Cultivating Livelihoods — A Global Gathering in Araku Valley

2 millionth tree

Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, Government of India, plants the 2 millionth tree of the Araku Valley project to commemorate the event.

As the sun rose over the lush Araku Valley, history was being made.  For the first time, visitors from around the globe gathered for the 2012 Livelihoods Network Camp to co-build solutions for rural communities to live in healthy, sustainable ecosystems.

The Livelihoods Network Camp (October 8-11) began with a symbolic event—the planting of over 100 new trees by individuals representing 61 organizations from across 21 countries.  Their collective presence and participation in this forum represents a new approach to investing in livelihoods through co-creation and local interactions.

Why Araku Valley?

The Livelihoods Network was born out of the belief that the success of large scale impactful projects depends on capacity building and knowledge sharing between practitioners.  In 2011 the Network held its first Camp in Paris to explore sustainable development practices through the sharing of best practices, tools and methodologies.  In 2012, more than ever before, the Livelihoods Network wanted to put the rural communities they serve at the forefront of the event, hence the gathering in Araku.

This year, the dialogue is broken up into six distinct workshops consisting of site visits and team discussions.  In line with this year’s emphasis on local involvement, the agenda was determined by talking to the adivasis (tribals) in the Paderu Tribal Agency Area.  These key themes that emerged—carbon monitoring, access to market, household energy, financial inclusion, nutritional security, and improving agricultural capacity—span multiple social development parameters in a holistic approach to livelihood promotion.

The Enablers—The Livelihoods Fund and Naandi Foundation

The Livelihoods Fund bridges the gap between rural communities and the corporate sector by addressing the needs of both through an innovative carbon investment fund.  The Fund’s primary objective is to provide nutritional security and social value to rural communities through sustainable ecological development.  Corporations, on the other end of the equation, receive high quality carbon offsets in return for a financial investment in the fund.  These corporations are also asked to provide technical and operational support to the projects they invest in.

Livelhoods Network Camp 2012

 Leaders from Livelihoods Venture, Naandi Foundation, local cooperatives, and several government agencies address 100 representatives of farmers from each village.

One such investment of the Livelihoods Fund is the Nandi Foundation’s Araku Valley project.  Naandi has been working in Araku Valley with the adivasis for nearly a decade and a half.  Their mandate is to change the lives of the underserved populations in India through public-private partnerships.  In addition to the work they do to create sustainable livelihood options for farmers, they are also committed to the protection of child rights and the provision of safe drinking water.  Across India, their programs provide livelihoods to 20,000 tribals, feed 1.1 million children per day through their midday meals program, and provide safe drinking water to over 200,000 people living in villages.

Holistic approaches to livelihood like Naandi’s that set an example for others in the same space.  We expect that over the next few days, this unique group of people will learn from each other, but more importantly, from the local communities and community partners.

Reblogged via: Mahindra Rise


SAMTFMACS wins Community Enterprise of the Year Award!

Andhra Pradesh based cooperative named Community Enterprise of the year at the Citi Micro Enterprise Awards.

“Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society awarded for its exemplary work in improving the livelihoods and income of tribal coffee growers in Araku Valley”

Winners sharing the stage at Citi Micro Enterprise Awards. Naandi's SAMTFMACS team on left - Mr. Garam Kumbo (President, SAMTFMACS), Mr. Satish Korothu (Coordinator, SAMTFMACS) and Ms. Anupama Sreeramaneni (Araku Originals Team)

Winners sharing the stage at Citi Micro Enterprise Awards. Naandi’s SAMTFMACS team on left – Mr. Garam Kumbo (President, SAMTFMACS), Mr. Satish Korothu (Coordinator, SAMTFMACS) and Ms. Anupama Sreeramaneni (Araku Originals Team)

Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (SAMTFMACS) was recognized as the Community Enterprise of the year at the Citi Micro Enterprise Awards(CMEA) for its meaningful contribution to the community at a ceremony held on January 12, 2013 in New Delhi. The Honorable United States Ambassador to India, Nancy J. Powell, together with CEO of Citi Inida, Pramit Jhaveri and the Governing Council Members of the Awards program, presented the award to the enterprise.

Currently in its ninth year, CMEA has focused on enterprises that are driven by social mission and/or owned and managed by local communities, whether it is producer companies, Cooperatives, self-help groups or social businesses.

SAMTFMACS was shortlisted for CMEA among several deserving entries due to its inspiring story. This cooperative was founded in 2007 as a coffee processing and marketing enterprise which works towards improving the livelihoods and incomes of tribal coffee growers in Araku Valley. The earnest efforts have resulted in decreased involvement of money lenders and middlemen and thus improving the livelihood of the tribal communities who depend on growing coffee as a primary source of income. Currently 35 local tribal youth are employed full-time in the cooperative and many illiterate women get wage employment at the cooperative’s coffee processing unit.

Over the last five years, SAMTFMACS has worked progressively for the community and as a result the average yield have increased from 45 kg per acre to 127 kg per acre in 2010-11 and 8,943 farmers have received organic certification. The access to organic and fair-trade buyers in niche global markets has increased the income from coffee in farmer families and has led to more households expressing an interest in the crop care of their coffee plantation. SAMTFMACS has also used the profits from the business for overall community development such as purchasing an ambulance for emergency health care, providing drinking water facility and giving out sports kits to village youth.

“We are extremely happy and thankful to CMEA for this honor. We will continue to work towards improving the livelihoods and income of tribal coffee growers in Araku Valley. By 2017, we aim to increase the membership base to 30,000 farmers, and attain organic certification for all of them, We also aim to increase per acre coffee plantation income from the current level of INR 6,250 to Rs. 31,250 in the next five years.”, said Garam Kumbo, President, SAMTFMACS.

Manoj Kumar, CEO, Naandi Foundation and Director, Araku Originals Limited said, “It is unbelievable how a score of adivasis working with us created the world’s largest coffee cooperative in a span of ten years. They have proven how economies of scale, value addition and direct access to niche global markets have made 100,000 lives come out of hunger and poverty.”

Coffee farmers from Araku Valley proudly showcasing their SAMTFMACS passbooks

Coffee farmers from Araku Valley proudly showcasing their SAMTFMACS passbooks

SAMTFMACS has been awarded a cash prize of Rs.10,00,000 together with a trophy and a citation. It will also receive business development support by way of specific capacity building trainings or sponsorships for exhibitions and events of its choice. Over the next few years, the enterprise will be monitored to track the impact of the support from the Awards.

The Incredible Feat of Jadhav Brothers!

Pradip’s association with Mahindra Pride School (MPS) began in August, 2009 when he first visited MPS along with his younger brother Vijay. Pradip hails from a small village named Kolwad situated in Buldhana district of Maharashtra. He is a son of a farmer and a family that comprises of 7 members. Due to limited opportunities in Kolwad, Pradip travelled from his village to Buldhana for higher studies after completing S.S.C.

Pradip’s family relies heavily on the monsoons for farming as the piece of land his father owns is not irrigated nor do they have a bore well.  Borrowing money to buy seeds was a usual practice. The income earned from the harvest was partly used to repay the loans and partly to take care of the family needs. And this annual income of around Rs. 40-50 thousand could not suffice the family needs.

Realizing that he will have to take up work to support his family financially, Pradip finished his B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) and came to Pune to appear for the Staff Recruitment Exams. His younger brother Vijay was already in Pune working with Bharat Forge as a Quality Checker but unfortunately as a result of the economic slowdown of 2008, he lost his job.

Mahindra Pride School guarantees its students an assured job placement after the training programme.  This promise made Vijay enroll for the training and he insisted Pradip to do the same. With no work and little financial assistance from the family it was near impossible for the Jadhav brothers to stay in Pune for 3 months.

Pradip agreed to join MPS on Vijay’s persistence but ran away from the school on the very first day. His behavior puzzled the MPS Staff. When probed further it was understood that both of them did not have sufficient money to stay in Pune. This is when Mahindra Pride School decided to arrange for their stay till they complete their training and get placed.

Pradip enrolled for the Hospitality course. He says, “MPS helped me increase my confidence level, enhanced my communication skills and opened new avenues to join the Hospitality Industry. For the first time in my life I believed in myself”.

Pradip working at McDonalds, Pune

Pradip faced the first interview with McDonalds and was selected as a Crew Member in November 2009 with a salary of Rs. 4500/- per month. The job was stressful. At times he felt like quitting and going back to his village. But his family and friends helped him stay grounded. He did and then there was no looking back.

Pradip’s hard work and determination paid off. In May 2012 he was promoted as a Floor Manager with McDonalds at Inorbit Mall in Pune with a salary of Rs. 9000/- per month.  Fourteen Crew Members appeared for the selection exam of Floor Manager. Pradip was one of the 4 crew members who got selected.

Vijay completed his training in November 2009 and was recruited by Syntel as an Associate in Syntel KPO with a salary of Rs. 10500/- In December 2010, he completed a year and applied for an inter-movement from KPO to the IT vertical due to his passion for the IT field. Now he works with Syntel IT as a Software Tester with a salary of Rs. 15000/- He wishes to pursue MCA and work as a Software Programmer.

Today both Pradip and Vijay are very happy that they are independent, can send money back home and now the family has no debts to repay.  Their proud parents say, “We only have blessings to offer MPS for this noble work”.

Pradip and Vijay together

Mr. Pangi Chittibabu – Coffee Farmer from Araku Valley and the winner of Selected Farmer category at ‘Gems of Araku 2012’

Mr. Pangi Chittibabu gets his trophy from Dr. Sunalini Menon and Naandi Personnel Kaushalya Sastry

Mr. Pangi Chittibabu, 41 years old, is a bold and enthusiastic man of Pangiguda village in the Araku Valley region of Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, India.  He is poor and illiterate but has managed to raise a family of six members, including three children.

In 1994-1995, Chittibabu planted some coffee saplings supplied by the Coffee Board and Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) in a 2 acre plot. He devoted most of his time to tend to the saplings and took care of his coffee plants. He engaged in manuring and mulching, including bush management. But no matter how much he struggled, he would get very low price for her coffee and the local traders and middlemen were the only buyers in that region. Coffee farmers like Chittibabu had no bargaining power whatsoever.

A few years later, Chittibabu learnt that Naandi Foundation was working with tribals in Araku Valley region for improving livelihoods of poor farmers. He also learnt about the mutually aided cooperative society that Naandi had started and whose members were poor tribal farmers with small and marginal land holdings with little or no savings just like him. He joined the cooperative, which today, has more than 11,500 members from 589 villages of seven mandals covering a coffee growing area of 5,992 ha.  In 2010-2011, his two acre plot produced 1,599 kg of coffee fruit that he sold for Rs 39, 795/-.

Today, there is a sense of pride and achievement, as he talks about the best farmer award he received at the Gems of Araku, 2012. The award means that among the different coffees cupped by the jury, his coffee was of the highest quality! Apart from the cash prize he has received at the event, he knows his coffee will also fetch him a bonus and fair-trade premium. Extremely thrilled with this recognition his eyes light up while talking about his future plans for the coffee he grows.

Srilekha – A Fighter Alum of Mahindra Pride School

With Pride! : Srilekha displays her appointment letter

Srilekha,  all of 21, has the unique distinction of being Mahindra Pride Schools’ first alum who has secured the highest starting salary yet –  Rs. 25,000 per month – as Trainee Programmer Analyst at  Cognizant Technologies Limited, no less.

The first- born of Rajsekar and Soleshwari,  Srilekha’s life took a turn for the worse as she turned 8; Rajsekar messed up his small  potato-chips business and took to drinking, leaving his wife and two daughters to fend for  themselves.  They had to sell their house to repay his debts and Srilekha’s mother  re-started the manufacture and sale of potato-chips. Her clients were country liquor bars.

Meanwhile, Srilekha was packed off to her grandparents’ – she passed her HSC with excellent marks in Maths and Physics – her teachers advised her to get a degree in Engineering.  She got admitted to the SRK College of Engineering (one among hundreds of such colleges of indifferent quality), got herself a student loan from Indian Overseas Bank and graduated in May 2011 with a B.E in Computer Science with 70.55%.

SRK had no placement process to speak of – she mailed her CV to a lot of IT firms and job sites, got calls from 6 organizations, but lost out at the final hurdle of the Personal Interview.  She was gauche, awkward in the social graces and had next-to-nothing English language skills. All of this was compounded by the fact that she was an introvert, fearful of social contact and extremely low in confidence.

Through a rather fortuitous set of circumstances, she enrolled in Mahindra Pride School’s 3rd batch as an ITES student.  MPS worked its usual magic on Srilekha. The trainers instilled in her, she says, “a positive and can-do attitude”.  MPS’ Aptitude Training module enhanced her analytical and logical skills, resulting in her clearing the first round of Cognizant’s selection process. The Group Discussion and Personal Interview modules helped sharpen her thinking-on-her-feet skills- not only did she get through the G.D. round, but the final round of the Personal Interview also saw her perform impeccably – answering questions with a clear voice, pleasant tone and a quietly confident demeanour.

Her emotions were understandably high on getting the appointment letter. She said, “Mahindra Pride School is an ever rejuvenating heavenly garden which has nourished my life to bloom prosperously.  It has drastically changed my life. Now I have become the most responsible person in my family who wants to ensure a happy future for my mother and my younger sister, whom I will educate.  Now I have even started dreaming about a house of my own. Thank you, my dear teachers, thank you, MPS.”

Thank you Srilekha! We wish you all the best in your journey!

Brewing for Prosperity!

The Beautiful Araku Valley!

Araku Valley, in Andhra Pradesh (India) is a lovely scenic region with undulating hills and home to indigenous communities. The Araku Organic Coffee Project and related activities is for these communities. It is for these tribal farmers to get an opportunity at a livelihood to ensure their financial, nutritional and food security.

Gems of Araku is a unique coffee cupping competition conceived to showcase and promote the sale/export of the Araku Organic Coffee to the world. It supports Naandi Foundation’s Livelihoods program, which leverages coffee and other agricultural produce to drive increased incomes and livelihood improvements for nearly 11,000 small and marginal tribal farmers in the Araku Valley region of Andhra Pradesh. The coffee is grown by a landmark farmer cooperative SAMTFMACS (Small and Marginal Tribal Farmer Mutually Aided Cooperative Society) – one of the largest Fairtrade and organic certified coffee cooperatives in the world.

The purpose of “Gems of Araku” event is to raise coffee quality standards for the Araku farmers and thus build a recognisable brand.  This will in turn ensure higher prices and  help improve the living conditions of the Araku Tribal farmers and their families. The competition is unparalleled in its span and scope.  Spread over two weeks, across three cities, and combining a cupping competition with social events, cultural performances, and an awards ceremony in Araku Gems of Araku is unique in the indigenous coffee world. It showcases the project’s achievements, provides critical exposure for the coffee, and instils a true sense of pride in the tribal farmers.

The fourth edition of Gems of Araku kicked off at Coffeelab Pvt. Ltd. in Bangalore on 12 March, 2012 and came to a close on 5 April, 2012.

People behind Gems of Araku:

Araku Originals Ltd

Araku Originals Ltd (AOL) is an social enterprise company created with the main objective of facilitating the work of Naandi Foundation and small farmer groups [such as SAMTFMACS] in the field of value addition in agriculture and marketing resulting in income generation for marginalized farmers. The vision is to create a world class global Indian brand that reflects the core values of  social enterprise by being ecologically sustainable, focused on supporting BOP small producers and adding real value for discerning global consumers.

Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society

The Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (SAMTFMACS), registered in 2007 that envisions evolving into a dynamic sustainable tribal farmers’ cooperative, working towards integrated development of the tribal farmer community in Araku Valley, India. With more than 11,500 members, it is one of the largest Fairtrade and organic certified coffee cooperatives in the world.  The members of SAMTFMACS are marginalised tribal farmers with small (less than one hectare) land holdings.

 Naandi Foundation

Naandi Foundation, established in 1998, is an autonomous, professional; not-for-profit trust dedicated to changing the lives of India’s poorest, through public private partnerships. Guiding Naandi in its initiatives is its board of trustees chaired by Dr. K Anji Reddy, Founder and Chairman of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. Other board members include thought leaders and eminent corporate citizens of India namely Dr. Isher Ahluwalia of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Mr. Anand Mahindra of Mahindra Group, and Mr. Rajendra Prasad of Soma Enterprise.  is one of the largest social enterprises in India, touching over 4 million lives.  The core areas of Naandi’s work are child rights, sustainable livelihoods and safe drinking water.

Dr. Sunalini Menon:

One of the key contributors to the Araku Organic Coffee Project is Dr. Sunalini Menon. As the Director of Coffeelab Pvt Ltd and a member of the Naandi Advisory Committee, Dr. Menon has played a significant role in the improvement of Araku Organic Coffee by keeping a close eye on processing and in turn the quality.

Pre-jury (Bangalore, Karnataka, India 12 March 2012- 13 March 2012)

Sunalini Menon (r) and Mrs. Jesse Ovien inspect the coffee sample

Sushath HR happily going through the coffee sample

The first leg of the cupping event began on 12 March, 2012 at Coffeelab Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore with the Visual Inspection round. Eminent Coffee growers, traders and experts from the Indian Coffee industry came together for this evaluation during which the coffee samples went through a stringent inspection and scored on the basis of visual quality and defect analysis. This edition of Gems of Araku received an overwhelming response from the farmers. After a strict visual inspection process, a select number of samples made it through to the next round – The National Jury round.

In this pre jury round Dr. Sunalini Menon, was joined by

Mr. Ashok A.N, Amalgamated Holdings Ltd. Bangalore
Mrs. Renuka Gangadhar, Coffeelab
Mr. Sushanth R, Olam Agro India Ltd., Bangalore
Mr. Ram Chethan, Coffee Professional, Bangalore
Mr. Jacob Mammen, Badra Estates & Industries
Mr. Shivaram C.A, Parimala Coffee Works, Davangere
Mr. Ashok Kuriyan Balanoor Plantations and Industries Ltd., Bangalore
Mr. Prem Kurien, Devon Plantations and Industries Ltd., Bangalore
Ms. Omana Chethan, Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company Limited
Mr. Purnesh Classic Coffee
Ms. Jesse Ovian, Indcaffe, Bangalore
Mr. Nandan Gowda, Thogarihunkal Highland Coffee

National Jury (Bangalore, Karnataka, India: 14 March – 15 March, 2012):

Jury Omana Chethan cupping a coffee sample

In this second leg, an expert panel of jurors from the Indian Coffee industry came together to cup the coffee shortlisted in the pre-jury round. The samples were put to a tougher test in this round as the jury members evaluated the coffee on several parameters and nuances such as its aroma and flavour. After each session they gave their feedback, suggestions and selected 52 samples for the final International Jury round.

Following are our esteemed National Jury Members:

Dr. Sunalini Menon, Coffeelab
Mrs. Renuka Gangadhar, Coffeelab
Ms. Jesse Ovian, Indcaffe, Bangalore
Mr. Sushanth R, Olam Agro India Ltd., Bangalore
Mr. Ram Chethan, Coffee Professional, Bangalore
Mr. Nandan Gowda, Thogarihunkal Highland Coffee
Mr. Basavraj K, Coffee Board, Bangalore
Mr. Praveen Kumar Kolimarla, Coca-cola India Limited, Bangalore

International Jury Round (Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India 2-4 April, 2012)

Members of the International Jury during a cupping session

Equipped with aprons, spoons and intense concentration, a panel of nine jurists, comprising of eminent international tasters of impeccable standing in the industry such as Ms. Sunalini Menon from Coffeelab, Mr. Paul O’Toole, Bewley’s Limited from  Ireland,  Mr. Andreas Hertzberg  from Solberg & Hansen AS, Norway, Mr. Mark Stell, Portland Roasting, USA, Mr. Pil Hoon Seu and Mr. Ian Kluse, Olam International from USA and  Mr. Baba Shunta, UCC Ueshima Coffee from Japan cupped 52 different types of coffee.

The sound of slurping filled the room.  The jury did blind cupping. A numerical code on the coffee indicating the Araku mandal of its origin, whether it is organic or in conversion and whether it is natural or washed were the only details provided.

Using a special form to evaluate coffee on a scale on 1-10, the cuppers rated coffee on aroma, fragrance, body, acidity, flavour, cleanliness & finish of the cup.  An interesting discussion followed after each round of cupping. The jury then gather together to share notes, and to determine the highlights from all of the coffees they cupped.

At the end of two and a half days of rigorous cupping, the scores were all put together and the winners picked out.

The Award Ceremony (Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh, India 6 April, 2012): 

International Jury Members, Guests, Farmers and the Naandi team at the Award Ceremony.

On 6 April, 2012 all the jury members and the Naandi Foundation team journeyed  to Araku Valley for the final leg of Gems of Araku – to meet the people who produce these gems. The Award Ceremony took place at the Central Coffee Processing Unit. Five thousand farmers attended the function and cheered for each other. The unity and support shown by them was truly remarkable. The award winning farmers were rewarded with a certificate of recognition and a cash prize. The Indian as well as International jury members  commended the improvement in the quality of coffee  which is now exported to the continents of Asia, Europe, America and Australia making it a global phenomenon!