RURAL India is hurting. And it is where 70% of the country’s population lives, the majority engaged in agriculture. Rural India also feeds us. But the complete shutdown of economic activities for months has affected ‘farm to fork’ supply chains and further depleted household budgets of marginalised, poor farmers.
With the return of migrant labourers from locked-down cities also adding to unemployment, poverty and distress in villages across India, never before has the need for building sustainable rural livelihoods been more starkly magnified. This is exactly what Swades Foundation has been doing for years – and the crisis created by the pandemic has added a real urgency to their work.
It is in this context that they have launched the #SwadesBuildingLivelihoods campaign to impact rural communities in the Raigad and Nashik districts of Maharashtra. Lying in close proximity to the business capital of Mumbai, in these villages Swades has identified 15,000 of the poorest families of tribal, migrant and daily wage labourers and poor farmers to target with a bucket of programmes to build their capacities to be self-reliant.
Though rural economies are largely dependent on agriculture and allied activities, the majority are landless or poor farmers owning just two acres of land. Often they are employed as daily wagers working in poultry or fishing industries or animal husbandry. With all supply chains getting impacted, these marginal farmers are the worst affected and will go deep into the clutches of poverty, with no means to restart their economic activities.
With a significant proportion of household incomes in the area dependent on migrant labour, the aim is to make sustainable rural livelihoods so attractive that villagers will no longer need to seek employment in metropolises, and thus create a reverse migration.
By current estimates, due to the pandemic and related slowdown, there has been an influx of more than 90,000 migrants returning from Mumbai, Pune and Baroda. Swades has been working closely with the Village Development Committees (VDCs), to create a database of those who have come back, and who could be interested in taking up income-generating opportunities – both farm-based and non-farm based – in the villages. For this, the NGO will provide all the support required – from material goods and financial literacy to skills training and capacity building.
As Swades Foundation co-founder Ronnie Screwvala says: “We want rural India to be in control of their own destiny.” As an NGO deeply committed to the development of sustainable rural livelihoods, the campaign is also an intervention to safeguard rural populations from the economic fallout of this pandemic.If you believe that poor farmers who feed us should not go hungry and that sustainable rural livelihoods is India’s growth story, please check the #SwadesBuildingLivelihoods campaign here and donate.
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Former journalist turned ‘giving’ evangelist, Sara believes in the power of story telling to change the world. She is currently Director & Head of Content at GiveIndia