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Top CSR initiatives for rural livelihood

The Indian rural economy suffers from a severe lack of viable and sustainable livelihood opportunities. About 42% of the population of rural India depends on agriculture, which faces various challenges like seasonal fluctuation, weather dependence, knowledge deficit, poor market linkages, lack of wealth creation and resource crunch. In view of this agrarian plight and lack of opportunities, companies like ITC Limited, Adani and ICICI Bank are running CSR initiatives that enhance rural livelihood. Here are some of the CSR programmes that have been the most successful in generating rural livelihood in India.

Tata Trusts OSF

Open Source Fisheries (OSF), a Tata Trusts social initiative, focuses on training fishing communities to breed and rear fish spawn into fingerlings through fairly simple techniques. Its goal is to help expand and improve inland fish farming and adopt culture fisheries practices to enhance productivity. The livelihood initiative and has positively impacted over 35,000 Households.
Open Source Fisheries has been designed to reduce distress migration by providing an additional source of livelihood to the farmers, support the nutritional requirements of the region as well as help meet the fish demands of states which are currently being fulfilled through imports. Tata Trusts is running OSF across four states (Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura and Jharkhand) in 1240 villages over 19 districts.
The goal of the CSR project is to help India achieve a better aquatic balance and the target is increasing the incomes of 150,000 families in India in the next five years. “There is tremendous potential for growth in India’s fisheries sector. However, in order to unlock this potential, it is necessary to empower fishers and the fishing communities to adopt sustainable culture fishing practices which will also essentially improve livelihoods of the communities,” says Shashwati Bhunia, Fisheries Theme Lead at Tata Trusts. In the financial year 2019-20, OSF has led to an annual incremental income of Rs. 25,000 per household through fisheries, and increased their productivity by almost three times.
In FY 19-20, OSF supported more than 1200 fish nurseries in an entrepreneurship model, producing 4.6 Cr fingerlings. The Pond-based integrated livelihoods model has been adopted by more than 1000 farmers in Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, engaging in fisheries with duckery, bund plantation (fruits, vegetables, pulses) and poultry. Despite being a fairly young programme, the initiative has shown a good track record in its first phase, achieving more than 85% of its expected outcome.

ICICI Academy for Skills – Rural Initiative

This CSR programme from ICICI Bank aims to improve the knowledge and skill base of agrarian folks and provide them with multiple sources of income. ICICI Foundation for Inclusive growth rolled out its Rural Initiative programme more than five years ago to provide livelihood training to villagers in various States.
ICICI Academy for Skills is an all-around development programme to help the trainees not just in the field of their practice but with other soft/ entrepreneurship skills required to start a business. This programme encompasses a host of initiatives including access to seamless and digital banking, making the local economy vibrant, improving the income level of villagers through a focus on locally-relevant skills, and making the villagers financially independent.
ICICI Foundation offers need-based livelihood training programmes to the participants to impart new skills and/or enhance their existing skills. In order to make its trainees financially stable, the CSR arm of ICICI Bank further facilitates market linkages. After the completion of the training, all trained participants are provided with perennial handholding and support for sustained impact. Another aspect of the programme is to promote access to seamless and digital banking, which enables the rural population to use digital channels for financial transactions.
With more than half of all trained participants being women, the programme has a market settlement ratio of over 72%. The Rural Initiative has brought about a significant, lasting impact in more than 1,000 villages in some of the most backward areas of the country. In order to make their livelihood sustainable, candidates are taught some soft skills that are not related to the field of studies, for example, entrepreneurial development. This helps in decreasing the attrition rate for trainees. Each educated youth becomes a productive member of society and contributes to the GDP of the country.

Adani – Livelihood Provision to Fishermen

This long running livelihood project by the CSR wing of the Adani Group aims to empower fishing communities living in Kutch region near the Mundra port. They are especially susceptible to climate change which can affect their livelihoods, food security and health. The region faces issues of salinity ingress and is interspersed with creek increasing distances between habitations, which adds to the logistical challenges. Overexploited fishery resources and degraded ecosystems pose a threat to fishing communities.
In order to transform the lives of the fishing communities, the CSR project by Adani Foundation focused on the following six intervention areas: livelihood, women empowerment, quality education, skill training, health and infrastructure development. Starting from 2010, this programme has been improving the lives of fishermen for more than a decade.
The fishermen were provided with better quality equipment as well as training in related activities like cage culture, poly culture, etc., for enhancing their livelihoods. Also, alternative livelihood opportunities like nursery development were encouraged, and a skill development centre was set up which trained people in technical/ non-technical courses. The project reached out to women too, providing training in financial literacy along with engaging them in stitching and dori work. Adani Vidya Mandir was established to provide free quality education to their children. The CSR project also provided access to drinking water for the fishermen. There has been a decrease in child mortality owing to increased availability of health services. Also, the community has access to the Government’s Jan Dhan Yojana.

Rare Planet

Rare Planet is a start-up focused on uplifting rural karigars. It has included over 5,000 artisans to its network from over 5 States. The brand procures Indian handmade products from these artisans and retails it further through online and offline platforms, thus providing the right value for the products to their karigars.
Due to the pandemic when a lot of such artisans were struggling for income, Rare Planet provided them with an opportunity to sustain by helping them keep their business going. After connecting with Rare Planet artisans have experienced over 120% increase in their regular income.
The startup targets providing livelihood to over 25000 artisans by 2022 fiscal end with more states to cover in India. It further plans to tie up with artisans in Kutch, Jodhpur, Madhubani, Nadia, Saharanpur, Cuttak, Puri for their authentic creations. This will further enable the brand to expand its array of offerings.

ITC Social Foresty

This CSR programme by ITC Limited focuses on creating commercially viable land-use options for smallholder farmers through tree-based farming. In addition, it contributes towards the 3Fs – food, fodder and fuelwood. Together with the Farm Forestry programme, this CSR initiative by ITC has greened nearly 7.33 lakh acres till date, and generated about 135 million person days of employment for rural households. The Agro-Forestry initiative is integral to the Social Forestry programme. In Tripura state, this initiative is also creating bamboo wood source, which is most suitable for making incense sticks.