WGF’s Livelihood & Sustainability Council’s (LSC) mission is to enhance rural economy through co-creating and advancing rural enterprises, using technology innovations and scientific processes, sharing best practices and developing techniques to foster trade and employment for rural populations.

Improving the Lives in Rural India by Technology-enabled Solutions

Aravalli – Integrated Smart Village project

Aravalli – Integrated Smart Village project

Problem Description & Solution Approach:

Large parts of rural India face a lack of locally relevant vibrant enterprises rooted in local geography’s unique economic assets, and hence migration of people from rural villages to urban centers in search of basic livelihood opportunities continues at an increasing pace. This migration not only robs the country of massively untapped economic growth potential in rural India but also adds to all kinds of challenges from the urban sprawl and population concentrations that outpaces the available infrastructure capacity.

 

“Integrated Smart Village” (ISV) is a joint initiative among several partners (WGF, Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti (MSS), IEEE-ISV, Mission Samriddhi) to build & launch a new model to enable the most disadvantaged sections of rural Indian society – women households – to build capacity for vibrant social enterprises and reverse the migration. The current ISV project is targeting a section (Bhiloda taluka) of the Aravalli district in Gujarat.

 

WHEELS and IEEE-ISV (Integrated Smart Village Initiative of IEEE), along with local reputed NGO MSS, have decided to work together under the WGF Smart Village Development Framework (SVDF) in Aravalli District. Given its strategic potential to provide a blueprint for national scaling, this effort is also being supported by Central Govt. The National Institute for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD-PR) of the Government of India has selected the WHEELS Bhiloda Cluster in Aravalli District as one of the clusters for fast-track rural empowerment and development in India.

 

Bhiloda taluka, as per the district report, is one of the least developed talukas in the Aravalli District. The intervention areas in Bhiloda taluka are some of the most aspirational talukas in Aravalli district. It has good natural resources, and richness of culture. The rural community here aspires to break the status quo of business as usual, and address the current challenges it faces in employment, education, health, agriculture, nutrition, and all sectors. Concerted efforts are required to improve the human development indices in education, health, nutrition, clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, agriculture practices and agriculture allied livelihoods. In the agricultural sector, Bhiloda has less net cropped area mainly because of unsuitable cropping conditions in these regions. In the case of nutrition,

Bhiloda has the highest percentage of severely malnourished children. There is also a dearth of health facilities in Bhiloda block. Aravalli is one of those few districts in Gujarat where household industries are highly underdeveloped. Bhiloda taluka has the highest share of workers in the household industry as the opportunities for formal employment are very limited. Overall, as it is seen from the figure above, Bhiloda taluka shows gaps in the provision of basic amenities, and irrigation development and performs poorly in poverty amelioration.

 

This social impact investment Program with IEEE-ISV outlines our engage, educate, and empowerment model. The program is built on several specific projects under a broad strategic focus on Generating Livelihoods for the Women Entrepreneurs.

 

Empowering rural women in Aravalli through small-scale decentralized rural industries is the aim of this project. The project proposes to enrich indigenous resources, protect the environment, support the organic farming movement, reach out to vulnerable and economically weaker rural women, artisans, and farmers, develop their skills, and build a sustainable economy.

 

This ISV project is to train local SHGs in various processing and production technologies to convert the existing local resources into value-added marketable products. Facilitate these SHGs to set up commercial enterprises run on solar energy. These rural enterprises will provide sustainable livelihood to 350 women and farmers.

 

The project will be benefiting the tribal community of 7 Gram Panchayats of Bhiloda taluka ( Shamalpur, Bhavanpur, Waghpur, Devni Mori, Dhandhasan, Shamalaji and Od). In the first phase of the project the 8 rural enterprises established under the project will directly benefit 50 tribal women and indirectly benefit 350 tribals.

 

Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti (MSS), Wardha, Maharashtra (India) is the lead NGO partner on the ground for execution. MSS has established 1200 Women Self Groups in 50 villages of Wardha District and credit-linked them with 18 banks. The organization has set up 30 rural enterprises for rural women and farmers that are providing livelihood to 500 rural people and economically benefitting 500 organic farmers.

 

The project will assist in providing sustainable livelihood to 50 tribal women and honey collectors by setting up eight enterprises based on locally available farm and forest produce. These enterprises will produce 20 products that are in high demand in the region and state.

  • Provide technical support to inland fishing and marketing
  • Provide support to promote culture and cultural/handicrafts products of the districts.
  • Promote tourism and ecofriendly community tourism in the district
  • Support local products to e-marketplace, branding, marketing at global level/global platforms

The project aims to establish 8 enterprises based on local natural resources:

  1. Honey -2 products
  2. Wax products – 4 Products
  3. Organic Ginger – 4 Products
  4. Turmeric – 2 Products
  5. Neem Oil – 2 Products
  6. Neem products – 3 Products
  7. Agarbatti & Mosquito repellent – 2 Products Dhoop batti & Hawan samagri – 2 Products

Technologies being leveraged:

Solar Power: Solar power will be used to provide electricity for lighting and running the low-energy consumption machines. This intervention will reduce the electricity cost and guarantee a regular supply of electricity. In tribal areas the electricity is not regular therefore a reliable backup will assist in the unhindered running of the enterprises.

 

Information Technology: Information technology platforms will be used at every stage of the project to improve the knowledge, quality, productivity, marketing, and sales of the products. The new-age financing methods will be used to improve the digital transactions for all projects.

 

Simple Technique for rearing Apis Florae Honeybees: Apis Florae (Red dwarf honeybee) assists in improving seed quality, fruit quality, and productivity. The Apis Florea (small honeybee) is an open-air, tameable honeybee that grows well even in arid zones thus this bee can flourish well in most parts of India. The simple and low-cost technique of rearing Apis Florea is developed by the Centre of Bee Development, Wardha which can be replicated all over India to boost the quality and quantity of agriculture, horticulture, and floriculture produce.

 

The project aims to pursue the following four enterprises:

  • Enterprise 1: Honey Production: Dhanshasan and Ode Village
  • Enterprise 2: Organic Ginger and Turmeric Product Enterprise – Ode Village
  • Enterprise 3: Neem Based Products: Dhandhasan Village
  • Enterprise 4: Agarbatti and Dhoop Batti : Shamlaji and Dev Ni Mori Village

Traction & Impact

The program seeks to contribute to Holistic and Sustainably Developed Aravalli District. In addition to economic empowerment of the direct beneficiaries, the project will render enormous economic and social benefits by improving all economic and social indicators contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project will increase the income of SHGs, improve agricultural practices thus enhancing income of farmers, expand economic and entrepreneurship opportunities, improve education learning outcomes, improve maternal and child outcomes, improve nutritional status of women and children to avoid negative intergenerational health outcomes thus by improving equity amongst the most marginalized and vulnerable sections of Bhiloda taluka. The program envisaged following broad impacts.

 

Social impacts

  1. Increased participation of women in livelihood activities.
  2. Increased awareness and production of organic spice crops or after the cultivation of spices.
  3. Collectivization of SHGs and strengthening the social infrastructure.
  4. Improved education, and health outcomes in the communities.

Economic impacts

  1. Establishment of Rural Enterprises – 8
  2. Employment Generation – 50
  3. Supplementary Income – 50
  4. Raw material procurement (Neem, Cow dung collection)- 50
  5. Organic Farm Inputs (Ginger, Turmeric, chili) – 200 Farmers

Environmental impacts

  1. Reduction of soil, water, and air pollution because of the use of organic manures and organic pesticides.
  2. Improved use of renewable and clean energy, Solar power
  3. Increase in biodiversity, agri-biodiversity, micro-organisms, etc.
  4. Improved crop productivity.

Mainstreaming Options

This model has the potential to be replicated within Gujarat as well as in various parts of the country with suitable modification. If required exposure visits can be organized for interested organizations to understand this model in detail.

Sustainability

Based on the experiences from MSS, and also due to the manner in which this model has been designed, it is strongly felt that after initial support, this model would be able to achieve sustainability after 2 to 3 years.

 

The major factors that are expected to contribute towards sustaining this model are:

  1. Facilitating agency to provide initial facilitation, startup, and handholding support.
  2. Capacity building of SHGs in governance, business planning, and financial management.
  3. SHGs to be linked with banks and bank loans.
  4. Convergence with ongoing government schemes to be achieved.
  5. The economics of this model indicate moderate to high returns from the products.

Scaling Opportunity

Digital and other technologies are contributing significantly to achieving the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030; by fostering economic growth, improving governance, and delivering better outcomes in trade, education, health, nutrition, protection, and other human development indicators. Under appropriate conditions, technology can amplify and accelerate social, economic, and ecological development. Furthermore, the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic has taught us many lessons and has propelled increased use of technologies, which are relevant and useful in the rural context also.

 

As per the India Internet 2019 report, the female internet user population in the country is only half of the 258 million male internet users. This speaks volumes about inequities in access to digital technology by women. Further analysis suggests that poor women, girls, and other marginalized rural communities struggle for equitable access to digital devices and technology depriving them of opportunities to learn new skills to use digital tools. Women Social Entrepreneurs empowered with digital technologies can accelerate achieving social, environmental, and economic goals for positive social change that is inclusive and universal.

 

The program intertwines entrepreneurial and educational interventions to improve the inclusivity of most marginalized communities as detailed in subsequent sections. The program brings other WHEELS Global Foundation partners together to support different activities. Please refer to section L of the proposal.

 

The program will document and measure the impact to influence the state and national Governments in promoting and making every citizen digitally literate. The program will influence the budget of every government department to leverage and integrate digital policies into all state government’s women empowerment programs. Detailed best practices, multi-party collaboration, and a systematic implementation model would have the opportunity to be taken to hundreds of thousands of villages in rural India,

WGF leaders providing oversight:

Livelihood & Sustainability Council leaders:
Pradeep Kapur & Smita Siddhanti

Call to Action

WGF welcomes alumni to engage and support expansion of this transformational & integrated Smart Village model to rural areas of their States and hometowns, and help bring rural economy to as strong a pillar of India’s GDP as the urban economy. Aravalli ISV project shows huge multiplier opportunity of under $200k investment by partners creating several-fold decades long GDP contributions by rural India, besides far bigger impacts from arresting of rural-to-urban migration.

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