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

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

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

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 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

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

just giving donate button 

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.

just giving donate button

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.

Support our work with a donation today

just giving donate button




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.