Interview of Magline Rufina F R, Director – Communications of Boehringer Ingelheim India on its company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
By Rusen Kumar
To ensure sustained growth and continued economic activity in rural areas, livelihood development and opportunities for consistent income generation are essential.
Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) India, a leading, research-driven pharmaceutical company has been working towards enhancing economic, social and health welfare in rural and tribal areas. Its development program addresses the immediate needs of the community while also enabling an environment of sustainable life, well-being and livelihood. Boehringer Ingelheim India recently rolled out initiatives targeting livelihood development for migrant workers and marginal farmers in Raigad district in south Maharashtra and Nandurbar district of north Maharashtra with an emphasis on women and children’s health and development. In an interview with Rusen Kumar, Editor of India CSR; Magline Rufina F R, Director – Communications, Boehringer Ingelheim India delves deeper into the company’s community benefits program and potential impact of CSR. Excerpts:
Could you shed some light on the work you are doing in Maharashtra? Within Maharashtra, which regions are your efforts focussed in?
Our development initiatives are focused on enhancing economic, social and health welfare in rural and tribal areas. The program begins with addressing the immediate development needs before enabling an environment of sustainable life, well-being and livelihood. We believe that India has the resources to keep people in its various geographies well-nourished and flourishing, while simultaneously contributing to the local ecological development and the joy of living close to their roots and families.
People from rural India have always been drawn to urban areas in pursuit of jobs and a better quality of life. However, we witnessed the pandemic causing a mass return of migrant workers to their hometowns, resulting in loss of livelihood, lack of monetary support for families and increased debt. We are working towards livelihood development for migrant workers and marginal farmers in the Raigad district in south Maharashtra and Nandurbar district in north Maharashtra through structured interventions to facilitate locally sustainable income generation. Our special focus is on women and children’s health and development.
Our projects in south Maharashtra focus on on-farm as well as off-farm activities. There are several development interventions under these categories that we are working on with our partners. However, for a broad understanding, on-farm activities would help farmers achieve improved crop cultivation through irrigation schemes and technical knowledge sharing to enhance crop yield; while off-farm activities would include supporting them with dairy, poultry, and other alternatives for securing income.
In north Maharashtra, in addition to on-farm activities, we also engage in nutrition programmes for children up to 5 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers, and promotion of hygiene practices among students, teachers and school management committee (SMC) members in 3 schools.
Overall community health covering healthcare, socio-economic betterment, and avenues for sustained development in these regions in the long-term is of paramount importance to Boehringer Ingelheim India’s community benefit programmes.
Why did you choose to work in the area of livelihood development?
Our focus has been on enriching and uplifting the lives of communities through sustainable development initiatives while balancing the need to address some of their immediate life needs. In the current context, medical support to manage pandemic conditions was one such immediate need, which the Boehringer Ingelheim relief package helped address. Our long-term projects that endeavour to enable a sustainable life for marginalised communities also help address an evolving need caused by the prolonged economic impact of the pandemic. The current situation calls for holistic growth and development of resilient infrastructure in these regions. To ensure sustained growth and continued economic activity in rural areas, livelihood development and opportunities for consistent income generation are essential. Hence, we are working towards assisting daily wage workers and marginal farmers with opportunities to establish livelihoods in their villages, with locally available resources.
This, we believe, will also help build strong ecological balance, as these communities build their modern farming practices, livestock breeding and other revenue-generation opportunities in friendly relations with the environment.
When did you begin the project and what is the overall duration of the project?
We rolled out its sustainable development program in the north and south of Maharashtra in 2021, with the project spanning three years. We endeavour to build on this model and expand to other tribal and marginalised areas of the state and the country once we have had the opportunity to learn from our current experience.
Are you working with any partners on this project? If yes, what is the partner’s role?
We are working with Swades Foundation in the Raigad & Nashik districts of Maharashtra, to empower rural Indians by creating a permanent, irreversible change in rural communities through initiatives focusing on Health & Nutrition, Education, Water & Sanitation, and Economic Development.
Additionally, in north Maharashtra, our partner – Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) is leading the implementation along with the community on the ground. Our focus remains on strengthening the community of women by facilitating improved agriculture and allied livelihood opportunities thus ensuring economic security. Women leaders would be taking charge of program governance and the implementation of the thematic interventions. The village institutions will be nurtured through on-field training, decision making and leadership skills in terms of capacity building. CInI’s efforts are helping us ensure that the community is empowered towards anchoring the program in the long term.
What kind of financial investments are you looking at making in the project?
As we had announced earlier, for the financial year 2021-22, we have allocated EUR 1 million to enable sustenance, help create opportunities for livelihood generation for the underserved and tribal communities and address the medical needs of patients in India.
What are the initiatives being undertaken specifically for the social and economic empowerment of women in rural areas?
Economic independence for rural women is essential to improve their social and economic status. Our project in north Maharashtra focuses on women-led community institutions as well as village institutions that are linked to the larger women-focused Farmer Producer Organization. The interventions focus on agriculture, irrigation, livestock, nutrition, etc. Women leaders are also being trained to improve practices and ensure better technology adoption for improved income generation. In terms of nutrition, the nutrition champions (women) identified from the villages are helping in raising awareness around mother and child health, nutritional intake during pregnancy and post-delivery, along other long-term changes.
In south Maharashtra, we have undertaken livelihood development programs to help rural women enhance income generation and achieve economic independence. These programs offer women the opportunity to engage in alternative livelihoods such as dairy, poultry and goat rearing.
What will be the potential impact of the entire project in the region?
Through this project, we aim to drive sustained economic activity, in addition to offering improved healthcare infrastructure for local communities in our focus villages. The project in South Maharashtra aims to impact over 11,280 lives through sustainable livelihood development resulting in a potential annual GDP generation of Rupees 4.55 crore.
In north Maharashtra, the project over three years would be building up strong women-led community institutions engaging with around 300 small and marginal families across five villages for improved income generation through agriculture and allied livelihood opportunities. This would help provide potential annual GDP creation of around Rupees 2 crores within the cluster along with bringing in quality inputs and market linkages. Additionally, the nutrition champions from women will promote community-based nutrition interventions for pregnant women and infants.
Are you looking at any other regions beyond Maharashtra?
We endeavor to replicate our current model of community benefit in other tribal and marginalised areas of the state and the country, once we have had the opportunity to learn from our current experience.
About the Author
Rusen Kumar is the Editor of India CSR. He writes on CSR, Sustainability and Environmental affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org