07 March, 2017

A change for the better

Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), a nodal agency of Tata Trusts, has brought about change on a large scale in Central India.

Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI)
Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI)
Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI)
Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI)

It was founded in 2007 to bring about sustainable difference in quality of life of tribal communities.

Under its Mission 2020, CInI envisages making 101,000 tribal households 'lakhpati' in a sustainable manner and developing 17 blocks as drivers of growth in Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The main focus areas of CInI are:
  • Livelihoods through high-value agriculture, livestock development, non-timber forest products (NTFP) and water resources development
  • Education towards enhancing learning levels and all-round development of tribal children in government schools
  • Water and Sanitation, Digital Literacy and Nutrition interventions to improve overall quality of life of tribal communities
  • Strengthening Community-based Institutions to spearhead the development process

Read on to know how Alfa, Purni Devi and Vandana brought about change in their villages and the Darlajam Toli primary school became a model school.

From enhancing livelihood to increasing income, from internet training to improving education, Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives, supported by the Tata Trusts, is ringing in change in the lives of the tribal community in Central India

Internet Saathi Alfa: connecting from a Naxal-affected village to a Google Panel

Alfa giving information on careers to youth with the help of the internet during Soochna Divas in Khunti, Jharkhand

Students from the Naxalite-affected Kumahardih village in Khunti district of Jharkhand had to travel 35 kilometres to find out about their exam results as their village remained largely cut off due to its hilly terrain and lack of technology options. Within a few months of being introduced to the internet, a tribal woman, Alfa Horo, from this village has managed to search for change. Draped in a green saree, 28-year-old Alfa exudes a calm confidence as she unlocks a tablet, tapping meticulously to search for matriculation and university results, making them easily available for students.

Alfa is a part of the Internet Saathi, an initiative by Tata Trusts, in collaboration with Google, to empower women and their communities in rural India by enabling them to use the Internet and benefit from it. Alfa’s village is one of the 400 villages in Jharkhand, where Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), the nodal agency of Tata Trusts, is anchoring the programme since November 2015.

Nobody in Alfa’s village had owned a smartphone when the initiative began. While she had seen a computer before joining the Internet Saathi programme, she had no idea how to operate one. “I had heard that the internet has a lot of information, so I wanted to experience it on my own. If it was true, then I also wanted to share the information with everyone else as well,” explains Alfa, who has been a part of the programme since its initiation.

The initiative provides basic training on the usage and benefits of Internet for women through specially designed Internet cycle carts which are used to visit village areas where women can easily access and also learn more from the Internet. Each Saathi is also given two tablets and two smartphones. Currently, 170 Internet Saathis in Jharkhand are being trained as Master Trainers, who in turn train more women in their own and neighbouring villages. CInI plans to reach out to 170,000 women in about 500 villages by March 2017.

Alfa (centre) with fellow Internet Saathis and dignitaries at the Google for India event

Alfa, who completed her Bachelor’s in Arts in June this year, has trained more than 400 other individuals so far. She proudly lists ‘web surfing’ under her hobbies now and takes keen interest in going beyond the training modules to further develop her understanding of the inner workings of the internet and device operation.

Recognising her initiative and learning prowess, Google India invited Alfa to be a part of a panel at the Google for India Day held on September 27, 2016, at New Delhi. As a part of the panel of three Internet Saathis, Alfa interacted with representatives from different countries, demonstrating her skills and sharing her experiences.

“Overall if you see, there’s a perceptible change. There is a desire to learn. Now the Saathis have gained respect in the village. Through this programme, they have discovered their agency and channelised it for others as well,” said Sandeep Kumar, CInI’s overall Coordinator for the programme.

Alfa sharing her experiences as Internet Saathi with guests at the Google for India event

Women in Khunti now confidently search for information on improved methods of tomato cultivation, learn recipes from cookery show videos by popular chef Sanjeev Kapoor, help people get quick responses regarding queries on caste and domicile status, and also update job candidates about police or teacher training in nearby areas.

Young students marvel at the potential of the internet and are eager to explore its depths. At a Soochna Divas (information day) event organised in Bichna village of Khunti district in September, a bunch of schoolgirls poring over Alfa’s tablet wanted to know about career prospects, and asked her, “How can I be a pilot?” Alfa unlocked her tablet and began typing in the query, simultaneously demonstrating to them how to do so. Slowly and confidently, she initiated the girls on a journey of the internet.

A transformed school: upgraded Darla Jam Toli primary school

Morning assembly in the school

The upgraded primary school in Darla Jam Toli was established under the Education Guarantee Scheme in 2003. Run in a small church within the village initially, the school later shifted to a new school building in 2011.

In 2007, the school ran into difficulties when a para teacher deployed by the district education department was transferred. The government teacher found it difficult to manage the children and meet their academic requirements. She requested the CInI team for support. The request was followed up in the gram sabha, which recommended qualified candidates for the post. After a written exam and interview, a learning assistant was appointed at the school.

The learning assistant is regularly provided training and onsite support by CInI to help improve learning levels of students, and the teacher is supported with improved teaching methodologies, best practices and materials. Training of school management committee (SMC) members helped in their active ownership of school improvement projects. And the results are clearly evident — in the increased enrolment and academic progress of students.

The students, teachers and SMC members have together developed a kitchen garden which provides vegetables for the midday meals. Regular meetings with parents have further cemented bonds and the progress achieved. The parents now help in managing the library and borrow books to enhance their knowledge.

The school, which was once struggling to survive with a sole teacher, has now become a model for other schools with SMC members from other institutions visiting it to understand the transformation that has unfolded.

There was an exponential increase in the enrollment of students at the upgraded Darla Jam Toli primary school: In 2014-15 the number of students was 51; in 2015-16 it increased to 57; and in 2016-17 it reached 61.

Academic progress of a cohort of children over the years:

Learning lac cultivation to become lakhpatis

Purni Devi hard at work extracting lac

Purni Devi, a marginalised woman belonging to a scheduled caste, resides in Kajri village with her husband and two children. The family’s livelihood depended on kharif agriculture in a small landholding.

Purni Devi is a member of the Laxmi Mahila Vikas Sangh and Anjana Mahila Gram Sangathan self-help groups (SHG). For the past two years, she has been associated with Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI, a nodal agency of Tata Trusts) and its partner organisation SUPPORT and has availed of various livelihood training sessions provided by the organisations. During training, she expressed interest in lac cultivation, and with encouragement from the CInI team convinced her family members to adopt the activity.

In 2015, Purni Devi initiated lac cultivation and produced 120 kg of brood lac, which fetched her around Rs.15000. The additional income boosted her confidence and strengthened her resolve to continue her endeavour.

Building upon her success, she increased her coverage area under lac cultivation and convinced other members in the SHGs to get onboard. This year, Purni Devi and her SHG members covered more than 35 kusum plants and inoculated them with around 3.5 quintal of lac. Purni Devi also took the lead in spraying Bombart and Bavisting after 21 days of inoculation to protect the crop.

Reaping rich rewards for her efforts, Purni Devi sold 2.5 quintals of brood lac to local farmers at Rs.110 per kilogram, fetching her an additional income of Rs.27,500. However, she didn’t stop there. In July, she decided to inoculate 55 kg of brood lac to enhance production and her income. It fetched her an additional 2.2 quintal of lac. Consequently, Purni Devi’s income, this year, solely from lac cultivation, has increased to Rs.78,500.

Purni Devi and her husband now provide brood lac to other farmers and are also called upon for technical assistance. They are admired and respected as leading lac cultivators and inspire other community members to adopt lac cultivation for livelihood enhancement. 

Debt-ridden to lakhpati farmer

Tribal farmers in Kamod village of Nandurbar in Maharashtra had never grown vegetables commercially. The 107 families residing in four scattered hamlets on a ridge primarily relied on traditional cultivation methods and grew vegetables on small patches just for household consumption.

Vandana ventures into commercial vegetable cultivation

As a part of its Mission 2020 to create Lakhpati Kisans and build Smart Villages, CInI set up a series of meetings in August 2014 to create awareness among the villagers about its work and best practices to bolster their income.

It was at the first such concept-sharing meeting that the team met Vandana Bhaidas Pawara. With an annual income of around Rs.40,000, Vandana’s family of eight was in a precarious financial situation. They were further burdened by loans from moneylenders. Of their total 5-acre landholding, 3 acres were upland and no part had access to irrigation. The family followed a mono-cropping pattern and grew sorghum and maize through traditional methods of cultivation.

After a couple of meetings, 25 members of the SHG in the village agreed to go on an exposure trip to a nearby village called Radikalam. The intention of the visit was to introduce them to farmers who practised vegetable farming commercially, share experiences and then decide on the feasibility of taking up vegetable farming. Vandana’s family was one of the first to be enthused by the idea and the growth opportunities it presented. They indicated their willingness to practise commercial vegetable cultivation. After the exposure visit, six women from the village, including Vandana, agreed to experiment with vegetable cultivation in the rabi season. The results were mixed that year. From the produce on her land, Vandana earned Rs.12,000 from chilli and brinjal cultivation.

 As CInI’s outreach in the village increased, more farmers showed interest in understanding how it could help them. The team began organising regular exposure visits to showcase the best practices in agriculture and simultaneously also worked on intensive concept seeding through audiovisual tools.

Cultivating vegetables with regular crops and improved agricultural practices benefit farmers in Nandurbar, Maharashtra.

In 2016, the CInI team facilitated the implementation of a lift irrigation project in Vandana’s hamlet. Today, due to their increased income, Vandana’s family has been able to purchase a 3-HP pump set to lift water from the irrigation project. As things finally come together in their favour, Vandana’s family now looks forward to double their income from agriculture.

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