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Going Back to the Roots: Erasing Middlemen and Securing Farmer Livelihoods

Keeping aside issues which make living hard for farmers like the unpredictable weather patterns that destroy crops, farmer loans and lack of basic literacy, the concept of middlemen takes the lead.  He bites away a huge chunk of the farmers’ livelihood, leaving them to wither away in the heat of poverty. The middleman robs not just the farmer but the customer too.

Let that man-go.

But, how do we go about it?

Kolar, where Mango growers are faced with low income on their yield in spite of having quality mangoes, could take cues from 9 farmers supported by Holur Horticulture Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) who achieved selling of mangoes for Rs.1.87 Lacs and collectively earned profit of close to Rs.1.37 Lacs in the span of just 1 week. Farmers sold about 5.5 tonnes of different varieties of mangoes at various places and this was facilitated by United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe).

Mango Mela at a corporate premise

UWBe has been supporting Holur Horticulture Farmers Producer Company Ltd since three years now. Since the last year, Applied Materials pitched in with excellent support to strengthen the fight for the farmers’ cause.

The company’s partnership with UWBe tries to bridge the gap between the farmers and the consumers by erasing the middlemen through a structured ‘livelihood’ intervention program.

Listed under the Integrated Rural Development program, Holur FPO is the Karnataka government’s pilot initiative.

Machinery provided for mango-related processes (prepare sliced mangoes, mango pickles, dry mango powder) by UWBe, marketing training given to farmers through a Government agency called CFTRI at Mysore and FPO’s branding and marketing of the finished goods supported by Applied Materials are three crucial elements that work together in making this effort a success.

At the Mango Mela 2019, the farmers will be given a marketing platform at the Applied Materials’ company premise where they will sell their mangoes in box sizes of 1kg, 3kg and 5kg.

Farmers sold about 2.4 tonnes of mangoes in 2 days. After seeing such a big response, UWBe facilitated 2 more stalls: one at Collins Aerospace and another at Ramamurthynagar and there, farmers sold another 3 tonnes.

Mango Mela Inaugration

Finally, grass ripened mangoes shall change hands from the farmers to the consumers directly!

 

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Johnny’s Tale of Survival

Resilience has a name. It is Johnny.

A survivor of child trafficking, Johnny D Silva was kidnapped at the age of 10 years and forced to do backbreaking work under inhuman conditions for 8 and a half years. He was lured into leaving his home after being falsely informed that his father required him immediately for some urgent help with his vegetable cart. A few frantic steps and he blacked out.

The world that he woke up to knew no mercy. Tortured and beaten blue, he underwent grueling and never-ending days. A watchman, being a good Samaritan, gave him some money and asked him to go back to where he came from.

And he ran for his life. To never look back again.

His hometown in Tamil Nadu was the first place that flashed to his mind. His eager eyes searched for his family but found neither his father, mother or his grandfather. Fortunately, he could get in contact with his uncle who refused to believe him at first. Eight and a half years can do a lot to one’s appearance, especially in the case of a growing child. After Johnny tried to prove his identity through some of his past shared memories, his uncle was overjoyed at his discovery. He promptly called up Johnny’s grandfather who was at the same place and brought him home. Soon, his father and his mother came over. The reunion was bittersweet and he was whisked off to Bangalore to meet the rest of his family.

The story doesn’t end there.

The one and a half years that followed saw Johnny go through bouts of isolation and depression. Teased by his friends for having studied only till fifth grade, he struggled to cope. He started attending his church and also started to do small jobs such as being an electrician and also a carpenter to support his family. He was unhappy as such petty work brought in pay that was abysmal. One day, a Brother at his church asked him to go visit Father Deepak Joseph K, Director of St Joseph’s Community College, in order to get back on his two feet again. His grandfather was the one who took the pains to travel all the way from Coimbatore to take him to the Father.

Johnny with the Father

Having joined St Joseph Community College under the able guidance of Father Deepak, he took up hotel management. The lack of food during his dark days had left an impact in his psyche and had pushed him unconsciously into the field of food and cooking. Now, a proud Diploma holder in Hotel Management certified from International Institute of Hotel Management, his goal in life is to work on a cruise.

Johnny before his classroom

When asked to say a few words on life and to those struggling to find a way, he replies without hesitation that it is never to back down. And if we do fall, one should always get back up. And finally, he says that opportunities are always out there and it is our responsibility to grab them by their collar.

Carpe Diem!

United Way of Bengaluru has been supporting SJCC towards empowering the youth from discriminated and marginalized communities. Johnny’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

 

 

Mobile Health Clinic Cures both the Patient and the Village’s Stigma

Jayamma, a 63-year-old lady, hails from a small village Gundlahalli. Like many villages in rural India, she has lived in one such village with superstitious beliefs. She was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) at the age of 30. She lost the sensation in her limbs at the first stage of leprosy. There is a social stigma attached to this disease in many villages; Gundlahalli was no different. Due to this, she was secluded from the society and no one was willing to marry her.

Jayamma and her mother

One fine day, when the Mobile Health team visited the village, she approached them and cried out for help. The doctor checked her and the team immediately took her to Doddaballapura Government hospital. After diagnosis, she was referred to the Leprosarium at Magadi Road for further treatment. At that centre, she underwent reconstructive surgery and wax therapy. All her wounds were cleaned and dressed with antibiotics. She was also advised to take physiotherapy in order for her fingers to be restored to full health. Now, her body is responding well to the treatment.

Jayamma being treated

The impact of this small intervention is huge. People came to realize that this is not a communicable disease and is just a stage of the body. If proper treatment is given, the person concerned can be cured. Today, the people of Gundlahalli have accepted her.

 

UWBe Enrollment Campaign to Boost Anganwadi Numbers

Before we can focus on providing the right early childhood care and education, we need to first make sure that the children are at least enrolled in the programs. A lot many times, parents do not realize the significance of the 0-6 age in a child’s mental and cognitive development and thus do not send their children to the Anganwadis.

To battle this issue, United Way of Bengaluru facilitated the Enrollment campaign where our cluster managers and our implementation partner Sparsha Trust reached out to as many as households and motivated the parents to enroll their kids at their nearby Anganwadis where they would be given care, protection and education.

This campaign falls under UWBe’s project Born Learning Campaign. The parents were counselled on the benefits of Anganwadi learning and also the crucial role that the BLC project plays.

Born Learning Campaign baseline study details was employed during the process of enrolment campaign. It was kick-started on May 8th for the year 2019-20. Till now 18 out of 25 Anganwadis in Bellandur, SR Nagar and Hoodi Cluster have been covered. Door-to-door campaigning was carried out based on the details of Anganwadi beneficiary list, BLC base line children assessment and new migrants’ houses. For one Anganwadi, we reached out to nearly 200 to 400 houses within two days.

Outreach workers taking down the details of the children for the enrollment process

Interested parents’ kids were enrolled according to their age groups – 3 to 6 year children were enrolled in Anganwadis and above 6 years were referred to nearby Government schools. Posters were used to attract and educate the parents regarding the issues.

A young kid with the enrollment form

Asha workers, Anganawadi teachers and helpers and Poshak Shala members, community volunteers and Sparsha facilitators participated in this UWBe-led campaign.

 

Quality Education Begins Early: Anganwadi Teachers Leading the Path through Effective ECE

MataPitaGuruDaivam

Every Indian has come across this old Sanskrit saying. Guru features right after one’ parents. Such is the importance of one’s guru in their life. Sometimes, even gurus or teachers need the right training to produce the optimum output and this is all the more crucial in a rural setting where there is a glaring lack of infrastructure.

In rural India, children aged 0-4 spend large amounts of time at their Anganwadi centres, under the care of the teachers there. As part of the Born Learning Campaign, Anganwadi teachers are guided by United Way facilitators to impart the best early education and child care which focusses on developing the motor and cognitive faculties of the children to make them school-ready. These teachers also work alongside the children’s mothers where it is the former’s responsibility to guide the latter in doing the same but in the home environment.

Training of Anganwadi workers and helpers

In such a situation, it is a no brainer to figure out the significance of training and empowering the Anganwadi teachers and helpers through focused and well-defined capacity building programme throughout the year.

Under the ECE Training of Anganwadi Workers and Facilitator, the facilitator visits every Anganwadi once per week and focus on on-the-job support to the Anganwadi teacher.

The training is divided into different cycles with sufficient gap of at least two months between each cycle. The idea is that the participants get sufficient time to practice and apply what they learn in the training. Every training has a component of a workshop and a field practice where the participants have to demonstrate what they have learnt and they are given very specific feedback.

Regular training session of the Anganwadi teachers and helpers

The training is followed by practice on the field which is observed closely by the facilitator with on-the-job support and mentoring.

Some of the main topics covered in the training are the sensitive periods in the 0-6 years age bracket, importance of Early Stimulation, child-centered approach, developing developmentally appropriate activities for children across domains and low cost play material, concept of free play and role of anganwadi teacher and how to set them up for different domains of development such as dramatic play corner, hand-eye coordination corner, story/literacy corner, puzzles corner and creativity corner.

Joint sessions with Anganwadi workers and facilitators

Some of the positive results are Anganwadi teachers spending more quality time on pre-school learning activities, increased support by the community to the Anganwadis visible through their significant contributions in terms of infrastructure and other materials, better perception in the minds of parents and community about Anganwadis and finally better knowledge, skills and attitude of the Anganwadi teachers.

 

Bangalore University Sets an Example with a Comprehensive Rainwater Harvesting System

Cribbing about the water crisis is not going to get us anywhere. The rapidly decreasing availability of drinking water demands better management of water by us citizens.

Water is most precious and a limited commodity, with only 2.5% of the total amount on Earth being Fresh Water and at the same time lesser that 1% of the same portable water recharges the underground aquifer, which are depleting by the day due to over exploitation, by mankind.

United Way Bengaluru, a non-governmental organization, took a conscious decision to address this concern in a big way by proposing the “Construction of Proposed Rainwater Harvesting Structures” at Bangalore University, under the Corporate Social Responsibility Banner. They had initiated it a year earlier. UTC Aerospace System sponsored the construction of proposed rainwater harvesting structures such as Boulder Checks, Recharge pits, Water Pool, Check Dam in the bio-park of Jnana Bharati Campus.

The bio-park in itself was constructed as part of this project and in the process, the students have acquired experience in land management for social forestry. Additionally, they also decided to fund the repair work of existing rain water harvesting structures across the natural nala (sewer drain) in the year 2017-2018.

The comprehensive rainwater harvesting system was conceived in a holistic manner to not only save millions of gallons of water each year but also touch upon allied areas of concern such as reduction of soil erosion and extending the green cover.

The above image shows the construction of the water pool which will serve as an excellent rain water container

Nevertheless, the project is broken into certain chief touch points such as using rain water harvesting systems to reduce the use of potable water for non-potable-water needs, increasing availability of naturally pure/soft water (No dissolved harmful metals/chemicals), reducing the runoff to maintain flood control, reducing the frequent drainage congestion and improving the quality of ground water through dilution and making it mineral inclusive.

This image shows the repair work of existing check dam embankment

All these lead to increase in soil moisture content during non-monsoon season also which will be helpful for trees growth, thriving of Flora & Fauna, higher migration rate of birds and better populations of insect species. It would then create a sanctum sanctorum for biodiversity to thrive.

“The integrated watershed at Bangalore University was guided by Dr Yellappa Reddy who is also instrumental in setting up the Bio-Park.  The project was funded by Collins Aerospace Systems who believed in making the Bangalore University campus more bio-diverse. We are excited to see the increase in the green cover that is now a natural habitat for peacocks, butterflies, birds and several other wildlife” says David Kumar, Project Head, Rural Development and Lakes.

It may also be noted that the encouragement and engagement of the University Staff and students, lead to Positive Environmental Performance and further paved way for increased voluntary work to reduce the stress on our dependence on our ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

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