Mumbai – Providing sustainable source of livelihood to the tribal communities and economically backward population was the aim of Avashya Foundation, Dr. Nilratan Shende, DGM-CSR at Allcargo Logistics told India CSR Network. The Foundation is the CSR arm of the company.
Through its Maitree initiative the Foundation is encouraging farmers to grow fruit-bearing trees not only to help them earn their livelihoods but also increase the green cover and reduce carbon footprints.
What are the current socio-economic and environmental realities which led to the birth of Maitree?
At Allcargo, we believe that the environment is an important factor in creating a sustainable future for the upcoming generation. Maitree was, launched in 2014 by Allcargo Logistics’ Avashya Foundation, with an aim to provide sustainable sources of livelihood to the tribal communities and economically backward population through tree plantation. The programme ensures a broader outreach to a large number of families from under-developed and tribal regions and improving their socio-economic condition.
How did the initiative take shape?
The initiative took shape from the idea of preserving the environment and empowering the community. The Maitree initiative aims to empower communities by involving them in planting trees that will provide sustainable livelihoods.
For instance, fruit-bearing trees add to the family income when the produce is sold in the market. Thus, Maitree helps increase green cover, reduces carbon impact, provides income generation options and mitigates rural migration. The underlying principle is to empower rural families so that they can participate in the growth and development story of the mainstream society.
How has been the journey so far?
The journey has been extremely fulfilling. Maitree 2019 is another glorious chapter to our mission to conserve nature as well as extend our support to the farmer communities. Each year, we identify new regions and farmers who can reap the benefits of the programme. We have received excellent support and active participation this year from farmers, forest officials to make it a grand success.
Maitree aims to benefit over 12,000 farmers by undertaking tree plantation drive in the tribal regions of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Approximately 6.5 lakh fruit-bearing trees have been planted in the tribal regions of Maharashtra and Karnataka since its inception. So far, 12,000 farmers have benefitted from this initiative.
We have recently organised a Mango Festival at Allcargo Logistics office in Mumbai wherein farmers from the Mokhada and Jawhar regions in Maharashtra sold 250 dozens of Kesar mangoes, bred from the trees planted under Maitree, to the Allcargo employees.
What challenges did you face while rolling out the project and how did you overcome them?
Identification of location and the intended beneficiaries was one of the major challenges for us. The beneficiaries initially had very little resources. Plant mortality was another problem. We also had to reduce the time of income generation of the farmers.
The approach was to conceptualise a project, keeping in mind, aspirations of the beneficiaries; bring down the maturation period of the plants by introduction of adult grafted trees which had the capability to survive; focus on capacity building of the farmers and making them aware about risk associated with seasonal plants.
We also worked on farmers’ preparedness and adopted stringent monitoring mechanisms which helped not only in addressing poverty but ensuring best survival rates in spite of so many stumbling blocks.
How did you select the beneficiaries for Maitree?
In the past, Avashya Foundation in collaboration with Light of Life Trust, Aroehan, Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission and DigantaSwaraj Foundation identified beneficiaries based on certain criteria and implemented the programme in Karjat, Mokhada and Jawahar regions of Maharashta.
Dedicated teams having expertise in the area of agricultural and environment protection provided guidance on good agricultural practices to the farmers by bringing on board agricultural experts. Co-operative societies were also formed to help farmers sell their produce at good rates.
What are the key learnings from the entire experience so far?
Maitree programme has really been very satisfying and full of learnings. It’s a project which underlined that participation of the beneficiaries in the project cycle management is crucial from the perspective of the success of the project. Having decentralised the project activities, has encouraged the communities to participate actively in the project which impacts its outcome positively.
Timeline and beneficiary selection and their ability to devote time are really vital to the programme. Integration of the project and convergence with government schemes can significant value in addressing reducing pattern of migration And how adopting innovative ways can motivate people which plays significant role in doing justice to the aspirations to the people.
What are your future plans on Maitree?
This year, Allcargo has planted 102,500 trees by working with 2,300 farmers in Jawahar, Mokada and Karjat – the tribal belt in Maharashtra, under our Maitree 2019-20 initiative.
To set the ball rolling for Maitree 2019-20, we celebrated World Environment Day on June 5 involving over 200 farmers in that region. With this, the total count has gone up to 6.5 lakh trees in the last 4 years. The vision for us is to plant a million trees by 2021. Our goal is to take this programme to a wider base of beneficiaries and involve our people as we move ahead.