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.

Our Community Organizer shares her Story!

E. Manjula | Our Community Organizer from Naandi Community Water Services Team

My name is Manjula and I am from Prakasam District, Chirala Mandal, Epurupalem Village.

I have 2 sons. My husband died in 2006. I have just joined with NCWS as CO. In my village through NCWS, safe drinking water has been provided to the people. Before joining as CO, I worked with District Rural Development Agency as Community Resource Person for 6 years. As a part of my job, I have been involved in various surveys (Agriculture, Drinking water and sanitation, Housing ) and interacting with SHG’s , conducting meetings with SHG’s, interacting with farmers, discussing with women regarding gender issues, etc.

I have come across many hurdles such as financial crisis etc in my real life. But I have never taken a back step and I have faced all those problems. I was able to solve all those problems by joining into DWACRA group as a member. I took loans as DWACRA member, saved money, repaid the loan, used the money for children education and basic household requirement. Now I am a happy mother. My both of the children are now into engineering education. Both of them were getting good grades in their schooling.

Now I am not taking loan from any one and I am able to educate my children. One thing to notice is that I also help other society members In resolving the issues, helped those who are in financial crisis to solve their problem and all those are now earning in lakhs.

My life ambition is to live happily and let others live happily. Thanks for giving me this opportunity.

E Manjula

Community Organizer

Epurupalem, Prakasam district