About ACF

Monday, September 07, 2020

ACF gets 9.27/10 from CRISIL for Due Diligence

 In order to assess the overall performance of the organisation, and get a rating on it, ACF commissioned an external 'due diligence' conducted by CRISIL Ltd. 

A team of 2-3 members from CRISIL visited Kodinar and Chandrapur locations and looked at the programs implemented there. Data was collected for 3 major components - Legal & Compliance, Social and Financial. Since this exercise was done in the month of January 2020, the financials data was considered for previous year (2018-19) and other data was considered for the current year. 

ACF got an overall score of 9.27 on a scale of 10 whereas on Legal and Compliance from the score is as high as 9.82. 


Indexed score (out of 10)

Legal & Compliance






Overall Score


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

3 locations win CII-ITC Sustainability Awards


CII-ITC Sutainability Award won by ACF

Ambuja Cements has won the CII-ITC Sustainability Award recently for 3 locations: Bhatapara, Chandrapur, and Farakka for excellence in CSR, Policy, Practices, and Impacts. Moreover, it has been commended for significant achievement. The felicitation was done by Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, through an online ceremony organized by the CII team.

CII-ITC Sutainability Award won by ACF

The CII-ITC Sustainability Award recognizes and rewards excellence in businesses that are seeking ways to be more sustainable and inclusive in their activities. More than the recognition, the award measures performance and provide detailed feedback for opportunities to excel.

The three locations also secured a position in the Environment Management category of the same awards.

CII-ITC Sutainability Award won by ACF

2 SEDI trainees win state level accolades in Rajasthan

Ramesh receiving the Skill Icon Award from Hon. C.M of Rajasthan

Ramesh and Nitu, both ex-trainees of SEDI Rajasthan have been conferred with the Skill Ambassador Award and the Skill Icon award, respectively. They were felicitated by Hon. Chief Minister of Rajasthan - Shri Ashok Gehlot, Hon. Minister of Skill Development - Shri Ashok Chandan and Hon. Health Minister - Shri Tikaram Jully. Trainees from ACF SEDI have secured the highest number of Skill Icon and Skill Ambassador awards in Rajasthan which was lauded by the Chief Minister and other dignitaries.

Ramesh hails from Nagaur district and is a field technician. He comes from a low-income group forcing him to drop out of education and take up menial jobs. He worked as an assistant in an electrical shop earning a meager Rs. 1800 per month in 2008 and even after 10 years was earning only Rs. 10,000 per month. Unhappy with his work, he found hope in the RSDLC courses and enrolled for the Field Technician – Other Home Appliances course. He dedicated his focus towards the course and faithfully attended all classes. With counseling he got motivated and started his own enterprise. He progressed quickly & was soon able to employ 3 more ex-trainees into his business. “There were times where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to afford a meal in the evening or not, but after completing the course and starting my own business, my life has prospered,” says Ramesh. Today Ramesh earns a decent income of Rs. 75,000 per month.

Nitu is based in Jhujhunu & hails from a lower income group. Despite never receiving support from her family or her in-laws, Nitu still managed to complete her studies, paid the fees with her own money, and started looking for work. The pressure was immense as she also had responsibilities at home, including taking care of her two children. Unable to secure a job, she came across SEDI at a mobilization event in the market area where she got to know about the courses and future employment opportunities. Helping her husband understand about the possibility of an improved standard of living and better education for her children, Nitu enrolled in the hospitality course at SEDI Chirawa. However, with still no support, Nitu chose career over family.

Nitu was always interested in Hospitality and after the course, she underwent job training at a leading hotel in Jaipur in the housekeeping department. Upon completion, she received many offers and was able to move from one leading hotel to another earning higher salaries as she moved. “I have learned a lot from SEDI including speaking skills, confidence and a positive attitude. Today, though I am a single mother, I can pay my children’s school fees and still have financial stability,” says Nitu. Always having wanted to work at the Hilton Hotel in Jaipur, today her dream has been fulfilled. Nitu works as a housekeeping executive in the hotel for Rs. 27,000 per month along with free food and accommodation.

Ramesh & Nitu are just 2 among the 65,000 lives that SEDI has changed since its initiation and hopes to change the lives of many more. Incidentally, this is the 4th consecutive time that a trainee from SEDI Chirawa has received a Skill Icon Award.

ACF’s interventions in the community focus on building people’s institutions

Chandrakant Kumbhani - GM-Community Development at ACF

Chandrakant Kumbhani - GM-Community Development at ACF is a seasoned professional in Rural Development with more than 20 years of experience under his belt. At ACF, Chandrakant oversees community development programs for water resource management, women, agriculture, health, & education across all locations. Thrive caught up with Chandrakant to understand the nuances of ‘enabling people’ to enable prosperity.

Thrive: Enabling People & communities seems to run in the DNA of ACF’s approach towards rural development. Is that an outcome of ACF’s years of experience with rural communities?

Chandrakant: Enabling communities is a long-term process & requires a lot of patience. You need to be with the community to understand their needs & build apt interventions. Through its multifarious programs, ACF has always focused on Enabling People to strengthen livelihoods & enable prosperity. It is an understanding that has existed since the beginning. We have always known that enabling people is the key to them achieving prosperity.

Thrive: What do you think is the fundamental difference in enabling people versus doing work for them?

Chandrakant: Doing is a very tactical approach towards rural development primarily centred around demand of the communities and more of a top down approach. For example: If a certain region has a water issue, I might build a check dam in the region and my work is done. On the other hand, when one is ‘enabling people’, the approach includes understanding the community’s needs with water, potential solutions that can increase water availability, & technical feasibility. In this entire process, the community is involved at every step of the planning & implementation. The community owns the project and takes up its management both pre and post implementation of the solution.

Enabling people is a strategic process which ensures that the solution is sustainable. It involves understanding community needs, ground realities, educating people, designing solutions considering perspectives of the community, implementing the solution with people & enabling people to manage & maintain the solution going forward. In short, it is the participation of the organisation in a people’s program rather than people’s participation in organisation’s program.

Thrive: What is the approach that ACF employs in enabling a community?

Chandrakant: Whenever ACF brings any intervention to the community, it looks at building people’s institutions first; to ensure sustainability right from the beginning. As a developmental organisation, the participation of the community is a clear mandate. The approach is always bottom up which starts with identification of challenges that the community faces. Only after gaining a perspective from the community, science & technology solutions are brought in to solve the challenges. In the context of implementation also, ease of understanding & use by the community is a lens that ACF would use to gauge the feasibility of the solution. Take agriculture for example; One can just go and distribute a few seeds of new varieties of crops or saplings to farmers and feel satisfied about the work done. ACF’s approach, on the other hand, would start with understanding the needs of the farmers by learning their current practices and then identify gaps vis-à-vis recommended practices of a crop. Once gaps are identified, education through training and demonstration is initiated, so farmers can understand, realise, and adopt better crop management practices, resulting in better yield and income.

Also, the approach focuses on the long-term sustainability of any solution versus just doling out subsidies or providing inputs for free. Many of ACF’s interventions have people from the community leading the work in their villages; be it the cadre of rural women ‘Sakhis’ in the health program or the Pashu Swasthya Sevikas in Veterinary Health programs. These community workers act as a critical link between ACF & the community for various interventions. 

A Pashu Swasthya Sevika in Darlaghat, Himachal Pradesh

Thrive: What are the challenges that you face in the context of enabling communities?

ACF always works with a long-term perspective in mind. Wherever we are present, we have broadly worked for 10-15 years & hence, trust is inherent w.r.t any intervention we bring to the community. Our biggest challenge, usually, is changing notions of the community in terms of expectations. People are used to being given freebies, subsidies and have material expectations from any organisation that does developmental work. The mindset of subsidy is so deeply embedded that for any intervention, the expectation is that the organisation will bear most of the costs involved.

ACF also works in resource poor geographies which implies that in the initial phase, community challenges are many & designing a holistic intervention with a set of common goals takes some time. For example: with the Better Cotton Initiative program that ACF manages, we took 4 years to reach 10000 farmers across 4 locations but in the next 5 years now we reached 170,000 farmers. The key point is ensuring that people can see, know, or understand the effects of enablement on their livelihoods. Once this is established, people will do what is beneficial to them and scale can be achieved.

Thrive: What is the typical time frame that it takes to enable communities in the context of an area of intervention?

Chandrakant: Based on my experience, any developmental program should look at least 8-10 years. One must also be mindful that the nature of issues will keep shifting. For example: ACF started working on health in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, almost 20 years back with the ‘Mother & Child health’ project which was a dire need in the community. The program was scaled, and indicators were improved. However, today, the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) is making us shift focus to improving healthcare for such conditions. In Kodinar, Gujarat, ACF saw the need to empower women in the community & ACF team members would be out on the field daily, talking to & convincing women to form Self Help Groups. Today, a women’s federation, supported by ACF has taken that role while ACF provides necessary training & guidance. As you can see, the nature of engagement & the roles keeps changing based on the needs of the community.

Thrive: How does ACF look at funding interventions in the context of ‘Enabling People’

Chandrakant: While both ACF as well as the community participate in investing in the intervention, if we see opportunity for any of our existing or potential partners to invest, we do reach out to them. These could include the Government & allied bodies, CSR organizations & other national & international funding agencies. We know the potential project opportunities in each of our locations and that helps us in reaching out to partners with specific propositions. Our expertise in implementation coupled with investments from like-minded partners helps us scale interventions. In practice, ACF has been working this way ever since inception in the early nineties. Our initial years saw many joint initiatives with the government & associated bodies.

Thrive: Can you cite 2 shining stars from ACF’s work in enabling people?

Chandrakant: ACF’s work in Kodinar, Gujarat for water - be it drinking water or ground water recharge for irrigation by harvesting water using dams to water use efficiency utilizing micro irrigation has been exemplary. The sheer scale of the intervention in the region which is home to over 225,000 people has been enormous. By enabling people, we have been able to bring prosperity and offer sustainable livelihoods to many.

Another example would be ACF’s skilling centres. Across 33 locations, each skilling centre (SEDI) offers 42 National Skill Development Corporation certified courses in 8 sectors linked to local. employment such as welding, nursing, retail, banking & BPO operations. Each course lasting 3-6 months is designed to equip the youth in these remote, rural locations with necessary skills and confidence to earn a livelihood. Each of the youth enrolled at SEDI is equipped with both hard skills and soft skills, and with the support of dedicated placement teams, can be gainfully employed.

Another feather in our cap is the partnership with Better Cotton Initiative that enables small holding farmers to be prosperous and ensures that cotton farming remains sustainable. The focus on outreach, training, exposure, and demonstration cannot be emphasised enough. Enabling the farmers with knowledge and information on BCI principles and criteria helps them to implement and imbibe better practices in cotton cultivation. This results in cotton growing becoming sustainable, not only for them but for the environment at large, and the sector itself. 

A farmer participating in the Better Cotton Initiative Programme

Diverse People’s Institutions in Rural India

Rural India

It is a common, yet misplaced assumption that rural Indians lack the skills and the education to manage their affairs, and hence require constant intervention from external agencies. On the contrary, when the rural poor work collectively, share resources and collectively design their own approaches to socio-economic progress, they can drive significant change. A diverse set of institutions of the people are necessary for successful implementation of rural development programmes.

Panchayati Raj was introduced in 1992 to build democracy at the grass roots level and the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) were entrusted with the task of rural development in the country. The experience of the last 28 years seems to suggest that their role in development has been limited and inconsistent. This could be due to a numerous reason- the burden of lofty expectations, structural issues, their top-down approach and a lack of community involvement, amongst others. Even so, PRIs are important institutions and there is now a consensus for the need for structural reform and strengthening of these PRIs.

To ensure greater people’s participation, the respective state governments have initiated the formation of many village level ‘user’ groups. These ‘user groups’ function independently of the PRIs on the subjects assigned to them under the Constitution. Over the last two decades these ‘Peoples Institutions’ (PIs) have played a catalytic role in rural India- their journey being anything but easy. The complex social dynamics of our villages and deeply rooted traditions and beliefs make their task particularly daunting, despite which, there is visible positive change being led by PIs.

Some significant People’s Institutions dotting the rural landscape are:

  • Village Development Committees (VDC)- are voluntary associations of villagers formed for local self-administration and are important vehicles of leading the community to transform themselves socially and economically. Over the years, VDCs have progressed to taking complete responsibility of the village from their basic needs to exploring better livelihood opportunities building awareness about agriculture, health, education, and economy within the community, and helping the community find solutions to their problems. During the pandemic the VDC’s are playing the critical role of creating awareness, combating misinformation, ensuring proper hygiene and social distancing rules are adhered to, provision of relief to the returning migrants amongst a host of other such tasks in tandem with the local administrations.
  • Watershed Development Committees - The Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) has become a cornerstone of the rural development in many of the rain-fed regions of the country, where a large proportion of the population lives in chronic poverty. Watershed challenges are unique to a geography; hence such projects necessitate a participatory approach involving all stakeholders concerned. The committees identify the requirements of a given area and finalise the activities to be undertaken in a participatory mode based on a village level assessment. They look after the development of various village level institutions such as Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and User Groups (UGs) ensuring that a participatory model is adhered to.
  • Farmers Producer Companies (FPC): Most landholdings in India are small and marginal which makes farming unprofitable. The FPCs provide a mechanism for the multitudes of marginal farmers to collectivise and pool their capital, to undertake processing and trading of agricultural commodities more effectively. This enhances farm profitability and ultimately reduces distress. In July 2019, the central government announced a plan to promote 10,000 new FPOs over the next 5 years, as part of its efforts to increase farmer income and reduce agrarian distress. As per unofficial estimates there are currently over 7300 registered FPC’s (including co-operatives, farmer societies) engaged in various activities such as cultivation, dairying and fisheries.
  • Water User Associations (WUA): To enhance the productivity of its various medium and small irrigation projects, Government of India led a paradigm shift in governance by forming WUAs and devolving water governance to these associations. Under the prevailing participatory irrigation management (PIM) approach in India, water is supplied to the WUAs who take over the responsibility of operation, maintenance, and management of the irrigation schemes within their operational area. Presently, more than 55,000 WUAs covering over 13 million ha of gross irrigated area have been formed across India. The formation of these associations has proven to be a remarkably effective strategy for ensuring equitable management of water resources particularly for the small and marginal farmers. Numerous WUA’s have also played a very key role in the implementation of the rural drinking water supply schemes.
  • Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Committee (VHSNC): is one of the key elements of the National Rural Health Mission. The committee is formed at a village level, to take leadership and collective actions on issues related to improving health awareness and access of community for health services, address specific local needs and serve as a mechanism for community-based planning and monitoring. The VHSNC performs the key tasks of creating awareness about nutritional issues, identifying the nutritional status and deficiencies in the village especially among women and children and facilitate early detection of malnourished children in the community. Locally available food stuffs of high nutrient value are identified and disseminated, nutritional best practices are promoted, and referrals are made to the nearest Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre (NRC). The committees also supervise the functioning of Anganwadi Centre (AWC) in the village and facilitate its working in improving nutritional status of women and children.  
  • School Management Committee (SMC): is one of the important committees working in elementary school system, playing a very crucial role of actualizing the goals of Right to Education Act-2009 (RTE). Problems of non-enrolment and non-retention of children, lack of learning readiness, dropout and lack of proper environment and infrastructure are the major obstructs of elementary education in rural areas. The SMC thus plays a key role in developing the quality of teaching and monitors the working of the school, attendance of students, teachers and other employees. The SMC also monitors the quality of mid-day meals served and ensures proper functioning of toilets and drinking water facilities. The SMC is tasked with ensuring proper utilisation of funds that are provided by the Government, implementation of different schemes devised by the State as well as Central Government.