Village Improvement

Agricultural Development and Vocational Training in Rural India

Rural communities and women are among those hardest hit by scarcity. The absence of accessible healthcare, education, and economic opportunities leave communities and families locked in a cycle of poverty. Often parents are forced to migrate for more than half of the year in search of work, uprooting the lives of their children in the process and depriving them of a safe and secure home. Children from poor households are often forced to leave school to support their families, denying them the tools and skills they will need to lead their communities in an ascent out of poverty.

Since 2012, WEIF has been engaged in projects aimed at improving the lives of women, men, and children in remote tribal communities through agricultural development, which promotes food security and alleviates poverty while elevating women as valued contributors to their families and communities.

Maharashtra (State), India

Dahanu Taluka

In 2012, WEIF partnered with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Indian NGO Girivanavasi Educational Trust (GVET) on "Yuvak Apna Bhavishya" ("Youth Our Future"), a comprehensive project aimed at improving the lives of children and their families in Dahanu Taluka, India. In addition to providing access to education and healthcare to underprivileged children, WEIF has taken crucial steps to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in surrounding rural communities through income-generating projects that empower women, and increase food security for struggling families.

With support from CIDA, WEIF and GVET have provided agricultural resources and training to 200 women and trained 60 youth as healthcare workers and Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers in the impoverished tribal villages of Divshi and Gadhchincla. In 2013 and 2014, LUSH Cosmetics became a valued partner in this initiative by sponsoring a replication of this project in the nearby village of Ghadne and Bahare.

The villages of Divshi and Gadchincla are home to poor marginal farmers, migrant labourers, and landless women. Empowering women through agriculture has cultivated financial stability, and promoted good health through improved food security and nutrition. From July 2012 to March 2014, WEIF provided seeds, water drums and training to 200 women, who harvested 10,768kg of vegetables for personal consumption and income generation in the last year alone. This project was so successful that women from the remaining 450 families in Divshi and Gadchincla have approached WEIF to extend our program in the community. In 2014 and 2015, all 450 women will be incorporated in a two-year replica program and receive seeds and saplings for vegetables, mogra (jasmine), kesar (mango), drums for water storage, and training in cultivation and financial literacy

In 2016, WEIF and GVET are now working to incorporate maternal and child health into our project through information sessions and emphasis on proper nutrition and access to health care and health resources. Program activities varied for different groups of women, and while all received agricultural training, expectant mothers and mothers of children under 5 were monitored to ensure they were receiving pre-natal and post-natal care as well as information on vaccinations, while adolescents were provided sessions on life skills and safe sexual activity. The major focus of this project was providing counseling on ante and post-natal health, improved child rearing practices and immunization coverage for children under the age of five.

Ghadne and Bahare

In 2013 and 2014, with generous funding from LUSH Cosmetics, WEIF and GVET helped over 200 women in Ghadne achieve financial stability through a one-year project of vegetable and mogra cultivation. Ghadne is occupied predominantly by marginal farmers and migrant workers. Migration is a critical problem as many women leave their homes for up to eight months of the year in search of work, uprooting the lives of their children in the process, often denying them access to the education needed to break the cycle of poverty. By providing women with the skills and resources for agricultural development, WEIF is able to promote financial stability, curb migration and promote a stable home-life for children.

WEIF is eager to extend our services for another year to 102 additional women in the Dongaripada pada of Bahare, neighbouring Ghadne. Our current successful farmers from Ghadne will be given the opportunity to nurture their leadership skills, and share their expertise with other women in their ascent out of poverty.

We are also working in these communities to extend maternal and child health care resources, and are specifically focused on nutrition, vaccination, and prenatal/antenatal care. This year participants received numerous health education sessions, and WEIF and GVET hope to continue providing this support through trained local staff, while strengthening women's self-reliance. WEIF and GVET hope to train additional nurses aides, hire a female doctor, and continue developing the Nareshwadi nursery to supply medicinal plants in addition to saplings for local women in 2016.

Bihar (State), India

Villages of Dhanoja, Sukhasan, Lokahi and Parsoni

Approximately half of Bihar's population over 15 years of age is illiterate, a debilitating reality in terms of skill attainment and income generation. Limited employment opportunity in the poverty-stricken state often results in large-scale migration to other parts of India in search of work. In 2014, WEIF initiated a Village Improvement Program (VIP) to support agriculture ventures for 185 women in the villages of Dhanoja, Sukhasan, Parsoni, and Lokahi in an effort to curb migration and promote development in their communities. Despite suffering from extremely low levels of agricultural productivity, Bihar has a sub-tropical climate and villagers in the first year of the program have had the opportunity to make a profit on region-specific seeds such as makhana. In Lokahi, women are growing vegetables and mango trees. Women are also being trained and given resources to cultivate mushrooms to supplement income and nutrition.

In February of 2015, the Village Improvement Program (VIP) was expanded to additional communities, and 186 women from the villages of Lakshminiya and Bhelwa began receiving agricultural supplies and training. Women in the program have benefitted from the program's strong training and mentoring component, as well as the sustainable three-tier plan, based on short, medium and long-term farming. In 2015, women received seasonal vegetable seeds, which have provided vegetables for home consumption, and have planted mango saplings in fenced areas. Additionally, 30 landless women were provided training in mushroom cultivation and bee-keeping projects, which will facilitate additional revenue generation for women with no land.

In July 2015, WEIF received support for the further expansion of the Village Improvement Project to 100 women with land from Padampur and Sattarkattaiya, and 30 landless women. From July to December, these women also received training and mentoring in cultivation, and landless women received training in mushroom cultivation and beekeeping for honey production. The work that WEIF has done initiating Village Improvement Programs in Bihar has also inspired the local agricultural university, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) to support an additional 50 women through agricultural training, while the local Gram Panchayat (village government) has begun constructing toilets for women due to increased awareness of the importance of appropriate sanitation and hygiene. Due to WEIF's involvement in the community, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra has taken a strong interest in supporting these women, and will continue to lead projects with them in the future, exemplifying local ownership and sustainability.

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