About ACF

Friday, September 07, 2018

6 ways in which ACF is helping Indian Farmers become prosperous

Farmers are the backbone of this nation, yet earnings from farming have been dwindling with time. The recently released Financial Inclusion Survey by NABARD concludes that in rural India, less than a quarter of income today is derived from agriculture. Even, in agricultural households, the income contribution is pegged at just over 43%. Cognizant of this situation, ACF has been working with farmers for over 2 decades now, helping them become prosperous through agriculture. Here are a few ways in which ACF is empowering them to earn more:

1. Increasing Yields & Profits through Capacity Building - Farmers are often unaware of the latest farming technologies and techniques, which inhibits them in resolving issues they face. ACF mobilises farmers into 'groups’, educating them about best practices and conducting demonstrations to showcase new techniques. 

2. Fostering Market Linkages & Collective Bargaining - ACF motivates producers from various sections of society to come together and form producer collectives, helping them collectively bargain and leverage better market prices for their crops and produce. Joint procurement of inputs is also facilitated to reduce costs.

3. Providing 'real time' advice and support – Farmers often face 'real time' problems in the field. To address their issues ACF provides agriculture advisory and expertise which can be accessed via SMS services at Farmer Malls. There is even a radio station, which reaches farmers with necessary advice and solutions

4. Supporting Adoption of More Lucrative CropsACF works with farmers to veer them away from the traditional mono-cropping approach to a more lucrative multi copping approach. The approach enables farmers to deal with seasonal changes, supports soil fertility and helps them leverage market prices better.

5. Availing Insurance & Government schemesACF promotes and facilitates the adoption of insurance schemes to reduce agricultural risk which has seen good traction among farmers.

6. Promotion of Organic Farming Practices - Where possible, ACF promotes organic farming practices for more sustainable and healthier crop production.

Read more about how ACF is helping farmers across India become more prosperous, here

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Meet The Cow Lady, The Milk Lady, And The Hen Lady: 3 Stories Of Courageous Women Who Are Now The Driving Force In Their Families; Thanks To Education

Economic empowerment leads to social empowerment; this has never been truer than in the case of women. Research shows that when a woman has the means to earn money, she can be an able partner in decision making for the family and is more prudent than men at taking decisions that can take the family out of poverty. The stories of these three successful rural entrepreneurs showcase how families and at times entire communities, can be prosperous when you equip women with education.

The Cow Lady, Shanta Sharma: In Darlaghat, Himachal Pradesh, getting an education is not easy if you’re a woman and the situation at Shanta’s home was no different. Shanta, despite resistance from her parents, did, however, manage to study till Class 8 before being confined to the 4 walls of her home. Relegated to the role of a housewife post marriage, Shanta longed for an opportunity that would allow her to support her family economically as well.

That opportunity came in the form of a training in veterinary sciences that was being offered by ACF. Shanta enrolled herself and though she faced some hiccups, especially learning the names of medicines in English, she successfully passed the training to become a Pashu Swastya Sevika (Animal Health Worker). Today, as a PSS, she is part of an indispensable band of women who are called for all animal-related health issues, especially cows, in Darlaghat. Healthy cows imply higher milk production resulting in significant improvement in the quality of life of the villagers. And this has resulted in Shanta and her peers being looked upon with much-deserved respect, and in her successfully supporting her family with an additional income & decisions.

The Milk Lady, Hansaben Jadhav: Approximately 1600 Kms away in Sandhanidhar village of Kodinar district, Gujarat, there is another white revolution taking place and this time around, women are at the forefront of it. An initiative by the women, of the women and for the women, the Women’s Dairy Cooperative has resulted in a sea of change in the economic prosperity & perception of women. Hansaben was part of the initial group of volunteers who decided to set up the dairy in their village and she recalls the antagonism she & her peers had to face. How could a woman work and run a dairy? It was unthinkable. That didn’t deter Hansaben & the other volunteers though and against all opposition set up the dairy and encouraged women to come out of their homes and participate in the economic upheaval.

Today the Women’s Cooperative dairy is a cash cow and every woman in Sandhanidhar is a member of the dairy. All the women have bank accounts in their name to which money from the sale of milk is deposited through challans they fill and sign themselves. As for Hansaben, the quest to break misconceptions about the ability of women continues. In a society where women are encouraged not to study, she is currently pursuing her post-graduation.

The Hen Lady, Januben Jadhav: In nearby Pikhor, another hamlet in the district of Kodinar, Gujarat, if you hear a few peculiar sounds such as ah ah ah ah and ke ke ke ke, rest assured. It’s Januben going about managing her business – poultry. It’s not the only business she manages though. With a husband who’s never at home, Januben manages the entire household including the children. 
The poultry business has been a boost in the arm for Januben with much-needed income. Life was harsh, however, when there was no steady income coming from her husband and she wasn’t working. Eager to confront her circumstances, she enrolled herself at the Krishi Kendra collective where she was enlightened on the prospects of poultry farming. She now earns Rs. 3000 – 4000 monthly which suffices for her household expenses and savings.

The Pashu Swastya Sevika, Women’s Cooperative Dairy, and Krishi Kendra collective are some of the many rural development programmes that have been initiated and managed by ACF to empower women. ACF believes that economic empowerment of women leads to economic prosperity for the entire household & social empowerment of women. To enable this. ACF works with women in 22 locations & 11 states across India. You can also help ACF in this endeavor by partnering with us or at the least, sharing this story of change from Rural India

Monday, August 20, 2018

There's A Revolution Brewing In Our Villages, And It's Being Led By Sakhis

Sagunatai, Sunita & Joshila’s faces are some of the many that acquaint you with the women of rural India. Their eyes, however, reveal a missionary zeal that sets them apart. They are, in fact, 3 of the 350 plus women who have taken the onus of securing the health of their villages. Fondly called Sakhis, these women have been trained & equipped by ACF to provide first aid, maternal & neo-natal care and improve hygiene in their communities.

The going hasn’t been easy. Superstitions and age-old practices run rife that thwart any concrete effort towards ensuring quality healthcare for all. Child Births happen more at homes than in hospitals resulting in health complications for the child & the mother. Annually, around 44000 mothers die in India due to preventable pregnancy-related causes in India as per UNICEF. Every year, 6.4 lakh newborn babies never get a chance to breathe beyond their first 28 days in India. 

Open Defecation is also a cultural norm that few people would want to give up; leading to rampant cases of diarrhea and hepatitis among many other diseases. In fact, as per The Economist, 450 million Indians defecate in the open & 1 in every 10 deaths can be attributed to Open Defecation.

But the Sakhis are persistent. Slowly and steadily, more women are opening their household doors to welcome them. After all, who wishes the death of a loved one? Through their efforts, women are now opting to give birth in hospitals resulting in lower mortality rates. And that’s not all; the Sakhis are also the torch bearers of the Swachchta Doot programme that trains village children to be evangelists for personal & environmental cleanliness. The importance of hygiene in physical & mental growth is taught through games that the children play. This has resulted in villages being cleaner & conscious of practices that improve personal & community hygiene. Open defecation, earlier rampant, has reduced as villagers realize it’s relationship with disease. The Sakhis conduct regular meetings with the community to sensitize & motivate them on the need for toilets in every household.

The Sakhis are relentless in their pursuit of good health. As Joshila aptly puts it,” I will not rest till every household in my village has a toilet”. Neither will we.

ACF works with women in rural communities to improve health & sanitation & has been training women in 22 locations & 11 states across India to be the agents of change in the communities they reside. As part of this initiative, over 350 Sakhis & over 300 Swachchta Doots have been trained. As a result, over 15500 households are now covered under the Maternal & Child Care programme, 29733 toilets have been constructed & 131 villages have 100% toilet coverage. You can also help ACF in this endeavor by partnering with us or at the least, sharing this story of change.

Read more about ACF’s initiatives in health here

Friday, July 27, 2018

ACF & Ministry of Rural Development Partnership - Training 1125 Youth from West Bengal

Official Launch of ACF and DDU-GKY in Sankrail, West Bengal in July 2018

ACF plays a key role in skilling the nation's youth, and in yet another collaborative partnership, has joined hands with the Ministry of Rural Development under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) scheme - committing to train 1125 youth in industry-specific courses in Sankrail, West Bengal, over the next three years. 

DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth. It's vision? To transform rural poor youth into an economically independent and globally relevant workforce!

It is also uniquely focused on rural youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years from poor families, which is in alignment with ACF's SEDI strategy and approach. 

On 20th July 2018, Ambuja Cement Foundation launched the project ‘Empowering India – Powering the World’ under DDU-GKY, with an inaugural ceremony organized in Sankrail, Howrah. 

The event which was inaugurated by Shri Purnendu Basu, Minister for Technical Education and Training and skill development, Government of West Bengal, witnessed participation from over 250 people - including the Government, current partners, employers, community representatives, employees of Ambuja Cements Limited, Ambuja Cement Foundation and SEDI students.

A Sankrail SEDI Student learns Mobile Phone Repair

ACF has been selected by the government to implement the project based on the quality of training, infrastructure, and processes - to date, ACF’s Skill and Entrepreneurship Training Institutes have trained over 40,000 youth across 10 states, and in West Bengal alone, 5100 youth have been trained in a variety of trades.

'Looking Back With Pride' - Silver Anniversary Celebrations in Punjab

25 years is a big milestone, and celebrations of ACF's silver anniversary continue in high spirits across the country. In July, ACF team members from Ropar, Bathinda, Roorkee, and Dadri came together to mark the occasion and reflect on the journey so far.

Mr. B L Taparia, Ms. Padmini Somani and Ms. Pearl Tiwari, Directors of ACF Board, were present on the occasion and were moved beyond words by the energy of the day.

Ms. Pearl Tiwari thanked the entire team for their relentless hard work and dedication. She also took pride in the fact that "Ambuja is one of few companies that thought of community development much before CSR came into the picture." 

"The fact that ACF is today seen as a leader in CSR is due to the magic potion we have had. This magic potion comprised of the incredible vision and humility of the founders, Mr. Narotam Sekhsaria and Mr. Suresh Neotia, and of course the perseverance of the ACF team and their families who supported them." Ms. Tiwari said.

Ms. Padmini Somani expressed her joy to be part of the celebrations.  "My father had a vision of helping the community prosper." Ms. Somani said. "I have seen this vision come to life on the ground, through the significant impact that ACF has created - this is a tribute to all of you and the hard work you have done to achieve this."

"I urge people to commit to giving back to the society in whatever small way they can." Ms. Somani said.

Mr. Taparia expressed his delight in witnessing ACF's growth over the years, both programmatically and from an organization perspective. 

"Our credibility amongst the partners has tremendously increased due to the strong governance and compliance systems we have in place - I congratulate the team on the successful implementation of both quality projects and transparent systems which have contributed to this."

The 25-year celebrations a special occasion for the entire ACF family. This is the occasion to reminisce on all the toil and hard work that has resulted in the organization that ACF is today. It is a proud time for everyone.

Of course, no celebration is complete without the participation of the people, and the event saw students of Ambuja Manovikas Kendra, self-help group members, and local community join hands with ACF staff in celebrating.

ACF operations in Ropar began in 1999 with Ambuja Manovikas Kendra and gradually expanded into other program areas including agriculture, women empowerment, and education. 
ACF teams at other locations in the region – Bathinda (Punjab), Dadri (UP) and Roorkee (Uttarakhand), have also implemented these programs, including the establishment of Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institutes.   
Today, in all these locations, ACF is working to enhance the livelihoods and overall prosperity of rural communities.

Monday, July 23, 2018

5 Ways to Magnify Impact Through Collaboration.

The recently released 'Global Philanthropy Report – Perspectives on the Global Foundation Sector'  has found that an increasing number of Foundations (42%) recognise the importance of 'partnerships with other philanthropic institutions' as a key element to achieving their goals.  

The research, which studied close to 80,000 foundations across 19 countries, suggests that funders have found ways to amplify the impact of their investments of both time and money, by going beyond traditional grantmaking and collaborating with others. 

At ACF, we have experienced the power of collaborative efforts over the past 25 years - and also confronted the barriers to it. Whilst collaborative partnerships are recognized as an important tool to achieve impact and scale, it is important to note that such alliances can be difficult to create, manage, and sustain. 

Reflecting on our experiences and learnings, a few lessons stand out:
  1. Establish Trust & Openness: Our first task when putting together a new partnership is to lay out the groundwork for establishing trust and a culture of openness and transparency. Whoever coined the phrase “collaboration moves at the speed of trust” was onto something. Recognising that each player in the partnership has a distinctive style of working and specific goals to achieve, we work towards finding common ground and using that as a lever to build consensus on the goals of the partnership. Whilst at times things may not work as expected, being forthright and expecting the same candour from our partners, has allowed us to take timely corrective actions.
  2. Map out Roles & Responsibilities: It’s no secret that we have been able to accomplish much more than we ever could alone, by pooling our resources, capabilities and experience with others. By the same token, it’s also taken a great effort to make these pooled resources work cohesively together, towards a greater good. Specifying roles and responsibilities for each partner, being transparent about expectations from the partnership, sharing information and establishing a governance structure for the partnership have been the secret sauce of our successful partnerships.
  3. Expect The Unexpected: The only real things in life are the unexpected things! A rapidly evolving business environment, like the one we find ourselves in, brings with it unforeseen challenges which can derail even the most meticulous plans. These have, on occasion, adversely affected the financial circumstances or priorities of our partners, compelling them to renege on their commitments to the partnership.  At such times, being empathetic, flexible and willing to adapt, has helped us navigate this complex environment and build resilient long-term partnerships.
  4. Remain Open to Exchange of Ideas: Our successes have been built on the pillars of learning, networking and listening to others.  Each idea shared by our partners, be it the village communities, local government or donor agencies, has expanded our understanding of the ground reality and challenged us to think 'outside the box'. Our most impactful programs and services have been born out of challenging ourselves and stretching our thinking.
  5. Build Relationships: At the end of the day, we’ve learnt that it’s not the organisations, but the people in those organisations that we partner with, that counts. Our greatest efforts have been directed towards knowing and understanding our partners as people and nurturing our partnerships just as we do our relationships.

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”


Nandita Dalal is thePartnerships Consultant at Ambuja Cement Foundation

ACF & NABARD Water Initiatives Deliver 8:1 Social Return on Investment

According to an independent social impact measurement study, ACF's Daseran watershed project in Darlaghat has delivered a Social Return on Investment of Rs 8.44 for every Rs 1 invested.

Implemented by ACF and funded by NABARD, the watershed project sought to address multiple challenges being faced by farmers and communities in the area due to erratic rainfall and limited water harvesting structures, which was adversely affecting both households and agricultural activities in the area - thus inhibiting overall prosperity. 

Watershed development leads to the conservation, regeneration, and judicious use of human and natural resources (land, water, plants, animals) within a particular watershed. It attempts to reach a balance in the environment between natural resources on one side, and man and grazing animals on the other. It takes people’s participation because conservation is possible only through the whole-hearted involvement of the entire community. 

Watershed development is important because there are a variety of consequences to deforestation, wrong farming techniques, livestock over-grazing and faulty land use - which lead to the destruction of plant and tree cover, exposing the earth to natural forces like heavy rains, direct sunshine and high velocity winds. This can lead to soil erosion, floods, or water scarcity. Further, agricultural yields are lowered, resulting in a decline in the income levels of the community, and eventually leading to migration of labour from rural to urban areas in search of livelihood. 

After the ACF and NABARD collaborative intervention, today, when Solan receives 600 to 900 mm, the new water structures capture and conserve rainwater - making it available for both agricultural and drinking purposes.

The SROI assessment was conducted to understand the broader socio-economic value creation of these watershed activities across the 18 villages in Kunihar block of Solan District, Himachal Pradesh - with positive impacts seen in the areas of agriculture, dairy, health and overall societal well-being. 

Examples of positive outcomes include:

· Increase in agricultural income and production;

· Increase in availability/irrigation of agricultural land;

· Income change in the sale of mil and milk products (butter, curd, paneer) among farmers;

· Increase in dairy production;

· Farmers' credit limit increased from Rs1L to Rs3L;

· Farmer Producer Companies availed seeds at cheaper rates - savings of 30-40%;

· Tap connectivity and pipelines reduced the drudgery of women and children in fetching water;

· Water quality improved and was well maintained;

· Increase in community spirit;

· Increase in drip irrigation, mulching and fencing - boosting production by 40%;

Conducted by Sustainable Square, the study utilised the Social Value International SROI framework, which is standardized by the United Kingdom’s SROI Network. It is the leading and most advanced framework for social impact measurement, by valuing financial outcomes from non-financial impetus. 

Central to the SROI methodology is the monetisation of outcomes in order that they can be measured in a consistent way using a common currency. This of course allows computation of a ratio of benefits to costs as the measure of impact which, expressed in monetary terms, can be set against the initial financial investment. 

The process of monetising the relevant outcomes involves identifying financial proxies for each separate outcome. The SROI ratio is calculated by dividing the total present value by the investment. 

Additionally, the goodwill and credibilty built by ACF through this project helped pave the way to launch agricultural and livelihood programs with minimal community outreach and mobilisation costs.

Anagha Mahajani - General Manager, Program Research & Monitoring, Ambuja Cement Foundation