Despite suffering from devastating floods in 2018, the state of Kerala continues to top the Sustainable Development Goals index and other markers of progress. “God’s Own Country” is flourishing despite challenges to lives and property. The people of Kerala have bounced back, also thanks to holistic corporate social responsibility initiatives of some private companies and dedicated efforts by humanitarian organisations.
Kerala witnessed one of the worst floods in 2018. Many lost their houses as the entire state nearly ground to a halt. Amidst the most affected were farmers who had lost their lands to inundated water and suffered crop loss. The districts of Alappuzha, Wayanad & Idukki in particular faced severe devastation.
In response, HDFC Bank Parivartan decided to implement its Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP) for sustainable development of the affected communities in these 3 districts, along with Pathanamthitta, Kottayam & Ernakulam. The CSR team of the bank worked on repairing as well as upgrading the agriculture infrastructure.
Among the short term measures, Parivartan promoted wetland rice farming, conservation of seeds and formation of seed banks along with conservation of flood-resistant crops. Other initiatives included setting up of biogas plants and domestication of wild edibles. The programme also focused on long-term interventions including promotion of bamboo farming, promotion of lease group farming among Paniya tribal communities, cattle rearing activities, group farming among Kurichya tribal communities, improvement of dry land cultivation, implementing community tourism for income generation and establishing community knowledge centres. Under HRDP, the Bank is working to create sustainable communities in over 30 villages in Kerala – reaching over 15,540 households.
A unique, saline-tolerant variety of rice, Pokkali is cultivable on over 4000 hectares in the district of Ernakulam. However, a variety of reasons – ranging from the unavailability of pure seeds to labour intensive non-mechanized cultivation methods – result in nearly 90% of that land being unutilized.
HDFC Bank has devised a holistic approach to rejuvenating both Pokkali cultivation and aquaculture through 4 units each in the villages of Kadamakkudy, Kottuvally and Ezhikkara. HDFC Parivartan receives support from the Korambadam Cooperative Bank, Palliyakkal Cooperative Bank & the Pokkali Farmer Producers’ Company in carrying out the CSR initiative.
To make the flood-affected farmers financially independent, Parivartan organised training programmes focusing on agricultural and allied activities. The farmers were trained in subjects such as seed conservation, irrigation etc. The CSR programme also concentrated on equipping them with climate change knowledge and making their work climate-resilient. HDFC Bank Parivartan supported over 6,545 farmers for agriculture-related activities and also developed a weather station to help farmers be on a precautionary mode, thus reducing further losses due to floods.
HDFC Bank launched its livelihood enhancement initiative to empower the fishermen in Kerala. Over 700 farmers affected due to the Kerala floods found it challenging to get back on track. The Bank supported these farmers with fishnets and fish lingers to enable them to restart their livelihoods. In addition, the villagers were also encouraged to take up poultry and dairy farming. The corporation has reached out to more than 1,500 households through the livelihood programme.
To ensure that women are included in Kerala’s cycle of growth, Parivartan specifically launched programmes to train them in Khadi tailoring. The bank supported about 5 Khadi units, thus empowering over 200 women.
Adopt a School by UST Global
UST Global under its Adopt a School CSR initiative adopts and supports Government or Government-aided schools in the rural and financially backward communities of Kerala. This Corporate Social Responsibility initiative won the Project Management Institute Kerala (PMIK)’s Kerala Community Project Award because of its effectiveness.
UST Global’s Adopt a School program currently provides support to over 6500 childrenof 30 Government schools spread across Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and other towns. The CSR programme for education has so far supported over 20,000 students, through a life cycle approach of providing education to school children, higher education, professional education, skill development and employability to youth. The company spends thousands of employee volunteer hours besides contributing financially for the CSR programme through the UST Global Welfare Foundation.
Mangrove conservation is a key CSR initiative for Apollo Tyres, in partnership with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The project is located in Kunhimangalam village in Kannur district, which is one of the largest mangrove villages of Kerala. The project established a hub located in the natural ecosystem for mangrove-based education, serving as an open air laboratory for research and promoting restoration through community and government participation. Other aspects of the project include a mangrove nursery and community-based initiatives to enhance public awareness and reduce threats to mangroves.
As a community initiative, the organisation launched a Participatory Conservation project for Chalakudy River in Kerala which was implemented in three phases covering a period of three years (2016 to 2019). The project mainly focused on the assessment and conservation of Riparian vegetation and associated Biodiversity of Chalakudy River in Kerala.
Municipal School Empowerment by SGS
SGS is a Swiss multinational company involved in inspection, verification, testing and certification. To help students get the most from their education, schools need a strong infrastructure. However, many municipal schools in India suffer from a lack of amenities, ranging from dangerously unsanitary facilities that increase the risk of disease spread to a lack of technology in classrooms.
SGS India supports NGO Yuva Unstoppable with the goal of transforming poor infrastructure and unhygienic sanitation facilities in underprivileged schools in Kerala and Gujarat through its Evolution Municipal School Empowerment Programme. Since 2017, SGS has donated more than Rs. 1.5 crores to support this work. The CSR programme has helped 16 schools in Kerala and Gujarat, with a combined total of 3,565 pupils, to upgrade facilities.
The schools had only basic teaching equipment. Yuva installed Smart Classrooms to provide teachers with learning technology such as computers, specialized software, audience response technology, assistive listening devices, networking, and audiovisual equipment.
The project has led to an increase in the interest of students and learn in a creative way. Students in target schools displayed renewed interest in education; they were more aware of the lessons taught and developed self-reliance through participation in classroom discussions and workshops.