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 www.tarkamusic.com and recommending it to your friends.

Thank you.

Is Tesco the Answer for India’s Hungry Villagers?

All opinions expressed in this blog are those of the individual and not the official standpoint of Jeevika Trust.

The Indian government believe the solution to its starving millions lies in increased production and direct foreign investment.  This is supposed to cause a trickle down effect as the economy grows and one tactic has been the opening of the markets to multi-national companies.  As our blog has previously documented, the British government agree and have timetabled an end to British aid in 2014 with a renewed focus on a trade relationship.

At Jeevika Trust we have more of a grassroots approach, working with local NGO partners to support the most disadvantaged female entrepreneurs in livelihood development that harmonises with the environment and the individual.

starving india

Perhaps you heard in December about Tesco partnering Tata India and investing £68 million in expanding supermarkets.  This first significant move into the previously closely guarded retail market has been met with a wave of protest.  The convenor of the Confederation of All-India Traders has warned that like The East India Company historically they will come for business and end up controlling the country.  Shop keepers argue it will put many small and middle traders out of business.

India protest

The Indian government estimate 40% of food rots before it gets to market, due to poor transportation and middle men traders.  The disastrous impact of this was felt in 2013 when the price of onions, almost as much of a staple as rice, saw a 280% increase.

Some of the Dalits (traditionally the poorest in society) believe Tesco will help them out of poverty.  “At the moment the middlemen who control everything are high castes but there will be no role for middlemen and our firms will benefit. India’s new shopping malls have created the maximum employment opportunities for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe – the Dalits. But the government has promised that the supermarkets will procure from small and medium enterprises and 20 per cent of them will be Dalit enterprises,” said Milind Kamble, chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce (DICC).

If trade is sincerely the intention of both governments then it should be trade in both directions and I look forward to seeing Biotique on our high streets.

It’s worth remembering that in the UK we have had violent protests against Tesco for the same worrying reasons as the Indian shop keepers protests.  I believe that unless the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment is carefully managed, with advice being sought from local NGOs (as suggested in our tri-sector model for development) there is a very real risk of increased unemployment and poverty.


To support Jeevika Trust in developing the tri-sector model and opening fair options up for the people of India’s villages please donate here now

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Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) - our partner based in Odisha State on the north-east coast of India, with support from the UK Dept. for International Development – has been working for the last two years with 300 Tribal women in ten villages to produce honey.  

Traditionally these women and their menfolk collected honey from wild forest bees.  They would sell this unfiltered honey in unsterilized plastic bottles by the roadside in the hope of making a few meagre rupees.

Today the women are formed into Self-Help Groups which collect honey from the apis mellifera bee which produces it honey in wooden bee boxes made by village youths.  Together the women pool, filter, package and label the honey ready for sale in their village as well as in the local market and in other retail outlets.

For the first time, women are now able to generate an income, bank a percentage of their profits and use the balance as household income.  As a result, food consumption and family health has improved, many more children attend school and the women have gained confidence and now contribute more to family and village decision-making.

Bee keeper

The 300 women beekeepers also hold an annual Honey Fair – having now formed a Women’s Beekeeping Association – to market their honey and promote its use: it soothes sore throats, coughs and colds; and it is used in the Hindu Pūjā, a prayer ritual performed to host, honour and worship one or more deities, or to spiritually celebrate an event.  It is also used in cooking and as a food.

Since the apis mellifera bee has been introduced into their villages, the women and the local farmers have discovered that the amount and quality of their vegetables and crops like mustard and maize have improved enormously.  These villagers know better than anyone that – without the precious bee in our lives – essential vegetables and food crops would no longer be possible.

We at Jeevika now invite you to help us Celebrate Bees, their golden Honey and the New Year by making yourself a Strawberry Granola Parfait!

 Strawberry Granola Yoghurt Parfait

  • Slice a few strawberries (or banana, mango or other seasonal fruit) and mix with a little orange juice.
  • Take a few tablespoons of low fat yoghurt (or curd, as it is known in India) and mix with two teaspoons of honey (or more if you want it sweeter).
  • Break a few bars of Granola into small chunks.
  • Arrange alternate layers of fruit, yoghurt & honey, and granola chunks in a tall glass.
  • Chill in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!  Celebrate!!


To help JRP continue to enable Tribal women villagers to become self-sufficient beekeepers please go to

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Cyclone Phailin EMERGENCY RELIEF Appeal

Jeevika Trust is issuing an urgent appeal for donations after Cyclone Phailin struck the coast of eastern India on Saturday 12 October causing large-scale devastation within island communities that Jeevika supports there.

The cyclone has disrupted the lives of thousands of Indian villagers living around the Chilika Lake sea lagoon on the coast of Odisha state – an area where Jeevika has over the past 3 years established a valued presence supporting village livelihoods on the two islands of Mahinsa and Berhampur.  With 15 foot waves and 250 kmph winds the ‘shelter-belts’ of coconut and banana trees which have protected the villages have been largely uprooted, thatched houses flattened, boats smashed, fishing nets lost, goats and cows killed and kitchen gardens destroyed.

Our local partner organisation, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) has been working in the Chilika Lake area for many years.  Traditional fishing livelihoods had been decimated by pollution flowing into the lake and this had already caused widespread unemployment.  But JRP has managed to save many island families in the area from poverty by building the capacity of women to cultivate crabs, prawns and fish in island ponds which catch the monsoon water.

In a country which was recently ranked among the five worst in the world in which to be female,
this project has enabled women islanders to achieve a degree of independence, helping them to contribute to household income. In the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin, this exciting progress in the Chilika Lake community is now severely threatened.

Many ponds are now seriously damaged and the crabs, prawns and fish swept back into the sea and homes destroyed have left villagers living with neighbours or squatting in cyclone shelters.

Please – give what funds you can to help us rescue the Chilika Lake community from slipping back into extreme poverty.

The good news is that our crab project offers a strong framework for the area to rebuild. But it needs your help.

Please donate here.

Oxford University Symposium – The Dilemma for Rural India

Urbanisation or Village Prosperity?

Join us on 13 November 2013 at Wolfson College, Oxford to examine India’s vision for her rural poor and whether urbanisation is the only route out of poverty for India’s 800 million villagers.  India has reached a historic fork in the road towards the social balance that will serve her people best: she can either drift into the socio-economic model of urban/rural balance which ‘developed’ countries have typically followed during the past century, or she can grasp this chance to lead on a ‘third way’ between the market and Mao.

India Urban Slum

Two contrasting models of development will be debated – massive unplanned urbanisation versus decentralised rural development. Panel sessions will then look at key issues and international and historical case studies associated with both models, and finally, explore solutions to urban and rural poverty and the respective roles of government, business and NGOs.

India Village Women

Keynote speakers will be:

Prof. Bob Rowthorne, Emeritus Professor of Economics (Cambridge University) & Prof. James Copestake, Professor of International Development (University of Bath) Panellists include: Jens Lerche (SOAS) on the agrarian crisis, George Kunnath (Oxford University) on the Maoists, Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (Oxford University) on appropriate technology And Dr D. K. Giri (Schumacher Centre, Delhi) on the trisector solutions to poverty

Overview from a UK or Indian Government minister to be announced shortly

Space for this exciting event is limited – to register please email becky@jeevika.org.uk

Suggested donation for non-students is £15, to support Jeevika’s vital village livelihood projects in India. If you can’t come but want to contribute to the development of further knowledge of India’s future please donate here

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Things I Learned as a Volunteer in India

Two years ago, I had the wonderful fortune of being introduced to Jeevika Trust. I was just about to travel to India for the first time, and when I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in writing about development issues, he connected me with Jeevika.

During my ten months in India, I went on several field visits to Jeevika’s projects in Orissa and Tamil Nadu, and I’m forever grateful for the chance to witness island crab farms on Chilika Lake, walk with women through Tamil villages, and converse with Jeevika team members and partners alike about pressing issues. Here are three things India taught me as a volunteer:

 1. We all have something to give.

Before volunteering with Jeevika, I had never been to India, nor had I ever worked with an NGO. I felt inexperienced and unsure of what I had to offer people with far more knowledge than myself. But my time in the field with Jeevika taught me that we all have something to give, even if it doesn’t feel like we do.

As a writer, photographer, and blogger, I was able to help both Jeevika and its partners by taking photographs of projects and their beneficiaries, setting up our first blog, and even putting together a 16-page pamphlet. We all have skills that could be of tremendous value to an organization.

volunteer india

2. More is gained than lost in translation

My first task with Jeevika was to interview rural Indian women and write case studies about how they benefitted from participating in our livelihood projects. Although the prospect of telling these women’s stories excited me, I was hesitant about how we would connect, only being able to communicate through a translator.

I needn’t have worried. Although there were always details that got lost in translation, I was struck by how we still connected. Nowhere did I feel this more than in the Orissan village of Bebari, as I watched one woman I was interviewing rest her hand on the leg of another woman. Such a simple gesture – as with a smile or laughter – goes a long way in connecting with people.

 3. Change does happen.

When focusing on small tasks, it isn’t always easy keeping the end goal in sight – what ultimate effect is our effort making? Can we really make a difference in a country as large as India? But while visiting our partner organization SCAD in Tamil Nadu this March, I found my answer, through a 17-year-old boy named Sudalaimani.

SCAD cerebral palsy

Sudalaimani was born with cerebral palsy, but over the last five years, SCAD has provided him with therapy, treatment, and even surgery, to the point that he is back living at home. As Sudalaimani walked towards us on his own, and later showed us how he can now ride a stationary bicycle, I was overwhelmed with the awareness that change does happen, one person at a time.

Every small thing – every story written, every step taken, every hour of our time donated to an important cause – helps in making a difference.

To donate your time and skills please email info@jeevika.org.uk – if you cannot donate your time to changing the lives of Indian villagers for the better, donate your money 

Watch Dog Committees strike back!

Recently gang-rape of women has featured frequently in India – in Mumbai, in New Delhi and in Haryana and in other parts of India.  Indeed, a 2011 survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation, reveals that India is the fourth-worst place in the world to be a woman, after Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan, as a result of abortion of girl foetuses, human trafficking, sexual violence and poor education.

In the State of Tamil Nadu – where Jeevika’s partner organisation, WORD, works closely with Dalit village women* who represent some of India’s most impoverished women – protection of women against domestic violence and other forms of discrimination is a well-entrenched concept.

Within the village areas in which WORD works, a high level of discrimination and prejudice against the Dalit community still exists:   women suffer domestic violence from spouses – who themselves face discrimination and exploitation – and nearly two in five married women (37%) experience physical or sexual violence by their husbands.

The more frequent forms of violence that are perpetrated against Dalit women are verbal abuse (62.4% of total women), physical assault (54.8%), sexual harassment/assault (46.8%), domestic violence (43.0%) and rape (23.2%).

WORD – together with the support of Jeevika Trust and the Innocent Foundation is currently implementing a range of activities to support nearly 900 Dalit women who experience discrimination on a regular basis.

WORD Watch Dog trainingThe key to the change in the lives of Dalit women working with WORD has been their training as Watch Dog Committee members.  Together with training provided to local representatives of Panchayats (govt. councils), to the police and to other Women’s Self-Help Group members, they work collaboratively (with a woman lawyer, if necessary) to report and combat sexual violence and other forms of discrimination, including child labour and child marriage.

Members of the Watch Dog Committee initiative are simultaneously trained to generate family income through coir rope-making, tailoring and vegetable production which directly benefits their family members and builds confidence for these same women to engage in Committee activities that enable them to take control of their lives while reducing the level of violence and other forms of discrimination within their community.

Mrs Siva Muniyandi, WORD’s Director, says:

Our first Watch Dog Committee has been operational for less than a year now but already it has rescued two child labourers, has prevented a child marriage and the sexual abuse of a 17-year old girl.  Watch Dog Committees really do have teeth!

* The term ‘Dalit’ is interchangeably used with term ‘Scheduled Castes’, and these terms include all historically discriminated communities of India including those once known as ‘Out-castes’ & ‘Untouchables’.

If you would like to support Jeevika help WORD train more Dalit Women as Watch Dog members and to generate income to improve their village status, please go to

Jeevika goes to Auroville!

In March this year, Jeevika Trust – with the help of Department for International Development – took its five partner organisations to Auroville, an architecturally-designed township located near Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu in South India.

Founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (also known as ‘The Mother’) – and  Sri Aurobindo, an Indian nationalist, freedom fighter, philosopher, yogi, guru and poet – Auroville was built to embody their vision of human progress and spiritual evolution:

Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.

AurovilleWhy visit Auroville?

Auroville has been created and inspired by the residence of many NGOs and other wholistic and globally-minded organisations which reside within the Auroville township and whose prime concern is to make the world a better place.  All these organisations undertake research, experiments and apply their new-found technologies and knowledge using local resources with the aim of challenging and advancing progress in rural India.

What did we learn? 

Jeevika’s partners visited organisations that used bamboo to produce anything from jewellery to buildings; that research fresh ways of using water systems to grow crops when water is limited; others produced earth blocks from moulds to build cost-effective, water-resistant schools, moveable houses and apartments up to four floors high with zero energy and without cement ; worked with volunteers to grow and generate awareness of sustainable food production; or worked with women, men and children using art therapy to empower individuals, cross-cultural, group & community relationships.

Capturing the learning

Back in their own project delivery areas, our partners passed on their new-found knowledge and skills to the villagers with whom they work in Jeevika-supported projects – and in this way, the Auroville experience helped Jeevika and its partner organisations expand their ways of working with some of India’s most disadvantaged villagers living in remote areas of Tamil Nadu and Orissa.

We also had fun!

art therapy aurovilleDonate now to support our partner organisation capacity building  workshops twice a year

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Toilet Humour – Innovative School Assembly Programme Launches

The kids in India don’t have anything to eat and wear rags

It is an oft repeated observation that kids will be brutally honest about their beliefs.  I recently got to enjoy the fruition of nearly a years’ worth of planning when we launched our schools assembly programme.  I had the pleasure of broadening some of Hampton Wick’s finest young minds at Hampton Wick Infants School towards their peers in India.  I did so by dressing in silken Salwar Kameez and sequined slippers and ranting about the joys of curry, amongst other things.

There’s nothing like a hall of post-sunny lunchtime faces gazing at you to make you realise the challenge behind covering water scarcity and poverty in an entertaining and educational manner – especially with a malfunctioning computer of photos.  Yet roof top rainwater harvesting comes alive when the children are invited to try carrying a bucket of water and imagine flushing a toilet with one.  There is a genuine curiosity and enthusiasm unmarred by news fatigue and confusion over the ‘India the Superpower’ economic myth.

Toilet IndiaOur innovative programme is spreading our name as Hampton Wick’s very own International Charity whilst backing the next generation’s awareness of themselves as global citizens with the power to change the world.  Through learning about eco-school clubs planting trees in distant Orissa the kids are connected.  We collaborate on a fundraising activity such as a cake sale or no uniform day that pays for our work.  The schools can elaborate on the knowledge learnt with activity resources we provide including word searches, and it contributes towards Eco-School accreditation.

India School Eco club tree plantingWhilst it is true that 1 in every 3 children in the world that are malnourished are in India it doesn’t help anybody to see this as a given.  We are looking forward to continuing our schools programme with other establishments locally.

To help sustain our enriching programmes here and in India please donate

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Bid for special gifts and help India’s rural poor – before 30 June!

Ebay Celebrity Auction!

We’re staging an auction to help India’s rural poor – with a little help from Bollywood and one of Britain’s best gardeners

Jeevika Trust is participating in the annual Small Charity Week eBay auction from 20 to 30 June to raise vital funds for the Indian village communities that we support.

A leading Bollywood production company, Eros International – which distributes Bollywood films to over 50 countries worldwide – has kindly donated to us an exciting package for you to bid for. The package includes a boxset of Bollywood hits and a one year subscription to the company’s films online worth £72 – as well as a poster of the box office record breaking YEH JEEVANI HAI DEEWANI autographed by its leading star, Deepika Padukone.  We are proud to be supported by a woman famous for her roles depicting independent women in films including ‘Cocktail’ which was a smash hit commercially and with critics alike.

Deepika PadukoneLeading UK gardener Cleve West, winner of seven medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and a long term Jeevika Trust supporter, has also made a special donation. Auction participants can bid for a hardback signed copy of his bestselling book Our Plot, which also features Cleve’s beautiful illustrations. A limited edition pen and ink glicee print of one of his ‘Mutant Roots’ – Cleve’s fantasy illustrations of strange and magical vegetables – is on offer as part of the auction package.

Cleve West Mutant Roots Illustration Our PlotThe Small Charity Week eBay auction is a national event raising funds for numerous small charities across the UK.

Becky Buchanan of Jeevika Trust, said:

“We are a small charity that makes a big difference in the communities that it supports in rural India. The media focuses on ‘India the Superpower’. But rural India remains the world’s biggest poverty trap.  For every £1 we make, £3 is generated for the villages we work with. That’s why this Small Charity Week auction is such a great opportunity. Thanks so much to Eros International, and to one of Britain’s favourite gardeners, Cleve West, for their continued support.”

Prices start at just 0.99p so you could grab yourself a bargain! As they say on ebay…happy bidding!

You can bid for the Eros International package here

And you can bid for the Cleve West package here

Or to support us the usual way, please go to our Just giving page

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