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…

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Strengthening Ecological Resources with Pramila Jena

This story was told to Geraldine from innocent foundation who recently visited our Eco-Berhampur project in India.

JRP has been working for nearly two years in the village of Barhampur, on the Chilika Lake Lagoon. They support villagers in strengthening the ecological resources of their environments.

One of the ways to do this is through vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is the process of composting using a mixture of food waste. Villagers use cow faeces, mix it with vegetable peels, and add a kilogram of worms.

Vermicompost acts as a natural nutrient-rich fertiliser and soil conditioner – perfect for the villagers to use on their crops. It encourages organic farming and high yields. Using this vermicompost, they have already produced 600kg of vegetables and cashew nuts. They also sell the vermicompost to other farmers to use on their crops.

india vermicompost

Pramila Jena, along with other self-help group (SHG) members, has been trained to look after a vermicompost pit as she had some land she could cultivate. Before JRP started the project, her husband was more involved with the farming. Thanks to JRP, women received training to become small-scale farmers. She has learned how to cultivate the ground so now she and her husband do the same things. She adds: “My husband was very supportive and wanted me to be involved with JRP to keep on being happy.”

Pramila Jena has a beaming smile on her face and is very happy to belong to the self-help group. Her family business has grown a lot: not only do they look after a vermicompost pit, they also fish, farm prawns, and cultivate cashew nuts. Which all means that her children have a much more diverse diet than they did before the family became involved with JRP and the family has more household income.

One of the other key advantages of vermicompost is that food waste is removed from the village, therefore reducing the number of mosquitoes and houseflies, and providing a more sustainable environment.  

Please join innocent foundation and add your support the strengthening of the Chilika Lake Lagoon ecosystem and our other projects now

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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

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Letter from Andrew – a special appeal

Hi everyone,

‘Village to Village’ is a growing theme of Jeevika’s work – the village community of Hampton Wick on the river here, to the villages of Orissa and Tamil Nadu where our Indian NGO partners deliver the projects that we plan and get funding for.

Hampton Wick Festival

Well … Sunday 4th August saw Hampton Wick’s high street cleared of traffic to allow the thousands of Prudential RideLondon cyclists to sweep past over Kingston Bridge. The whole street was given over to the brand new Hampton Wick Festival, which looks like being an annual fixture from now. Courtesy of Pyush Patel the postmaster, Jeevika set up its stall straight outside the Post Office: thanks to Christine, Nadia, Leila and others for their support – especially on the Grand Parade. 

We marched under our tall JEEVIKA banner, along with King Henry VIII and his courtiers representing Historic Poyal Palaces, the glittering bee-lady all in gold on stilts, a penny-farthing and a classic Rolls-Royce, two alarmingly real gorillas on a motor-bike and side-car– you name it! The street and the Crafts Fair were thronged with pedestrians from noon to dusk.  Many congratulations to Carol Duke and Mark Butler for making it all happen through the Hampton Wick Association.

Meanwhile at the India end, our projects continue to be focused on village communities – whether it be the 70 families on Barhampur island in Orissa’s Chilika Lake sea lagoon with their needs for integrated water & sanitation plus income generation from crab & prawn cultivation, or those around Namakkal and Trichy in the heart of Tamil Nadu where women’s needs for security from domestic violence and for access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care are being addressed by our new ‘Watchdog Committees.’ 

Judith and Andrew, during their March visits to monitor existing NGO partnerships, also attended the capacity building Partners Workshop in Auroville near Pondicherry: this wonderful campus with its appropriate technology institutes is an extended village in itself.

To help meet the needs of such communities we of course  have to raise funding for our Indian project costs  – our recent  Impact  Assessment study shows  that for every £1 invested through our  village income-generation projects, at least £3 of income is  generated by the villagers.   

But in order to create, fund and deliver those projects, we also have to cover our irreducible overhead expenses back here. We stay small here – a 1-room office and 3 part-paid staff – but through our Indian NGO partners and the villages they serve, our impact in India is multiplied. Our aim here is for at least half of our ‘human resource’ to be volunteers (and by the way, in this time of highly-paid charity chiefs, all my own time is voluntary too!).  So, will you please help us with a donation now

That’s all for now!

Andrew Redpath Jeevika Trust

Andrew Redpath, Executive Director

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Seminar on the future of Indian village development in partnership with South Asia Studies, Oxford University

“For India to change to industrialism is to court disaster.” Mohandas Gandhi

Jeevika Trust draws inspiration for its mission to tackle the roots of poverty in India by revitalizing rural communities through inclusive, harmonious sustainable development from the economic philosophy of Gandhi and E.F. Schumacher (For an article on Gandhi’s influence on Schumacher click here).

Gandhi and child

However, in the face of India’s rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, and the assertion that this is the only route out of poverty for India’s rural masses (for example, leading Indian politician P. Chidhambaram’s forecast is to get of 85% of India’s population into cities), we need to question and re- validate our  ‘village livelihood’ values and mission.

South Asia Studies Partnership

On November 13th, as part of this process, we are planning to collaborate with Oxford University’s South Asia Studies Programme on a symposium to explore whether urbanisation is the only route out of poverty for India’s 600,000 villages.

Our plan is to set out two contrasting models of development – large scale urbanisation and industrialisation vs decentralised rural development. We will then look at key issues and Indian and international case studies associated with both models, and finally, explore solutions to urban and rural poverty and the respective roles of government, business and NGOs.

Oxford University

Join the dialogue at Wolfson College in November

This event will bring together Jeevika and South Asia Institute’s partners and supporters at Wolfson College’s new auditorium on 13 November 2013. We very much hope you will be able to join this discussion. Keep an eye out on our website, social media and JeeNews for updates and details.

To support our forward thinking projects in village India please give now

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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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Jeevika Trust & the United Nations Shared Vision!

The end of May saw the unveiling of the final report of the UN’s High Level Panel, co-chaired by David Cameron, on what will replace the Millennium Development Goals during the next chapter from 2015 to 2030.

The 12 new Goals proposed in the UN’s report remind me of the 6 goals in Jeevika’s own Operating Plan for our work in village India during the coming 3 years, and what’s nice is the key aims that we share – ‘empowering girls and women’ is the UN’s no. 2 priority, and ‘universal access to water & sanitation’ is their no. 6.

India OoranieActually these are very closely linked, and we rate water & sanitation as the top of our ‘conditions for livelihood’ in the villages where we work: two particular examples are restoring traditional village water resources to stop women wasting half their days walking for water, and channelling rain water from school roofs to supply toilet and washing facilities dedicated for girls to stop them opting out of school.

India Ooranie

Ensuring health & nutrition are the UN’s new no. 4 and 5 Goals, and we see them as equally integral to village livelihood. For example, we support two of our Indian NGO partners providing specialised support to HIV/AIDS sufferers in Tamil Nadu, particularly women, while village seed banks and worm-composting techniques are two ways we help women to set up and maintain kitchen vegetable gardens for better family nutrition.

No. 8 of the new UN goals is ‘creating jobs and sustainable livelihoods’. Extra income generated by women through working in Self Help Groups typically finds its way to the heart of the family in a way that their husbands’ earnings don’t. In Orissa, one of India’s 3 poorest states, our projects for women’s honey-production, and for crab & prawn cultivation for export, are having measurable impacts on family well-being.

Prawn Cultivation Orissa

The phrase ‘Small is Beautiful’ constantly comes to mind when little organisations like Jeevika can contribute to universal development goals by leveraging their efforts through on-the-ground NGO partnerships and women’s groups  in village communities.

To support our diverse livelihood development projects follow this link…

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Broadcasting for a better future with Kingston Green Radio

John Peel is one of my all-time heroes. His honeyed wisdoms, the depths of his respect for diversity and pure dedication to his beliefs (including seemingly hopeless cases like failing football teams) are still a cockle warming inspiration today.  This International Women’s Day (8th March) I had the pleasure of following in his footsteps, broadcasting the Jeevika cause into people’s living rooms via the wireless (or the computer, depending on how modern they are).

John Peel with VinylWith Jeevika Trust’s focus on revitalising communities in village India through women’s livelihood development, I was invited to host(ess) an hour long slot.  Kingston Green Radio is our local station featuring ‘quality informed programming in a discerning world’ and was on FM airwaves for an innovative Climate Week Special.

After getting lost en route in downtown Kingston I made it to the Kingston Environment Centre in the drizzle.  Inside was a hive of  volunteers, where I was made welcome and even offered a cooked breakfast! In our studio was veteran Sam, a founder of the movement, the lively Rosa my co-presenter and Kimberly who helped us find the music last minute online on an ipad!

In between Indian inspired tunes we shared stories of and debated travel, violence against women and cultures of inequality, including Bollywood movies (lack of) strong women and what an ideal nourishing life would involve.  I repeated Jeevika’s appeal to find people to do sponsored individual challenges to raise funds for our work and for friends to help us out locally, either at events or in the office!

Bollywood Movie Dabangg 2 We rounded off the show with Tagore’s poem urging India to awake into a country..

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

The Kingston Green Radio ethos of connecting the community in an environmentally integrated fashion for a healthier, happier future is something we have in common.  It’s gratifying to see practical solutions echoed globally! And in being involved to live the John Peel dream…

To listen to our programme visit mixcloud

If you can’t lend the women of India your time to make the difference then back us with your wallet by texting  ‘JTGD01 £x‘ to 70070 (where x =  sum you want to donate up to £10) or follow the link below

Voices from India, part 2: Priya in Tamil Nadu

This is the second post in our series, “Voices from India,” in which we hear directly from women involved in our projects in India. Last week we spoke with Dhani in Orissa, who leads beekeeping projects in the Chandaka Forest. This week we travel further south to Tamil Nadu to meet Priya, a health educator and leader in her self-help group…

It’s late afternoon in the Tamil village of Kasturibai and nearly thirty women have gathered together for a meeting of their Self-Help Group (SHG). The group was started by one of Jeevika’s six Indian partners, Women’s Organisation for Rural Development (WORD), who have been based in the Namakkal District of Tamil Nadu since 1985.

At the front of the group sits their leader, 30-year old Priya. Born in the village of Gobi, she studied through 10th standard before marrying at 18 and moving to Kasturibai. While her husband is frequently away as a truck driver, Priya raises their two children—a daughter aged ten and a six-year old son—in addition to playing an active role in the village.

NGO in Tamil Nadu

Since joining two and a half years ago, Priya has been a leader in her SHG, calling twice-monthly meetings and recording minutes. But her involvement in Kasturibai doesn’t end there. While she spends ten days a month in agricultural labour, Priya also teaches at an afternoon tuition centre as well as educating villagers on health issues.

Drawing on prior informal training at a hospital, Priya has since received additional training through WORD, which she uses to promote proper health and hygiene in her village.

She says: “Now I’m working to talk about health in the village, taking people to the hospital for operations, and talking to families about family planning. Because I am a member of the SHG, I know a lot of people, so it’s easy for them to talk to me in confidence.”

While the diversity of Priya’s commitments in Kasturibai is great, what is equally as interesting to hear about is what has changed in her life since the SHG was formed.

Priya recalls: “Before we joined [the group], if we needed money, we had no savings. Even if we only needed 100 rupees, I would have to go and ask my neighbour.

“It’s a very drought prone area so there was little work if I needed money for emergencies. Finance was always the problem. We would have to borrow money from money lenders at 10% interest. Now it’s only 1% if we borrow from SHGs.”

And it’s exactly this 1% that enables women like Priya to not only begin to save, but to look ahead and explore new possibilities for the future.