January 2016 | Nithin Rao

Rural riches

The rural livelihoods and communities portfolio of the Tata Trusts targets poverty reduction through a host of measures

The benefits of this portfolio have been seen over a section of high-poverty rural and tribal regions across India. Working through networks of established community-based institutions and handholding them into successful enterprises has ensured systematic and sustainable growth.

A farmer with his sun-ripened juicy harvest of tomatoes in Jhakodiyanatha village in Rajasthan

Building the technical and institutional capacities of partnering organisations allows the Trusts’ programmes to exit specific geographies and move into new ones. Integration, which has been a major theme in the ‘rural livelihoods and communities’ (RLC) portfolio over the past couple of years, has brought together organisations, projects and communities in scaled collaborations.

Explaining the need for integration, programme director Arun Pandhi says, “Just working in nutrition, for example, is not enough, if sanitation is poor, or if you have no influence with mothers and schools. Again, if families are migrating because there is no livelihood, then there is lesser benefit from our programmes.”

The schemes powered by Tata Trusts have a combined annual budget of Rs7 billion and employ, directly or indirectly, 800 people. “With that kind of human resource base and outlay, there must be a few clear-cut deliverables,” says Mr Pandhi. The aim is to improve the overall quality of life. “If there is some basic level of prosperity in the community, development interventions can succeed better.”

Activities under the RLC portfolio are carried out with various partners and fall under more than half a-dozen regional initiatives. They include the Central India Initiative, the Sukhi Baliraja Initiative (SBI) and the Kharash Vistarotthan Yojana.

The Central India Initiative is the outcome of a quest to find a comprehensive response to issues of tribal development in this belt. Communities here live in poverty and often face acute food scarcity. Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), Jamshedpur, the nodal agency of the Trusts, anchors this initiative.

Over the next four years (2016-20), the initiative will strive to achieve transformation in 45 blocks across four central Indian states (Jharkhand, Odisha, Gujarat and Maharashtra), whilst endeavouring to bring 300,000 households irreversibly out of poverty. The programme aims at creating ‘lakhpati farmers’ through demand-led and market oriented development.

SBI, set up in 2008, focuses on alleviating the agrarian distress prevailing in six districts of Vidarbha: Amravati, Yavatmal, Washim, Wardha, Buldhana and Akola. The programme collectively covers around 260,000 households across 56 clusters, comprising 1,400 villages.

The Kharash Vistarotthan Yojana initiative tackles issues related to sea water ingress across the Gujarat coastline through field projects and in coordination with the state government. It has helped build partnerships with over 17 partner organisations, and through the various salinity mitigation initiatives covers around 151,000 households across eight clusters, comprising over 450 salinity-affected villages in 10 coastal districts. The Coastal Salinity Prevention Cell is the nodal organisation for the initiative.

The Himmothan Pariyojana, in operation since 2001, focuses on addressing some of the major rural development issues in the Central Himalayas, mostly related to developing sustainable community institutions working towards ecologically and economically sustainable livelihoods. In 2007, the Trusts seeded Himmotthan, which is the nodal agency for the initiative. Activities under Himmothan Pariyojana cover around 42,000 households across 39 clusters, comprising 528 villages in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

A villager with her harvest of ready-to-pick papayas in Sajoi village in Gujarat

The North East Initiative currently covers around 6,400 households in 226 villages spread across 18 districts in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. The initiative addresses the livelihood challenges of rural communities. The North East Initiative Development Agency, seeded by the Trusts, is the nodal agency for this initiative.

The Reviving the Green Revolution Initiative supports crop diversification in Punjab to tackle the negative impact of the prevalent rice-wheat mono-cropping system, whilst also focusing on Integrated Productivity Management in various crops to enhance productivity. Following successful interventions and remarkable impact, Tata Trusts has expanded the engagement of this initiative to Tamil Nadu, which faces similar agricultural issues. At present, the Trusts’ project covers approximately 77,000 beneficiaries across 29 clusters, comprising 731 villages across both states, through agriculture and allied interventions that are tailored to suit local conditions and aimed at building livelihoods of small and marginal farmers. The Reviving the Green Revolution Cell is the nodal organisation for the initiative.

The Sakh Se Vikas (SSV) – Rajasthan microfinance initiative attempts to address the complex livelihood issues faced by rural communities by ensuring access to basic financial services of savings, affordable credit and insurance, as the first step. This is followed by interventions to help enhance returns from existing and new livelihood sources and bridge linkages with mainstream banks and government programmes.

SSV operates concurrently with the Mitigating Poverty in West Rajasthan (MPower) project, jointly funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Government of Rajasthan and Tata Trusts. Field projects under SSV and MPower collectively cover over 130,000 households organised in 10,672 self-help groups spread across 2,775 villages.

Explaining the impact of Tata Trusts’ work on the ground, Mr Pandhi says, “Our strength lies in our backward linkages. Our livelihoods and education programmes alone cover 4 million people. There are very few agencies or institutions like ours in this country.”

This article is part of the cover story about the Tata Trusts featured in the January 2016 issue of Tata Review:
Philanthropy fine-tuned
The Tata Trusts has — through integration, use of technology, advocacy, partnerships and more — set course for a renewal aimed at deepening the impact of its numerous charity endeavours
Read the complete articles, and more, in Tata Review
'The Tata Trusts will have to keep renewing itself'
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Trusts, talks about the trusts' evolving philanthropic approach, future growth and priority issues facing India
A flavoured solution
A unique public-private partnership involving the Tata Trusts has ensured that thousands of tribal schoolchildren enjoy wholesome meals
Food way forward
Tackling malnutrition in India is a pressing need, and one of the focus areas for the Tata Trusts
Net gains are cooking
The clean cooking and internet awareness programmes that the Tata Trusts runs with its partners in Gujarat are a reflection of the organisation's intent and impact
In search of that creative edge
Innovation in technology and solutions is crucial in the Tata Trusts quest to enhance the reach and execution of its programmes
Schooled for uplift
A spread of education centres in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand are enjoying a renaissance thanks to a project undertaken with the support of the Tata Trusts
Equity and excellence
Linking the Tata Trusts' initiatives in the education sector to improving the overall quality of life of the community has worked to the advantage of beneficiaries
Harvesting hopes, reaping rewards
A Tata Trusts initiative in the interiors of Maharashtra is providing succour to thousands of poor farmers, who have been encouraged to shift away from the traditional and grow more profitable crops
Building the future, brick by brick
Backing from the Tata Trusts has enabled thousands of migrant workers, especially in Gujarat, to secure better working conditions, find financial security and transform their lives
An urban variant of a rural malaise
The Tata Trusts trained its spotlight on urban poverty and livelihoods as an issue that required focused intervention at a time when most philanthropic agencies were focusing on rural poverty
Going against the flow
Water is considered an elixir in the high ranges of Uttarakhand, and the help rendered by the Tata Trusts and its partners in delivering it has changed lives and fortunes
Mission maximum
The Tata Water Mission has been calibrated to make the most of the social development capabilities residing in the Tata Trusts
Rhythm reloaded
A project in Kutch in Gujarat is, with a push from the Tata Trusts, working to revitalise the folk music tradition of the region by creating new opportunities for musicians practicing the craft
A canvas widened
The media, arts and culture theme of the Tata Trusts concentrates attention of conserving India's civilizational heritage and those who embody it