About ACF

Friday, December 28, 2018

New Year Message, ACF CEO Pearl Tiwari: Looking Forward, Looking Back

ACF CEO & Director, Pearl Tiwari

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

As 2018 draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate the advent of a new year, it is apt to connect with you all, extend our warmest regards, and share glimpses of the year to come and the year that was, at Ambuja Cement Foundation.

A big thank you to those of you who have participated with us - your collaboration is an integral part of our journey.  We look forward to strengthening ties and forging ahead together to continue generating prosperity for rural communities of India.

2018: A Time for Celebration

2018 has been a wonderful one in so many ways and there are many things to celebrate and feel grateful for.  I hope that you also have much to reflect positively on, for the year that was.

  • This year we celebrated our Silver Jubilee, completing 25 years of rural development, and marked the occasion with a number of events and initiatives over the course of the year.  In particular, we were jubilant to see our stories of impact hit the road as a roving Photographic Exhibition - to spread the good news of Ambuja Cement Foundation and the change we have achieved at scale on the ground.
  • A prestigious Sandvik Gender Award was bestowed on our very own Women's Federation in Kodinar, Shri Sorath Mahila Vikas Sahkari Samiti (SMVSM), taking home the Award for its work in 'bridging the digital gender gap' in Gujarat. 
  • We are proud of our strategic decision to invest in, and focus on, non-communicable diseases, which has led to 62% of deaths in India, and is now the front-running health problem affecting rural communities.
  • This year we ramped up efforts to expand our Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institutes, launching four more centres (with many more in the pipeline) taking our total centres to 28. Thanks to all who have helped make this possible, in particular, our staff and partners.
  • Ambuja Manovikas Kendra saw the first batch of students graduate from the Vocational Training Centre.  We wish these students every success as they go forward with new skills in life to generate a livelihood with dignity.
  • We changed the fortunes of over 1.7 lakh farmers, 42,653 youth, and 21,986 women who benefited from our programs.  They now move forward, more empowered and with more knowledge and skills, to prosper in life.
  • Time and again, when we hear stories of our staff going the extra mile, we are proud of the ACF Family and all they manage to achieve on a shoestring budget in order to optimise investments on the ground. It is thanks to them that our relationships in communities are so strong and that we can achieve the impact we have over the years.
  • Once again we have joined hands with many partners and this year forged New Partnerships with like-minded organisations who believe in our vision and philosophy. We extend our gratitude for your faith in us and look forward to long and lasting relationships with you all.

2019: The Year of Investment

At ACF, 2019 has been dubbed, The Year of Investment! 

  • Investment in the grassroots of this nation, which provides the backbone of both industry and economy.
  • Investment in our people, through new skills, new perspectives, new exposure and new approaches.
  • Investment in expanding beyond our existing territories, to take our services to where the need is the most.
  • Investment in partnerships, to help us better address the vast need of rural communities.

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year is typically a time for resolutions!  What resolutions have you made as an individual?  And what resolutions should we make as a country?  At ACF we have made many resolutions and we look forward to bringing them to fruition in 2019:

  • We aim to strengthen gender diversity across the organisation - at the level of our interventions, our ACF staff and participation at a community level.
  • We commit to re-orienting our programs - bringing climate change more fully into focus, and aligning more diligently with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • We continue our commitment to share our knowledge and learning in rural development with others in the sector.

Here's to the year that was, and here's to the year ahead - may it be filled with much joy, laughter and prosperity for you all!

Warm Regards,


Director & CEO - Ambuja Cement Foundation

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Investing in Water: For Today & The Future

By 2030, India will face a 50% water deficit, and by 2020, 21 Indian cities will run out of water. It's a tough pill to swallow. Now, more than ever, we need to increase our investment in Water to help curb this looming national crisis.

In an effort to raise awareness of the need for community water investment, and to share expertise and insights from leaders across the country, ACF in collaboration with Samhita Social Ventures, is hosting a Mumbai Water Forum 'Investing in Water: For Today & the Future' on December 14th - bringing together key stakeholders in water.

The forum will focus on 3 areas:

1. Collaborating for Water - Forming Effective Partnerships in the water sector will help stakeholders to move out of silos and coordinate efforts to increase their reach and impact. A panel discussion aims to provide a roadmap to the audience on how to develop impactful partnerships with other funders/ companies/ governments/ social organizations. 

2. Connecting Potential Partners - Via a 'speed dating' format and with the context set for the need for partnership, the event will facilitate direct engagements between participants to open dialogue for potential partnerships. In 5-minute bursts, individuals will interact with 9-10 other attendees. 

3. Secrets to Success - This session will allow panel members from different backgrounds to articulate candid moments and insights from their experience in the Water sector. The audience will learn how to navigate the challenges faced at different stages. In a rapid-fire format, each of the panel members will detail their ‘secrets’, after which, we will open the floor for questions.

The event is open to key stakeholders in the water sector, along with those wishing to invest in water, looking for powerful ways to make an impact in this area.

Hosted by Ambuja Cement Foundation, in collaboration with Samhita, the event will see a power-packed panel of guests including representatives from Government, NGO sector, Corporates and Media. It's an event you wouldn’t want to miss!

Investing in Water - For Today & The Future. Friday 14th December 9.30am - 3.30 pm - Mumbai. For more details contact: ceo.acf@ambujacement.com

Water Positive: Investing in Community Water Projects

Cement and other manufacturing companies often get a rap on their knuckles for being big consumers of water and are criticized for the negative impact they have on local community water resources.

Many companies, however, are bucking this trend and becoming 'net water positive' - giving back more water than they take, to not only secure water for business sustainability but also to ensure there is more than enough for the community that they’re a part of.

Ambuja Cements Limited is proud to be already ahead of the curve, with water a positive ratio of 5.5. So what can companies do to optimize their own water footprint and build smart strategies to reach a 'water positive' status?   

Primary Strategies Adopted by Leaders
When a company is 'net water positive' it means they are creating more water than they are actually using in their business. Whilst it is not a legal compliance, businesses need water to operate and cannot function without it - it makes good business sense to invest in a variety of ways to become water positive.

So how is it done? And what are the various strategies a company can harness to minimize their water footprint? When it comes to being water positive, there are 2 areas of intervention that a company needs to consider:

1. ‘Within the Fence' - A series of strategies where companies can reduce their water footprint through water saving techniques, recycling and harvesting water from within the plant. 

2. 'Beyond the Fence' - A company can work with local communities to harvest and gain access to rainwater via a variety of structures and interventions. And importantly, can teach them more efficient ways to conserve and use it. 

But it is in the 'Beyond the Fence' interventions that there is unlimited potential and scope to influence the area of water. After all, there is only so much that can be done 'within the Fence.' But in doing so, it is vital to take a holistic approach to tackle community water initiatives.
In fact, the opportunity exists for companies to play a special, leadership role in leading and catalyzing 'Beyond the Fence' community water strategies. A corporate is one stakeholder, perfectly positioned, to play a leadership role and drive community water management. This is, in fact, Water Stewardship.

Referring to the collective action of all the stakeholders within a water basin, watershed or region, to work toward integrated water resource management, 'water stewardship' provides an exciting opportunity for companies.

Because compared to other stakeholders, corporates are relatively nimble and influential, which presents a unique opportunity to lead community water initiatives - to go beyond their own water efficiency practices 'within the fence' and lead collective action 'beyond the fence'. 
Additionally, businesses are uniquely positioned to devise innovative solutions to water challenges, which cannot only provide water for profit but for people and planet also.

Employing Beyond the Fence strategies for holistic community Development.

At Ambuja Cement Foundation we have worked at both the demand and supply ends of the water spectrum. It is important to influence both water harvesting, conservation and judicious utilization, to make a lasting, sustained impact. And in doing so, have taken a Water Stewardship approach to tackle the problem.

So what does it look like on the ground?

  • Water Harvesting - On the supply side, ACF facilitates Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting so that households can capture water as and when it falls. We also work on larger scale harvesting, in the form of building check dams, deepening and widening ponds and carving canals. It not only captures the rainwater but also harnesses it to recharge depleted ground water levels. This has helped communities, households and farmers to have greater all year round access to water.
  • Water Conservation - There is also a need to work with both farmers and community members to conserve and optimize water as a resource - teaching them to use it as efficiently as possible. Across India, many farmers are not using water efficiently, with only 30-40% efficiency from flood irrigation of crops. ACF supports farmers to invest in Drip Irrigation, which lifts water use efficiency to levels between 60-80%. It is important to work at both ends of the spectrum.

There are many on-ground learnings to share, to support companies in streamlining and optimizing their investments in community water projects. Some of ACFs 'secrets to success' include:

  • Partnering for Success: In water project partnering with the community or if possible with the local government, will be more helpful to achieving success. There are a number of schemes that the government has, it is also possible to forge a corporate-corporate partnership. 

  • 5 Year Investment Horizon: There is no 'quick fix' when it comes to investing in community water initiatives. Water project needs 3-5 year horizon to see an impact and to also ensure systematic implementation.
    • The first 6-9 months is spent on community preparation or systematic investigation of the area to identify proper sites for recharge wells, dams, ponds, canals and the like. You need to simultaneously advertise and promote projects in the community to foster collective action.
    • In the 2nd and 3rd year implementation of programs takes place where we build structures and work with local groups for behaviour change.
    •  And in the 4-5th year we focus on building and strengthening people's institutions to take over the ongoing management of interventions - otherwise, the structures are vulnerable to falling into disrepair.

  • Building People's Institutions: It is in the last few years of the project that we focus on strengthening 'people's institutions' such as Water User Groups and Association's to manage projects in an equitable, sustainable way. By getting local buy-in we ensure the long-term viability of the project. Rainfall variability is diverse - if there is high rainfall then the structure may be damaged. If the community agrees to participate, then the structure is maintained and the project is sustainable – else the investment goes waste. · 

  • Pooling Resources: Projects can be optimised by partnering with the Government and other key stakeholders. It is important that everyone chips in to pool resources - we even ensure that the community contributes in some way. The biggest opportunity, however, lies in collaborative corporate partnerships and Government Partnerships via tapping into local schemes. For example in Chandrapur, ACF has collaborated with the Government of Maharashtra to implement the water conservation scheme named Jalayukt Shivar Abhiyan. These partnerships not only help in terms of resource mobilisation and multiplying resources but also give us the social license to operate. 

  • Water Volumes - We can simply measure the capacity of a check dam, well or pond to measure the amount of extra capacity created. Irrigation - However measuring the impact of something like drip irrigation is a little more complex.  Whilst there are standard benchmarking tools to measure based on the crop, soil type, area for irrigation, irrigation frequency, climate consideration (humidity, dry), the area under irrigation and water pumped, to compare the change.  For such complicated measurements, ACF garners technical and knowledge support from local universities and research institutes. 

  • Measuring Ground Water Recharge - Another approach is to measure groundwater recharge and again this is no simple formula.  Its measurement is based on such facets as geology and infiltration rates and formulas to calculate the recharge of groundwater. 

  • Social Return on Investment - Another measurement tool to ascertain the long term, the ripple effect of a water project on a community, is SROI.  It highlights how changes in the area of water can also create positive impacts on areas such as health, education and livelihoods. ACF uses outside consultants to conduct SROI studies on communities where it has had widespread community water investment over sustained periods of time.  Studies have shown a social return on investment ranging from 1:6 to 1:13 in varied geographies ACF operates in. 

  • Company Water Audit - To gauge overall water footprints at a company, reputed organizations like DNV and agencies validate our work on the ground - which typically takes place every 4 years.  

Whilst investing in water is good for business, future sustainability and helps gain trust from locals, it also provides a win-win for all stakeholders in the watershed. Companies can play a leadership role in not only achieving net water positive status but in transforming the water woes of an entire community.

ACF is an implementing agency with experience in managing corporate expectations and needs and can help corporates invest in community water projects to influence their net water positivity.   For more information contact ceo.acf@ambujacement.com

Can Israel Help to avert India's Looming Water Crisis?

Earlier this year, the Indian government inked a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel to enhance cooperation on water conservation in India - with wastage of water being the critical issue the MOU aims to address.

Together India and Israel will work on developing a five-year plan for cooperation in agriculture and water - a key feature of which is a National Water Conservation Campaign; to put water conservation on the national agenda. 

While details of the conservation campaign in India are not yet available, its primary focus will be on water users in the agricultural sector, where most of India’s water is consumed through inefficient flood irrigation methods.

The campaign, combined with an agricultural development programme from 2018 to 2020, also part of the MOU, is a tremendous opportunity for India to enhance the skills and capabilities of its farmers in conserving water.

Israel, with its own arid to semi-arid climate, has suffered from severe drought conditions and the lessons gleaned from tackling the issue at a macro level offer key learnings for India.

Faced with a paucity of water a decade ago, Israel began to reduce its consumption through a combination of aggressive campaigns and high tariffs on the usage of water, which were supplemented by innovative water conservation measures. While the campaigns highlighted the country’s water challenges, high tariffs were imposed on domestic users of fresh water. The water conservation measures included switching to using recycled brackish water that is safe for agricultural use, switching to drip irrigation and implementing rainwater harvesting methods. The result:  an increased 'water consciousness' among citizens and decreased water consumption. Today, the country stands as a role model for other water-scarce countries to model their agricultural systems on.

India as the world's biggest user of groundwater today, and faces a similar, serious threat from mismanagement of water resources and climate change.  Currently, more than 85% of India's water supply is being used to quench agricultural thirsts - with flood irrigation and unregulated water usage being the main culprits. With a lack of laws and measures in place to regulate water usage, and in many cases, unrestricted access to subsidized electricity by the government to pump water around the clock (approx 2.3crore pumps), most farmers rely on traditional methods of flood irrigation to grow their crops which has only 30-40% efficiency rates as opposed to drip irrigation which has 60-80% efficiency rates.

Ironically, most water conservation efforts in India take place in the industrial and utility sectors, both of which, when combined, consume less than 5% of the nation's water. It is imperative that we recognize the need to shift our conservation efforts to agricultural water use to improve our water reserves.  The India-Israel partnership and campaign aims to address this.

A little closer to home, Ambuja Cement Foundation too, has found that the promotion of drip irrigation and a collaborative approach to tackling large scale water problems, is the solution to the looming crisis India faces.  Having successfully led multiple collaborative efforts, including pushing salinity back to the coastline in large tracts of coastal Gujarat, ACF believes that a multipronged approach and collaboration is the way forward. 

"Working hand in hand with the Community, Government and Corporate stakeholders, we found the scale and might that we needed to turn a dire situation around for the 200,000 people living in the Kodinar region.' says Pearl Tiwari, CEO of Ambuja Cement Foundation.

She further says, "Whilst at least 21 Indian cities are expected to move towards zero groundwater level by 2020, the hardest hit by the water crisis, are the rural poor.  Already we have the unenviable title of having the greatest number of people living in rural areas without access to clean water – 63 million."

About India’s alignment with Israel on water conservation efforts, she says "There is a need to learn from Israel and take a united approach to scale up efforts to turn India's situation around.  We want to play a key role in sharing our learnings and driving such efforts." 


To read more about ACF’s Water interventions and work visit: http://www.ambujacementfoundation.org/

Water Revolution

All they wanted was water.  And it completely revolutionised their lives!

When ACF began working in the deserts of Rajasthan, they called the community together, to better understand their needs. It was a typical kind of meeting for a rural community - men sat at the front, women at the back.  Men did the talking, women sat and listened.  But when asked "Tell us what you need?" the women jumped to their feet. "We want nothing, just bring us water!"

Now the truth of the matter was, these women were facing many issues - health, educating their kids, lack of money.  But with the water situation so dire, water was all they cared about. And one couldn't blame them. They walked up to 8 Kms a day to fetch it.  They had no time for anything - even their children had to drop out of school to help.

And so ACF got to work, focussing on one thing – that every woman should have access to drinking water within 200 meters. Rooftop rainwater harvesting systems were constructed, ponds desilted and community water tanks constructed.  A well thought distribution system was developed next so that every household would get an equitable supply of water.

Over the course of the next 10 years, the situation slowly turned around.  Water became accessible.  Abundant.  And no longer plagued the lives and minds of women. In fact, in 2015 a study showed 5 times social return on investment for the water program in Rabriyawas - external validation that a water revolution has in fact taken place.

ACF's drinking water program impacts 24,000 women in Rajasthan. Today 1000 women are into income generation and business. SHG participation is up 50%. Women employment has increased.  And 100% of girls attend school. 

Suceeding Where All Else Failed ...

How ACF overcame multiple adversities in building a large-scale tidal regulator in Gujarat.

Farmers in Kodinar were scared, and the future looked bleak.  They were losing hope for their livelihoods - after all salinity had been a problem since 1970.

An attempt by Government in 1986 to install 30 'tidal regulator' steel gates was a complete failure.  The gates stood there corroding - a constant reminder of the ever-creeping tide.

Taking matters into their own hands, community members tried to revive a local check dam - but despite hard work, significant cost and best intentions, the problem persisted.

In 2002, they approached the local MLA and finally in 2008 a tender was issued to solve the salinity problem - won by a local contractor, who immediately started work.

But farmers were not convinced - they had seen the work of this contractor and the quality was poor.

Meanwhile, Ambuja Cement Foundation had been working with the government on other projects and was requested to take over the INR 8.516 Million project.

Challenges, however, continued to thwart the project.  The aim was to build a spillway in place of the regulator gates - but when excavation began, water was seeping in quicker than it could be removed.  

Putting their heads together, ACF staff decided to build a temporary earthen bund downstream, to prevent the barrage of water from the sea.  But once, twice, three times, the bund gave way and collapsed.

Many others in their place, would have offered defeat - was this an 'impossible project?'  But being local to the area, the team summoned their determination - their peers, friends and communities depended on it.

And in 2009 the project was completed in just 5 months.  And today, crops bloom, profits abound and the health and happiness of the region has returned once more.

After decades of others trying, ACF succeeding in reversing the tide. But that's just one piece of the puzzle. ACF's water management efforts in Kodinar have returned a 13 times social return on investment.

ACF helped 2363 farmers embrace drip irrigation, constructed 218 check dams, 1268 recharge wells and 114 ponds. They interlinked rivers, helped install 3833 rooftop rainwater harvesting systems and converted mined out pits into water storage facilities - pushing salinity back to the shore across a 60km stretch of the coast.

ACF Signs 5 year Partnership with Hindustan Zinc Ltd

ACF will launch two new SEDIs in Rajasthan, thanks to a long-term partnership with mining magnate, Hindustan Zinc Limited.

On 2nd November 2018, ACF signed a 5 year MoU with Hindustan Zinc Ltd to establish Skill & Entrepreneurship Development Institutes in Dariba (Rajsamand district) and Agoocha (Bhilwara district). 

The new SEDI centres aim to train 1400 youngsters by 2023 in trades such as Security Guard, Microfinance, General Duty Assistant, Electrician, Data Entry Operator and Retail & Sales Representatives. ACF aims to train at least 30% women in the courses. 

In an online statement, Hindustan Zinc Ltd outlined, "Developmental challenges are complex and can never be addressed through lone efforts. At the heart of our approach to CSR at HZL lies our efforts to forge multi-stakeholder partnerships, connected by a common core value of trust – where stakeholders like government, civil society, business, academia, and of course local communities can come together and be in synergistic action for a sustainable future. We believe that such partnerships are ‘key’ to enhancing value in any developmental effort."

This philosophy is in key alignment with Ambuja Cement Foundation which has successfully partnered with a variety of stakeholders, including Government, Corporate, Civil Society and the Community, to pool resources and optimize the impact of investment in every project.

'It gives us great pride to join hands with a reputed organization such as Hindustan Zinc Ltd, who have a shared philosophy for collaboration in CSR' said Pearl Tiwari, CEO & Director Ambuja Cement Foundation.

'By harnessing one another's strengths, we can bring much-needed training services to underprivileged rural youth and meet common CSR objectives.' She said.

For more information on ACF's Skill & Entrepreneurship Institutes, please click here

To explore establishing a new SEDI in your area, write to ceo.acf@ambujacement.com

ACF Hosts 4th CSR Cafe in Delhi

After successful stints in Mumbai and a great response, ACF held the most recent meet in Delhi on November 22nd in collaboration with UNDP and Samhita Social Ventures, an initiative which aims to bring together CSR leaders to discuss common challenges. 

The theme of the event, facilitated by Ravi Sreedharan (Founder/Director, ISDM) was '5 Ways CSR Heads can Create Lasting Change.' A key topic of discussion included the need for more collaboration among funders.

Participants highlighted difficulties in collaboration due to different stakeholder expectations, that effect ultimately decision-making. For example, the preference for infrastructure investment, which has tangible outcomes, over 'softer' interventions, which might be more impactful or needed.

Participants from consumer product companies highlighted their experience whereby existing regulations limit the business linkage to CSR, which is restrictive and a barrier to effectively channelling their business competencies towards impactful CSR.

All stakeholders agreed that NGOs need capacity building to better align with a company’s CSR vision and manage their CSR projects.

ACF's CSR Café is a forum for CSR leaders and aims to provide a platform for decision makers to discuss issues, brainstorm and ideate solutions.  Launched in Mumbai in 2018, the series of intimate events have explored the following topics:

       Mobilising Collective Corporate Action (Mumbai)

       Creating Impact through Government Partnerships (Mumbai)

       5 Ways CSR Heads can Create Lasting Change (Delhi, Mumbai)