Dateline India: Enhance Agricultural Productivity

With the help of the Monsanto Fund, a five-year project is underway to improve the incomes of 3,000 poor families in Kalahandi district, through integrated natural resource development (INRD), improved farming systems and better market linkages.

The program, which began in October 2011, identified women from target families and organized them into self help groups. These women learn sustainable agriculture practices — maximizing return without depleting resources — through integrated land and water resource development education. This teaches the benefits of rainwater harvesting, land conservation and the judicious use of resources through modern cropping practices using natural inputs. These demonstrations helped mobilize support from government bodies, banks and other financial institutions to sustainably replicate these farming systems in neighboring villages.

It is expected that income from the land under cultivation using INRD will reduce encroachment on nearby forest land and encourage the local population to preserve that forest land. Within the first quarter alone, 12 self help groups were established, and 150 families have been educated on the importance of INRD to increase their incomes and on how to fulfill their economic aspirations through concept seeding sessions. Three irrigation schemes under an integrated action plan have been established. Flow irrigation schemes have been installed to help families enhance their agricultural productivity as well as their household food consumption.

Eliminating Child Labor in India

Through a program aimed at reducing child labor, one young woman in the Andhra Pradesh Province of India went from laboring in the fields — work that interfered with her education — to studying nursing and operating a home-based seamstress business that employs other family members.

With $575,320 from the Monsanto Fund, the Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia, in partnership with the Voluntary Organization of Rural Development Society, an India-based non-governmental organization, supported a residential-based bridge school to help transition children from work in the fields to formal schooling or obtaining a skill.

Children from 100 villages have benefited from the program. In addition to promoting awareness to farmers to avoid employing children, the facilities for the students were vastly improved and the kitchen, dining area and dormitories were totally renovated.

A significant number of the villages targeted for the program are now acknowledged as Child Labour Free by the Child Labour Department of Andhra Pradesh.

Enhancing Literacy for Students in Bangalore

Efforts to enhance literacy for more than 750 students studying at 30 schools in rural Bangalore have given children the opportunity to receive high-level education. This opportunity would not have been available without the Monsanto Fund’s partnership with the Sikshana Foundation.

The project enabled 17 students from the schools to travel on a train for the first time to go to Delhi for a one week academic competition. This competition expanded the students’ general knowledge as well as developed their competitive spirit.

Through this partnership, Bangalore students have also been encouraged to take ownership through reading programs. A local book fair was held where five students and a teacher from each of the 30 schools were able to select books for their school libraries. One school in Nandi even allowed students to clean out a store room and develop the space into an open library. The room now has more than 500 books and newspapers that are always available to the students for reading.

Ensuring Food Security in Indian Communities

Because of the expense, Valu Ben Rajput used to feed her family vegetables only on special occasions. Now, the 35-year-old resident of Ravechi Nagar, Rapar Block of Kutch district in Gujarat, India, has learned to grow a kitchen garden that not only provides vegetables for her family, but also enough for some of her neighbors.

Valu attended kitchen gardening training as part of a project implemented by the United Way of Mumbai, funded with $380,000 from the Monsanto Fund. The project involves creating food security at the household and community level in the cotton-growing belt of Ranga Reddy Block in Andhra Pradesh, the earthquake-affected Rapar District in Gujarat, and Yavatmal in Maharashtra.

Most of the farmers in this three-state area cultivate cash crops, such as cotton, and typically have little or no money to purchase fruits and vegetables. Thus, the main objective of the project is to train the communities in sound agricultural practices and methods of cultivation via homestead gardens, as well as to provide education on health, hygiene and nutrition.

Like Valu, more than 50 percent of the project beneficiaries have cultivated kitchen gardens and now have balanced diets that include vegetables in their daily meals, thereby improving their overall nutrition and health.

The people of the village also have become aware of the importance of developing and helping their own village become self-sufficient. The United Way of Mumbai food security project has impacted approximately 5,000 households.