16. India: A Youth Hostel for Girls & Women
The Bodhicitta Foundation is a socially engaged charity established in 2001 by the Australian Buddhist nun, Ayya Yeshe, to help Dalits (scheduled classes) and slum dwellers in the state of Maharashtra. Last year, BGR partnered with Bodhicitta in establishing a girls’ hostel for thirty girls aged 14–20, who are being trained as social and health workers or to qualify in a vocation. The girls, chosen because of their dedication to their studies, come from the poorest regions in India: 10 girls from Bihar, 10 from rural Maharashtra, and 10 from urban Nagpur slums. The girls are being trained for three years, after which they will return to their villages with the skills to empower other young girls. In this way, the thirty girls will become agents of change and establish institutions that will benefit hundreds of girls and women in the future. Such a project is especially important in India because investing in girls’ education can alleviate poverty and the ignorance that oppresses poor girls and women.
The other portion of the BGR grant to Bodhicitta supports a women’s job training and community center, where women receive education, loans, and business training to empower them to start their own businesses and gain income that will directly increase the well-being of their children, families, and communities, lifting them out of poverty. The community center creates space for awareness-raising, health workshops, counseling, career guidance, and quality education that is currently lacking in the difficult environment of a large industrial slum. Year two of a three-year project.
17. India: Enhanced Food Security for Women Farmers
This project, partnered with Oxfam India, aims to increase food security for women farmers in the hill state of Uttarakhand, one of the poorest states in India. The region is extremely vulnerable to climate change; rain-fed lands are eroded and recent flooding has further damaged the land. Women play a crucial role in hill agriculture, as up to 90% of the total work in agriculture and animal care is done by them. The impact of the decline in productivity due to climate change and degradation of natural resources has affected the food security of women the most.
The project builds on a previous three-year project with Oxfam India in Uttarakhand, one that has already proven its success. The new project will be implemented in 14 villages in the blocks of Bhilangana and Jakhnidar of the Tehri Garhwal district, directly covering about 2000 households. In order to address the larger issues of food security and ecological sustainability, the project will promote the increased role of women in agriculture together with the practice of climate resilient agriculture models. It aims to ensure that 400 women farmers adopt better farming practices (Systems of Rice Intensification and Wheat Intensification); develop knowledge of climate change-resilient agriculture; and receive increased recognition of their rights.
Key components of the project are:
- to form collectives of women farmers to strengthen rights and bargaining capacity
- to develop field schools, support centers, and model farms for the women
- to strengthen linkages between the farmers, suppliers, and markets
- to create knowledge-sharing platforms for women farmers
- to advocate for a more equitable policy for women farmers
Year one of a three-year project.
18. Rwanda and South Sudan: Promoting Sustainable Agricultural
Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula is a US registered nonprofit (formed in 1971) that disseminates the GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable agricultural system worldwide through publications, classes, workshops, internships, apprenticeships and outreach programs. The techniques of GROW BIOINTENSIVE dramatically reduce inputs of water, fertilizer, and energy, yet can produce 2-6 times the amount of food, build up the soil more effectively, and reduce by half or more the amount of land needed for cultivation.
For 2015-16 BGR has renewed its partnership with Ecology Action on two projects, one in Rwanda, the other in South Sudan. The project in Rwanda is a continuation of a project started last year. It provides support for a garden manager, a garden assistant, Biointensive Training for two days, transportation and the hosting of Biointensive workshops, and administrative and program management. Second year of a two-year project.
NEW PROJECT. The project in South Sudan is the first that BGR has sponsored in this country, the world’s youngest nation. Following several decades of civil war with Sudan, industry and infrastructure in landlocked South Sudan are severely underdeveloped and poverty is widespread. The UN Humanitarian Response Plan says that some 6 million people are estimated to be in some degree of food insecurity. Subsistence agriculture provides a living for the vast majority of the population, but South Sudan has a dramatically lower level of developed infrastructure for food production and distribution than either Kenya, Uganda or Rwanda.
Ecology Action is one of the few organizations that are addressing food security and nutrition in South Sudan from a local food production strategy. Most international NGOs are only providing emergency food aid. Ecology Action partners with Mission Gardens for Christ (MGC) to deliver the knowledge of Grow Biointensive method of agriculture and provide master trainers (Community Resource Persons, or CRPs) in the system. They have trained four South Sudanese at the Grow Biointensive Agricultural Centre in Kenya. Modest assets are in place with Mission Gardens for Christ. The onsite staff can deliver more value with tools, seeds and follow-up training in Grow Biointensive in order to re-establish the training site and conduct farmer workshops. In two years, it is expected that 1,500 people can be directly trained in the system. Trainers can then go on to train others. Year one of a two-year project.
To be continued