Bajaj Group has been investing heavily in the social welfare of the country long before CSR became mandatory for companies in India. In fact, the company’s founder, Shri Jamnalal Bajaj, was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and swore by his concept of Trusteeship. As a result, he considered it his duty to work towards the betterment of society till his last breath.
After his passing, his eldest son, Kamalnayan Bajaj, carried forward his father’s legacy by taking up the reigns of the business as well as his philanthropic work. He established Bajaj Foundation in 1963 to streamline the philanthropic initiatives carried out by the Bajaj Group and the Bajaj Family.
Bajaj Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Bajaj Group of companies. The Foundation works toward transforming communities by implementing sustainable Water Recharge Structures, River Rejuvenation Projects, and Skill Development Programs for farmers to promote chemical-free Natural Farming and create market linkages for farmers through Farmer Producer Organisations. The usage of Renewable Energy, like Biogas and Solar Panels, is another area of work done by the Bajaj Foundation. The Foundation believes in working towards the self-reliant and self-sustainability model for rural Indian communities.
Locations of Interventions by Bajaj Foundation
Bajaj Foundation has transformed the lives of the community of Wardha in Maharashtra, Sikar in Rajasthan and Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh through its need-based interventions in the region.
The average annual rainfall of the Wardha district is 1,062 mm. The runoff takes away the fertile topsoil, which leads to severe soil erosion; soil erosion adversely affects fertility status and land use. About 10% of the eroded material usually gets deposited in streams and rivers, traversing the villages in the operational area, silting up riverbeds and reservoirs, reducing water flow, groundwater recharge, and water retention capacity. This, in turn, harms crop productivity leading to lower income for the farmers.
Sikar, the Door to the Thar Desert, lies in the northeastern region of Rajasthan. Annual average rainfall of 466 mm and water scarcity is the major challenge in the district. The situation is alarming due to the high level of groundwater exploitation, and the area has been declared a ‘dark zone. The average depth of the tube well is up to 350-400 ft. to a maximum of 700 ft. Water is unsafe for drinking due to high fluoride and TDS 2600 ppm recorded and declining groundwater table. Water scarcity is a major challenge in the region, especially in drinking water and water for irrigation. Moreover, the people in the area are not well-conversed in water harvesting techniques. Sensing the potential, Bajaj Foundation has initiated different models with active participation from residents.
The Bar block of district Lalitpur s diverse, rain-fed, risk-prone, under-invested, vulnerable, socio-economically heterogeneous, ethnically unique, agricultural, and backwards compared to other blocks of the district. The area needs more infrastructure and access to improved technologies, markets, and inputs.
Through integrated efforts in these areas, Bajaj Foundation has reached 1530 villages benefitting 409,126 families and 19,36,115 individuals.
Bajaj Foundation’s Contribution to Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The interventions carried out by Bajaj Foundation in Wardha, Sikar, and Lalitpur districts are deeply aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through its programs, the foundation contributes to the following SDGs.
SDG 1: No Poverty
Women’s economic empowerment enhances their ability to improve their economic status and well-being. Bajaj Foundation has been working actively towards the economic welfare of women by issuing them interest-free revolving funds and grants, besides giving vocational guidance and trainings for establishing cottage industries.
Financial literacy camps are organised for self-help- group (SHG) members to build capacities in collabo ration with NABARD. Further, these SHGs are linked to banks and financial institutions directly (for eg. E-Shakti portal of NABARD) for easier access to credits.
Wardha is among Vidarbha’s farmer suicide districts. Crop failures, lack of market linkages, and unjust prices for produce are just some of the many reasons which have long contributed to farmers’ distress in the region. Bajaj Foundation has been working actively to mitigate these challenges, whether it is through multi-cropping, by creating market linkages or by making farming more viable through innovative new means like Natural Farming.
It is also focused on multi-cropping so that food security is ensured for farming families. Horticulture promotion further diversifies crops to include vegetables and fruit orchards, which in turn add to the income-generating opportunities for villagers. The integrated approach to farming has, in some cases, increased per acre average net profit of farmers to the tune of Rs. 1,00000.
The Foundation has gone a step further to alleviate poverty among rural masses by encouraging the formation of Farmers’ Producer Companies which provided them with opportunities to create their own linkages to reduce the input cost of cultivation as well as improve profits gained through collective sale and purchase. FPOs tend to benefit small and marginal farmers the most.
Through other institution-led interventions, poor families are afforded all the benefits due to them through government housing schemes, MGNREGS and other such schemes.
SDG 2: Zero Hunger
Poor families are often unable to afford nutritious food for pregnant women, lactating mothers and small children leading to malnutrition. Through SHGs, Bajaj Foundation is encouraging the creation of kitchen gardens which help in supplying nutritious food to needy families. The foundation’s efforts are often concentrated on the homes of pregnant women and small children so that they do not suffer from malnutrition.
Bajaj Foundation has supported 5,000 families in growing kitchen gardens through the supply of seeds. Also, 50,000 farmers have been guided to divert their cotton-based farming to food crop-based farming to attain food security in as many as 400 villages.
In Sikar, Rajasthan, 1817 acres of non-cultivable land has been turned into cultivable land through land levelling so that farmers can grow crops easily and more efficiently and generate more income.
With an objective of economic upliftment of the poor in rural areas, the Foundation has raised grant support ranging between Rs.10,000 – Rs. 20,000 for income-generating activities and emergency healthcare support.
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
The Foundation has been on a mission of boosting good health and well-being through Natural Farming. By encouraging more than 42,000 farmers and over 25,000 acres of land across the country to take up the practice, Bajaj Foundation is leading the charge for Good Health and Well-being among the rural folk.
Further, it has supported 3500 farmers for creating market opportunities and reaching out to consumers via grain festivals and mobile vans for door-to-door market ing of natural produce such as grains, pulses, minor millets, edible oil, vegetables, fruits and processed food items like papad, solar dried vegetables, pickles, etc. This has created a win-win situation for both the producers and the consumers.
The Foundation also organises health camps and awareness sessions in collaboration with government and non-governmental organisations for women and children. Close to 3000 families benefit from such efforts each year.
The Foundation also strives to inculcate eco-friendly and hygienic habits for clean river basins and water bodies and does much to revive water sources in order to maintain ecological balance for healthy surroundings for all living beings. Additionally, Roof Rain Water Harvesting Structures are built at the village level to provide fresh drinking water to rural families in water-stressed areas.
The team works in close collaboration with village schools through the Design for the Change initiative. Plenty of awareness of personal hygiene and menstrual hygiene has been created via the initiative.
SDG 4: Quality Education
Education is essential for developing knowledgeable, cultured and compassionate human beings. Bajaj Foundation devotes considerable resources towards providing quality education to children in a bid to develop confidence and leadership abilities among them.
The foundation is working with district education depart ments for promoting a unique initiative called Design for Change. Through this, it has created opportunities for youngsters at school and in communities to work towards improving various aspects of the societies they are part of. With hundreds of successful interventions carried out by thousands of children across schools, Design for Change has already made a visible change in communities across the project locations.
Going beyond schools and school children, the Foundation also lays a considerable focus on instilling skills and vocational education among youth. With skill training programmes ranging from rural electricians course, tailoring, and other on & off-farm skills, the Foundation’s skill development agenda covers a range of activities for both menand women.
The Foundation’s definition also covers Farming Education and it imparts such education through workshops and sessions on Natural Farming. Its current team of 48 resource farmers with proven record and excellent communication skills do much to engage with farmers to teach them Natural Farming practices and how they can be adopted.
Finally, the Foundation undertakes health education projects for tribal families in order to make them aware of good health practices and promote basic hygiene, especially among children, young adolescent girls and pregnant women.
SDG 5: Gender Equality
In India, given the highly patriarchal nature of its society rural women do not always enjoy the same freedoms and equity as women in urban areas and elsewhere. Bajaj Foundation’s Women Empowerment programmes implemented through Self-Help-Groups (SHGs) allow rural women opportunities to step up and earn equality and social recognition on their own terms. With eco nomic empowerment as the foundational basis for such interventions, the programmes also encourage women to participate in discussions involving village institutions.
In India, where agriculture is still the predominant means of economic growth for much of its population, the foundation is pushing rural women to the fore by supporting forma tion of women-led Farmers’ Producer Companies and entrepreneurial collectives (off-farm enterprises) led by women.
The foundation is also encouraging women to take the lead in establishing green cover through sapling and seed ball plantations and also prompting them to work alongside men in certain projects. The construction of 1200 soak pits across 325 villages in 8 blocks of Wardha districts serves as an inspiring example of this.
SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
The availability of clean drinking water and basic sanitation in rural India is still a challenge. The Foundation has been working to address the challenge through a variety of means. It recently installed 15 hand pumps fitted with innovative filters, which deliver clean, microbes and bacteria-free drinking water to people in 15 villages. The Foundation has long been promoting programmes such as rainwater harvesting and the construction of recharge structures which ensure that soil and biomass-free water enters in wells and provides safe drinking water.
For sanitation, the foundation actively encourages communities in which it works to keep the sur roundings hygienically clean through relevant interventions and practices. Recently the Foundation supported the construction of 1200 soak pits at 325 villages in coordination with the government’s MGNREGS scheme. It also runs cleanliness drives at regular intervals in target communi ties.
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
Bajaj Foundation has been promoting biogas and solar irrigation pumps as well as solar home lighting system among the rural community. Till now, 5292 families have been supported for biogas, 585 families for solar lighting systems, and 177 farmers covering 550 acres of land for solar pumps in collaboration with state governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
5292 Biogas plants have reduced the harmful effects of wood burning and other fuels on the climate by taking out 94,50,000 kg CO2 from the equation per year.
SDG 8: Decent work and Economic Growth
Bajaj Foundation promotes sustainable economic growth with its interventions helping 10,730 farmers in 440 villages. These farmers were supported for raising fruit orchards over 9730 acres of land with a plantation of 6,43,800 fruit plants. Additionally, they were guided to establish tree-based farming systems, including timber plantations, for long-term benefits.
A total of 5009 youth and women have been trained as a result of the Foundation’s skills training efforts in trades such as handloom weaving, tailoring, fashion designing, value-added agriculture products, bag stitching, mobile repairing, plumbing, construction and repairing of biogas. Such skills provide fair opportunities for work to youths at the village level.
The foundation has encouraged more than 6000 women to join Farmer Producers Organization and trained them in a variety of work practices across FPO institutions. In Sikar, most of the cattle rearing work is done by women. Automatic cattle feeding units have been promoted to reduce drudgery for such women. This has not only freed them for other tasks and improved their general health as well.
SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Following Mahatma Gandhi’s edicts, collaborative efforts have been made to increase the availability of handlooms and allied skills at the village level. Bajaj Foundation’s efforts in collaboration with NABARD under Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme have enabled 500 women to get involved in the handloom trade. 15 Farmers’ Producer Companies have been formed with a shareholding of 6000 members for scaling up farming enterprises. These FPOs have been supported for setting up processing infrastructures like cleaning and grading units, pulverising units, cattle feed production units, oil presses, raising nurseries, and production of organic inputs such as botanical pesticides and compost.
The Foundation has also set up Village Knowledge Centers (VKCs) to allow farmers to consult each other and gather information by reading resource material available at the centres. Other resources along with internet facilities have been made available for facilitat ing further knowledge exchange and learning.
SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
Wardha has the unfortunate distinction of being an agriculturally distressed district. Much of the economic inequality at Warhda can be placed at the feet of the unavailability of water and lack of adequate irrigation infrastructure for the farming community. Bajaj Foundation has been running multiple interventions aimed at ensuring greater availability of water, including river revival (668.5 km), construction of check dams (106), bori bunds (2376), and recharge pits (3286). Combined, these initiatives have improved water availability and expanded the area under irrigation from 8% to 21 %. In many places, farmers who depended entirely on the seasonal rains for irrigating their fields have been supported with group lift irrigation systems. Increased availability of water for irrigation has almost doubled crop yield for beneficiary farmers and improved their fortunes, lowering inequality across the community.
The Foundation also supports landless poor families with grants to open up shops and engage in trade to improve their finances. Such support is often aimed at the poorest of the poor such as widows, old people, orphans and differently-abled folks.
The Foundation has even designed a special horticulture programme aimed at the tribal community in collaboration with NABARD to strengthen livelihood opportunities for them. Besides, the farmers who were especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic were supported with financial aid to purchase seeds and finance other miscellaneous expenses. Similarly, the farmers who had adopted Natural Farming were supported by the Foundation with tools to reach customers, which, if absent, might have meant the farmers selling their produce at lower, unprofitable prices at the village level.
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Bajaj Foundation’s need-based interventions in rural areas for water resource development, sustainable agriculture, small-scale on & off-farm enterprises, aggregating communities through the formation of FPOs and developing market opportunities have considerably reduced the migration of youths from villages to the cities. On top of this, its teams work closely with Gram Panchayats for developing village infrastructures through a convergence of government schemes.
Further, Atmanirbharata for villages is being pushed gradually across all its interventions, whether its innovative watershed development efforts, skill development & entrepreneurial programmes or Natural Farming. Village Knowledge Centres (VKCs) are also being tapped to bring in much-needed education among the rural folk and the various ways in which they can create ecosystems which rely less on the outside and are self-sufficient and sustainable. Besides, the internet has also opened up avenues of skills development and knowledge enhancement for rural youth.
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
The farming sector in India has been experiencing a great setback in terms of the increased cost of production with increased chemical input and low returns. On top of this, the consumption of “poisonous” and unhealthy food has been leading to untold health hazards and illnesses for consumers. It has been the Bajaj Foundation’s mission to create awareness among farmers and food producers to produce healthy food by adopting natural farming practices and shift the market towards to consumption of healthy, naturally produced food. In Wardha, 11,000 farmers have adopted natural farming after the encouragement of the Foundation.
The most crucial step towards realising the Foundation’s dream in developing direct market and consumer linkages for the farmers. The Foundation has been working hard to create forward linkages at the district, block and village levels to fulfil its objective. The efforts have resulted in strengthening direct consumer linkages for 4344 farmers who today sell more than 25 varieties of agriculture produce and clock a revenue in excess of Rs.7 crore.
SDG 13: Climate Action
Wardha is part of Maharashtra’s cotton growing belt and has been witness to the adverse effects of climate change for over a decade. The Foundation, as part of its efforts, has been working with the local communities to stave off the effects of climate change through constant dialogue with the communities.
Bajaj Foundation has initiated a climate-proofing project in collaboration with NABARD in 6 watershed areas of Wardha. Its integrated approach has resulted in adoption of climate mitigation measures and climate-resilient cropping patterns getting adopted by the local communi ties. The climate resilience activities being carried out in these 13 villages have benefitted over 1700 farmers and cover 7,000 acres of farming land.
Bajaj Foundation’s push for natural farming has been making steady inroads among the farming communities and leading to sustainable farm ecosystems with improved soil health, air and water quality. Additionally, the Bajaj Foundation’s financial support for the plantation of 1.10 million saplings in its target areas has shown encouraging results in terms of climate-proofing the local environment.
SDG 14: Life Below Water
Bajaj Foundation has been striving to ensure that water bodies are preserved in their natural state with little to no adverse impact on flora and fauna. It has partially rejuvenated 235 rivers & streams running the length of 669 in Maharashtra. Its efforts pay attention to the menace of water pollution, and the Foundation continues to raise awareness against pollutants like insecticides, pesticides and fertilisers which invariably end up in the water streams and cause harmful effects.
SDG 15: Life on Land
Bajaj Foundation has been engaged in mega plantation drives in close collaboration with the Govt of Maharashtra and the local communities of Wardha and Sikar. Its efforts have resulted in the plantation of 11,66,291 plants. Besides, it has also led a drive of 4,27,346 seed ball plantations on riverbanks and 1160 villages. Plus, focused efforts have been made for the plantation of Agro-forestry and timber wood plants over farm bunds. This has led to enhancing biodiversity in many rural areas.
SDG 16: Peace Justice, and Strong Institutions
Bajaj Foundation works in close association with rural communities, village panchayats, and villagers and engages them in vital information exchange for improv ing the state of relevant institutions. One of its most recent initiatives involves working at the grass-roots level to strengthen Gram Panchayats, which form the nerve centre of all village activities.
SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
Bajaj Foundation believes in Public-Private Partnership and operates in that mode. The Foundation has implemented a number of developmental schemes in close collaboration with local communities and established 6700 village-level institutions like women SHGs, village development committees, farmer producers companies, and user groups, besides working with government agencies and other development organisations like NABARD, Cll, and FICCI. Many of the Foundation’s training, education and finance-driven initiatives necessitate partnerships across a wide spectrum.