quoted measure that India hosts one-third of global child malnutrition, the India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 just released by the Public Health Foundation of India points out that “Child undernutrition, …. has begun to fall at historically high rates; between 2006 and 2014, stunting rates for children under five declined from 48 per cent to 39 per cent, translating into 14 million fewer stunted children”.

 

Let me conclude with the article’s up-beat summary:  “ These are extraordinary achievements …. but India must build on its human development successes with better redistributive justice”- namely between rural and urban, between states, and between gender, caste and class.

 

 

The buzz about beekeeping

by Lucy Ferrier, Marketing & Communications Manager at Jeevika Trust

A female beekeeper in Odisha India

It’s fair to say that village beekeeping and honey production has become one of Jeevika Trust’s best-proven projects, and it’s easy to see why. It’s low-cost, environmentally friendly, locally-appropriate and allows the women who take part to build sustainable livelihoods which not only benefit them, but their families and villages too. There’s lots of evidence to show that empowering women and giving them ownership over income generation helps to lift entire communities out of poverty, and the women themselves gain greater respect within society.

Aside from income generation, beekeeping has other, much wider benefits (you may be interested to read our Executive Director’s two-part blog “Bees in the big picture”). It is widely noted that bees are vital to life on earth, pollinating 70 of the 100 crop species which give us 90% of our food worldwide and making enormous contributions to the health of the eco-system.

Beekeeping 5 JRP.pngThrough our largest beekeeping project, the Madhu Network Project, village crop yields were doubled, providing additional nutrition for the community and allowing women to generate extra income through selling surplus produce. Though the majority of honey produced through the project is sold, some is consumed by the family, providing another highly-nutritious supplement (did you know that honey is the only food in the world that contains all of the nutrients vital to sustaining life?).

Between markedly increasing household income, improving crop yields, contributing to nutritional health and more widely to the health of the environment, the benefits of this kind of project are clear. We work to the ethos that “Small is Beautiful”, and beekeeping couldn’t be a better example of this – tiny honeybees and small-scale beekeeping can make a big difference to impoverished communities.

Jeevika Trust - beekeeping projects in IndiaWe’ve been supporting village beekeeping projects in rural India for ten years, directly benefiting hundreds of women and, as a result, thousands of family and community members (and let’s not forget the environment!). The UK government supported the Madhu Network Project, but our hopes of their support in expanding the initiative were impacted by DfID’s decision to remove India from its main aid programme. We have been fortunate to receive three smaller grants to help with the expansion of this project to villages and women we’ve already identified, but we are always seeking new funding to support this tried-and-tested, infinitely replicable project. To strengthen the project further, we also want to take honey marketing “to the next level” to help the women access larger markets and generate a better return.

That’s why we’ve recently launched our “Sweetest Gift” appeal to raise funds towards the expansion of the project, benefitting more women (and, as a result, family members and the wider community), and giving them a helping hand out of a life of poverty and dependency. To find out more about the appeal and to donate, please click on the image below.

Campaign logo - final - transparent smaller

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Eliminating open defecation: More to it than meets the eye

by Priya Anand, India Co-ordinator at Jeevika Trust

November the 19th was World Toilet Day, an international day used to highlight vast global inequality when it comes to sanitation. Of the 2.3 billion people in the world who lack access to adequate sanitation, approximately a third (over 770 million) are in India, where open defecation (OD) is still widely practised. Over 50% of people in India either don’t use, or don’t have access to, a toilet.

 

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), launched last year, aims to catalyse a nationwide commitment towards hygiene and sanitation and help generate lasting behaviour change among the people. Its goal is to eliminate OD from India by October 2019. While it is too early to say if it has been successful, the mission has not addressed several serious issues.

For one, the assumption that behaviour of rural populace will change once toilets are provided is an erroneous one. Can poor sanitation among the rural populace be equated to just open defecation or is there more to the problem?

Yes, there is a widespread resistance to using toilets among rural communities. Many people prefer defecating in the open, because of the erroneous belief that it is healthier. Deeply-engrained social and spiritual beliefs dictate toilet practices and many people believe that it is religiously pure, and socially acceptable, to put faeces far from one’s own house.

 

Several subsidy schemes identical to SBM have been introduced since 1999; over 9.5 crore (95 million) rural toilets have been constructed under the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. Yet, the Census shows only an 11% reduction in rural OD between 2001 and 2011. Studies show that in 20-49% of even those households which have toilets within the house, at least one member defecates in the open. The same studies also show that, apart from sheer non-availability of toilets, other reasons for OD are the poor quality, inadequate numbers and poor maintenance of toilets or lack of water supply.

The status of faecal treatment and disposal is also abysmal. Just about 34% of the population’s latrines are connected either to septic tanks or underground sewerage; the rest have pit latrines where the waste decomposes, usually in unhealthy conditions. Local bodies provide little or no services for septic tank cleaning. An informal industry flourishes to fill this gap and private septic tank emptiers dump this polluting waste on any available empty lot or water body. Therefore despite usage of toilets, land and drinking water sources remain contaminated. Over 3 lakh (300,000) children die due to diarrhoea each year.

IMG_0877Jeevika Trust in its mission to build toilets and change people’s behaviour in Odisha and Tamil Nadu provides end-to-end solutions. This has been done through rigorous community outreach and education, innovative toilets designs (bio toilets using bacterial digesters that decompose faecal matter in a swift and efficient manner), commitment to quality construction materials, repairing of bore wells and water pumps, provision of piped water supply – where possible from rainwater harvested on school roof-tops - and, most importantly, providing a sustainable solution that community members both value and use. In addition, Jeevika Trust plans to evaluate the impact they have on increasing toilet usage and, by extension, reducing instances of open-defecation.

Support Jeevika in its work to reduce open defecation and help rural communities understand the importance of healthy sanitation habits.

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[1] http://thewire.in/2015/09/27/only-a-change-in-government-behaviour-can-clean-up-india-11318/

[2] http://www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/sites/communityledtotalsanitation.org/files/media/Challenges_of_behavior_change_%20in_rural_north_India.pdf

Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals in India

by Mark Hoda, Jeevika Trustee

In the culmination of a three year process, at the end of September this year, the UN’s 193 member states met at a summit to agree 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets

Sustainable development can be defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

The goals are to be achieved by 2030 and include ‘ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’.

The agreement also commits signatory countries to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

India’s mixed record

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted in 2000 and were supposed to be delivered this year.

As a UN report looking back on MDG delivery notes, ‘India has made notable progress in achieving poverty reduction and other MDGs since their adoption at the turn of the century but this progress has been uneven and millions continue to remain trapped in extreme poverty’.

The report highlights the scale of this challenge in the world’s biggest poverty trap – ‘India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people’.

Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas

The new Indian government elected last year is committed to a policy of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (‘Together with all, Development for all’) to achieve inclusive development.

As the UN report on India’s MDG record notes, looking forward to its SDG delivery prospects under a new government, ‘There seems to be a remarkable convergence of vision underlying the sustainable development goals and those of the Government, although it remains to be seen how effectively it implements its new strategic direction to provide a life of dignity to all’.

A framework of indicators against which to monitor progress in delivering the SDGs is being developed at UN level and according to press reports, there is scepticism amongst Indian NGOs that the goals will be achieved, especially in the absence of clearly defined monitoring processes and resource mobilisation.

Trade versus aid?

This week, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who coined the phrase ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, visits the UK.

While aid may not feature on the agenda during Mr Modi’s visit (especially given that the UK Government has now stopped supporting development projects in India) trade very much will be. British multinationals are hoping to unveil $15 billion worth of trade and investment deals during the trip.

However, as discussed at Jeevika’s previous policy and corporate events, trade and aid must go hand in hand. India will not be able to transform itself into the economic powerhouse that its Government, people and key trading partners, such as the UK, so badly need unless it can lift hundreds of millions of its people out of abject poverty.

It is therefore vital that aid as well as trade is on the table in Modi’s discussions with political and corporate leaders in the UK this week.

Jeevika Trust is developing it’s ‘tri sector’ approach on how governments, businesses and NGOs can work together to eradicate poverty in India.

Notwithstanding the UK’s decision to stop aid to India, the British Government still provides important technical assistance to India which should be used to support the delivery of the SDGs in India.A newly-installed water pump in village India Likewise, Jeevika very much wants to see UK businesses with a relationship with India devote some of their considerable resources  and expertise to rural development projects, as a key part of their trade agreements. Doing so will not only fulfill an important moral duty, but will also help create massive new markets for their goods and services.

We will therefore be watching Mr Modi’s UK visit closely in the hope that such tri sector poverty eradication agreements will be very high on the agenda. Without such partnership working, India will surely struggle to meet the SDGs by 2030 and Mr Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ commitment.

 

Old question, new debate – Aid to India

When India has a space programme, more billionaires than the UK and an aid budget of its own, should the UK still be sending money there?

This was a question raised by the BBC’s South Asia reporter Justin Rowlatt on Radio 4’s Today Programme, and skilfully debated by Oxfam India CEO, Nisha Agrawal earlier today. Despite being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India suffers from vast poverty; over a third of the world’s poor live there and, according to Agrawal, between 30-40% of Indians live on less than $1.25 a day.

Livelihood projectJeevika Trust has been working in villages in India for over 45 years in an effort to revitalise rural communities, empower marginalised women and help some of the world’s poorest people help themselves out of poverty through building sustainable livelihoods. The projects we support in partnership with grassroots Indian NGOs have touched one hundred thousand lives in village India since 1970 and have brought improved sanitation, better health and nutrition, empowerment and increased financial stability to hundreds of villages in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

Village IndiaWith India, particularly rural India, having been supported by the UK Government for many years, we are suffering after DfID’s decision to close its main aid programme to India by the end of 2015. One of our flagship projects, the Madhu Network Project, was funded for two years by the department and helped hundreds of isolated women from dalit and tribal communities in Odisha become self-sustaining village entrepreneurs by training them in bee keeping and the production and marketing of honey. Through participating in this project, some women were able to increase their household income by over 20 per cent after just one harvest, improving conditions for their whole families. Honey productionAfter the success of the pilot phase of this project, we hoped to extend the initiative to multiple other villages to benefit hundreds more marginalised women and their families; however, with the cuts in aid from DfID and from other funding sources following suit, this extension has not yet been possible.

Our Executive Director, Andrew Redpath said: “It is frustrating that there is a perception that India no longer needs aid. It is a country of 1.2 billion people and the world’s biggest poverty trap with over 280 million people living in poverty in rural areas and villages alone.

“We have seen immense success in our projects and, with our Indian NGO partners, we have been able to make a positive impact on a hundred thousand people over the last 45 years. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and millions of people who need the support of NGOs like Jeevika Trust.

Crab cultivation“We’re not about handouts – we’re about village livelihoods. We recognise that there is far greater success in helping marginalised communities stand on their own two feet through building sustainable livelihoods and enterprises than there is in simply delivering food or utilities.

“We’re calling on the world to recognise that millions of people in rural India still need help, and that aid cuts will have a long term negative impact on so many people living in desperate poverty.”

To make a donation to support our livelihood projects, please click on the link below:

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Trade and Aid to India

When the Indian government decided in February last year to award its multi-billion £ military aircraft contract to the French, a months-old comment by an Indian minister about UK aid to India being a dispensable ‘peanut’ in India’s budget was suddenly dredged up.

This sparked a fierce UK debate around aid and trade. Andrew Mitchell, then head of the UK Department for International Development (DfID), had his back against the wall justifying aid to a country with its own space and overseas aid programmes. However, it emerged that the whole DfID programme was already set to expire in 2015 and had been restricted to the three poorest states.

These three states include Orissa, where DfID is supporting our ‘Madhu Network Project’ to build, with our local NGO partner Jeevan Rekha Parishad, a honey-producing and marketing FairTrade network among hundreds of isolated rural bee-keepers.

Beekeeping in India

Now Mr Mitchell has been succeeded by Justine Greening, and the main change regarding India is that no new projects will be sanctioned in the remaining years to 2015 (resulting in a £200 million reduction over the remainder of the 6-year £1.2 billion cost of the programme).

However, her welcome new accent on private sector investment and technology puts a new slant on the trade vs aid debate, and Boris Johnson’s promotional trip to India before Christmas bangs the same drum.

DfID’s Press Release in December about our project quotes Justine Greening: “DFID already works with larger charities, but I want us also to work alongside smaller organisations like Jeevika Trust. It is a good opportunity for us to see different approaches delivering real results on the ground”.

It was particularly encouraging to receive a personal letter from Ms Greening to the same effect. And at our corporate reception in Westminster on 31 October – ‘India: Should trade and aid be linked?’ – Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable had likewise endorsed Jeevika’s work as a matter of ‘basic humanity – doing practical things in a good way’.

Vince Cable and Jeevika Trust

So here we are in the New Year! Jeevika is a strong supporter of the UK government’s targetted ‘aid’ to India (though of course we regret the expiry in 2015 of the current programme). We will demonstrate that the grant which DfiD has given us for the Madhu Network project is precisely the kind of aid that puts UK tax-payers’ money to good use, and really helps ‘the wretched of the earth’ – specifically in rural India, the world’s largest single poverty trap.

Photo of our corporate reception with Vince Cable is (c) 2012 SJL Photography. 

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!

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.