SURAT: Nita Ambani, Chairperson, Reliance Foundation, today paid a visit to village Selarpur in Mangrol Taluka of Surat District, Gujarat. Selarpur is part of the Netarang Cluster, one of the 24 such clusters across 24 agro-ecological zones in ten states of India where the Reliance Foundation is implementing its Bharat India Jodo (bij) initiative.
Reliance Foundation’s flagship initiative, bij began in October 2010 and now is in the process of expansion across different argo-ecological zones in India. The programme aims to achieve transformation of rural India through a process of institutionalization and creation of a sustainable framework for livelihoods.
During her visit to Selarpur village, Mrs. Nita Ambani interacted with the marginal farmers, largely women to learn about their experiences with the on-ground implementation of the progamme with the objective of understanding the effectiveness of the programme in the region.
In her interactions with the community, she shared the long term objectives of the progamme and how the self -sustaining model of the programme will be beneficial for them on a long term basis. The Bharat India Jodo initiative’s endeavour is to bridge the divide between rural and urban India, through holistic transformation of the communities. So far the programme has benefits over 100,000 people from 20,000 marginal households from about 250 villages.
The programme is designed towards an end to end engagement with the marginal communities aimed towards poverty alleviation, empowerment and enhancing the lives of marginal farmers. Talking to the farmers, Mrs Nita Ambani shared that the primary focus of bij was to secure livelihoods and food security for such communities by providing them know how for revitalizing and de-risking farming.. She added that the approach adopted by the programme equally focuses on building institutions owned, controlled and run by the community as on the specific interventions like water harvesting, mixed farming, marketing etc.
With 70% farming in the country, even today, dependent on rain fall, initiatives such as these where marginal farmers can aspire three crops a year are important. The overall Rural Transformation Programme of Reliance Foundation has in its initial phase purposely chosen 24 of the most poverty stricken pockets of rural India across 10 States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to work in. A modest beginning has been made in engaging with almost 20,000 farming households across over 250 villages in these areas.
The design adopted for the project is simple – it is based on seeking out the community, listening to them and responding to their needs and aspirations. Which as Mrs. Nita Ambani pointed out is more critical than any technology and resources for a lasting and meaningful impact. She also stated “Pace for Development can be set only by the community itself while Reliance Foundation will be there to support and encourage it even for the most backward farming section”.
The journey with the marginal farmers begins with collection of ownership data at village/habitation level, which is then used for the purpose of planning by the village community itself. Reliance Foundation helps them to organize themselves into institutions through village farmers associations and producer companies and they have eventually ownership of implementation and realization of the benefits.
Till date over 15000 hectares of privately owned wastelands or underproductive lands have been brought under sustainable agriculture practices. The land based interventions have also contributed to creating 57,82,000 cubic meters of rain water harvesting facility which in turn makes water conservation viable, leading to better standard of living. Reliance Foundation-bij also aims at developing nutritional self-sufficiency of the families and has helped in the establishment of nearly 4000 Nutrition Gardens (Reliance Nutritional Gardens – RNGs) to supplement the nutritional requirement of marginal farmers.