Page 1

Quarter 2 1 June 2012


Editorial Dear Ashoka Fellows,

I am sure you would have read the May 2012

edition of Forbes India. This third anniversary special edition focuses on doing good business. In this space, I would like to reflect upon this theme. The business sector in India has had a joy ride for the last two decades. The success stories of many an entrepreneurship venture have received bigger media spaces than the scores of social issues the nation addresses. Several business leaders have become the poster boys of the new generation, in some cases unseating the popular cinema and sports icons as the aspirational figures. The good news is that the business sector has a lot more steam to enjoy this ride for several more years. However, the sector has reached a point where it needs to carry out some course corrections. There is a decline in the credibility the sector has enjoyed for two decades. This is the time when leaders from the business sector need to act to restore the image and respect of the citizens. There cannot be a better opportunity for leaders to ask themselves about the larger goal of business entrepreneurship. There is no denying that businesses need to serve its customer, investors and other stakeholders by generating value for them. However, the core purpose of a business is to do good for the people and the world. This is the right time for the business sector in India to articulate actions towards this larger vision. The need is so urgent that any positive action will immediately help restore the faith and the leadership position in the eyes of the citizens. It is this shared vision that can bring business and social entrepreneurs together to collaborate and work as peers, without compromising on their respective value system. The moment the stakeholders see the

In this issue opportunities to collaborate, innovations will begin to flow in. And, it would be the new, maverick, innovative ideas that can set the ground for a paradigm shift that can be emulated by the world. You are holding a copy of the newly designed FellowConnect. There’s a reason why we thought it’s time to give your magazine a facelift. A couple of months ago, I placed the last edition of FellowConnect in the hands of a senior journalist, who publishes a well-respected magazine. "This is a communication platform run by Ashoka Fellows," I pointed out to her. She took some time to go through the articles and exclaimed, "This is really professional-class content. They are really impressive." In a span of two years, you have helped FellowConnect grow into a credible knowledge platform that is increasingly rich in content and information. Your knowledge that pours out into the pages of FellowConnect, today reaches out to a select senior media persons and mavens of the society. The increasing acceptance of this unique quarterly magazine encouraged us to review the design. The new design attempts to make the magazine more contemporary to our readers, who should feel more engaged with the contents. A lot of thought has gone into the new design of FellowConnect, which will always be a reflection of the collective thought leadership of Ashoka Fellows. We are eager to learn your views to further enhance your magazine so that your thoughts appeal to a much larger section of the society.

P4 Catch them young: Youth and Social Entrepreneurship in India

P6 One Thousand Words P10 Hidden hunger and Silent Deaths: Case Study of Malnutrition in Orissa, India

We look forward to hearing from you. With best wishes. Manoj Chandran

Editorial: Manoj Chandran, Sanjana Janardhanan Contributors: Lisa Heydlauff, Ashoka Fellow; Madhukar Shukla, Ashoka Family; Kaustubh Pandharipande, Ashoka Fellow; Bibhu Mohanty, Ashoka Fellow; Shree Padre, Ashoka Fellow; Sunish Jauhari, Ashoka Team; Sanjana Janardhanan, Ashoka Team Design: Talk to us: Website: Address: 54, 1st Cross, Domlur Layout, Bangalore 560 071 Telephone: +91 80 4274 5777


P3 The story of second-hand shoes

P14 Breaking ground for affordable housing Back Cover Value Addition – Knowledge to empower farmers Cover Image by Vishal Talreja, Dream A Dream

By Lisa Heydlauff

We asked this question to a class of children in Grade 9 in a small school on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Vinod, age 14, looked at us, wondering if we meant it. He began whispering quickly while still holding up his hand, “I want to tell you my story of second-hand shoes. So many children cannot go to school because they cannot afford to buy shoes. I will need three pairs of shoes to start, I’ll give them away free of cost to three different people from three communities. When they wear my shoes, they’ll talk about my shoes, they’ll buy my shoes.” Vinod had never told anyone else his business idea, his story of shoes. At Be! an Entrepreneur – our project to teach entrepreneurial skills to children through stories – we think it’s about changing the question so you get a different answer. Instead of asking children, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up,’ for which most people would reply, ‘I want to be a doctor, teacher or lawyer,’ we ask a new question: What business would you start, if you could, to solve a problem where you live? We have a problem in India. By 2020 there will be over 210 million unemployed people and 90% will be below the age of 30. These young people are currently children in school and 50% of them are dropping out. This means they won’t have skills, and they won’t be able to get jobs. On top of that, we face crisis-level issues in water, waste, energy, crime – pretty much anything you can think of. This is only exacerbated by the diversity of problems we face

every day. Perhaps the only solution is entrepreneurs. Lots of them. Each solving a different problem in a different community.

Radhakrishna, aged 26, received 3 Lakhs from the BE! Fund, for a second-hand truck to take farmers to the market in rural Karnataka

However, few people really want to become entrepreneurs, especially among the young and poor. The preference is for security, and to take fewer risks. Few people set out on their own to convince people they can come together to build something new. In short, we don’t have role model youth entrepreneur heroes we need. And since we don’t have the heroes or the answers, we’re asking more questions. We found that it was about asking the right question and waiting in silence for young people to answer.

Entrepreneur: Archana; Location: Mashigadde Village, Sirsi, Rural Karnataka

There is no universally, easily understood word for entrepreneur in Hindi or other regional languages. There are also a lot of negative connotations about business people who just make money. On the other hand, people only say good things about ‘social workers’ who solve problems but don’t make money. These paradigms aren't helpful when you're trying to inspire young that is sustainable. Not having a word or a meaning for 'entrepreneur' poses a particular problem, especially when you need a lot of them. For us, the answer lies in definition: entrepreneurs are defined by the young people who need them the most. It's as simple as a person who starts a business that solves a problem - a pair of second-hand shoes.

Lisa Heydlauff, an Ashoka Fellow, is the founder and director of Going to School, a creative non-profit education trust that makes stories to inspire the poorest children and young people to use their education o transform their lives and create their own opportunities. Contact her at

Photo Courtesy: Jyothy Karat


Issue: Archana lives in a remote village in the Sirsi district of Karnataka, where most of the 100,000 households depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Areca nut is the primary crop grown in and around Archana’s village, and people mainly work as daily wage laborers. With seasonal production, migration is high, and women remain unemployed to take care of children and cannot travel to the cities. At the same time, plastic products like cups, plates and bowls are used extensively in festivals, celebrations and gatherings, and contribute to increasing levels of pollution in the area. Business: Archana has started a manufacturing unit to produce eco-friendly areca leaf plates and bowls to reduce the use of plastic products and provide local employment to women. Archana has so far produced more than 50,000 pieces of areca products. She has sold the products in temple gathering, wedding etc., creating local impact. She has created jobs for four women in her village, and 80 other women in the surrounding 10 villages who gather the areca leafs, cut and sell them to Archana. 3

Photo Courtesy: Dream A Dream

A young football enthusiast practices her skills.

Catch them young: Youth and Social Entrepreneurship in India By Madhukar Shukla

In a recent conference, one of the panellists, a

seasoned social entrepreneur himself, made a pertinent remark: “When we decided to join this sector, we had an ideology, a vision, of what the society should be like. But in this era of consumerism and materialism, what will inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs?” This is a very relevant question to explore. The motivational underpinnings of a significant number of the earlier generation of social entrepreneurs were rooted in ideological orientations such as the Gandhian vision of Gram Swaraj, the Marxist philosophy of an egalitarian society or in their engagement with Jaya Prakash Narayan’s movement. In contrast, the formative experiences of the younger generation are moulded in a historically different “post-liberalization” era. It is important, therefore, to understand the motivations of the youth to engage with social issues, and the emerging supporting ecosystem which is shaping these motivations. As an educator of social entrepreneurship and as a participant-observer in the sector, I have had the opportunity to interact with many young changemakers. Additionally, I have also been able to learn about the many impactful initiatives which are nurturing the youth into actively engaging with developmental challenges. Changing Profile of Changemakers Though contemporary youth may not necessarily share the ideologies of their predecessors, there is an increasing number who do care for, and actively engage with larger societal issues in their own ways. The fact that the recently launched Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship attracted more than 8,500 applications (almost 50 for 1 fellowship!) from students from premier campuses underscores this point. Moreover, the number of social ventures initiated by the youth is also increasing, and making a difference to the communities they serve. So what makes these potential changemakers tick? For many of these young people it is an urge to do something different, something which is personally meaningful. While many of them have grown and been educated in secure urban environments, they are aware of the social disparities and concerned about them.

They see them both as an opportunity and a challenge to make a difference. Often they lack a first-hand exposure and a nuanced understanding of the social issues, but are willing to move out of their comfort zones if given an opportunity and some support. What is heartening is that such opportunities and support structures have started emerging during recent years. Growing Space of SE Teaching One significant development during last five years or so has been the growing acceptance of social entrepreneurship as a discipline among the educational institutions. Many management schools, have started offering social entrepreneurship as a course to students. TISS Mumbai, in fact, has a two-year fulltime masters program in social entrepreneurship. These courses also offer the students an experiential exposure to the field through field visits, internships and interaction with social entrepreneurs. SCHOOLS OFFERING COURSES IN SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP • Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad • Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore • Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar • Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Among the students’ community too, there are trends of an increasing interest in this space. During the last few years, many students’ clubs have come up which promote events and engagements (talks by social entrepreneurs, venture-plan competitions, social sector volunteering, internships in social ventures, etc.) which provide the students with first-hand experience of the sector. National Social Entrepreneurship Forum (NSEF), itself a youth-driven venture, has played a commendable role in spawning more than 40 such students’ clubs/associations across the IITs/NITs, management schools and universities during last three years, and also providing summer

FELLOWSHIPS ON OFFER • Piramal Fellowship • SBI Youth for India Fellowship • Chiraag’s Swadesh ki Khoj • Gandhi Fellowship • ICICI Fellowship • Deshpande Sandbox Fellowship

internships with established social ventures through its Authors of Change program. Beyond the Campus While academic courses are establishing social entrepreneurship as a discipline, more exciting developments are actually happening in this space outside the campuses. During last three years or so, there has been a spate of initiatives which sensitize and inspire the youth to engage in societal issues and developmental challenges. For instance, since 2008, Jagriti Yatra, a 20-day annual train journey carrying about 350-400 young people across 18 locations, has led to the establishment of about 100 youth-led social enterprises and about one-third of the yatris, as they are called, joining the social sector organisations. Similarly, there are now a number of fellowships ranging from one-to-two years which not only provide the youth an experiential “immersion” into the under-served segments of the society, but also to work on real-life projects with partnering NGOs and social ventures. There are also newer programs such as the ICICI Fellowship and the Deshpande Sandbox Fellowship which integrate intensive grassroots experience with knowledge- and skill-building classroom sessions. Clearly, the social entrepreneurship sector is witnessing the emergence of a supporting ecosystem for the potential changemakers. These recent developments (both on- and off-campus) have begun to create a ‘pipeline of talent’ for the sector. The popularity and pull of these initiatives among the youth is also likely to stimulate growth of a similar kind in the coming future.

Madhukar Shukla is part of the faculty at XLRI, where he teaches Organisation Behaviour and Strategic Management. However, his passion is to build and encourage social entrepreneurs in XLRI and beyond. Contact him at 5


1 A “Mati Wadar” transports sand on the back of his donkeys


an exploration and portrayal of nomadic wisdom through unconventional photography. Traditionally, nomads are pastoralists, hunter-

gatherers and foragers, and service providers and entertainers. While the definition of the word ‘nomad’ in an Indian context is problematic, with several nomadic communities having ‘settled’ in slums, the big question still remains: In order to survive, do the nomads have to stop being who they are? There’s a certain sense of romance associated with the nomadic culture. The last of the travelling magicians, acrobats, storytellers, fortune tellers and snake charmers, they traditionally provided a variety of goods and services to settled populations. They were the hunters and the gatherers, supplying wild meat, spices, salt and agricultural tools. They offered services, often becoming the goldsmiths, the blacksmiths, and the construction workers of the areas they visited. Peddlers, minstrels, dancers and dramatists, these groups are not part of monolithic groups, but include numerous groups referring to themselves as jatis or quoms. Embodying a life before the slick entertainment of today’s globalised world, theyare however fast disappearing, with only a few struggling on, in memory of an India past. With industrial development, colonialism, and modernity, the evolving transportation,

production and entertainment industries have significantly impacted the traditional livelihoods of the nomads. Once they were part of the mainstream, where they integrated with the villagers on their traditional routes. In today’s highly fragmented world, where caste, region and religion determine our access to services and benefits, the nomads often fall by the way-side. The 80 million nomadic people in India today live in deplorable conditions at the edge of mainstream society. In their forest homes, they have little access to health and education facilities, and live with scarcity in food and water. Their conditions as they travel from town to town are even worse. They set up temporary settlements at the edge of city limits, often on municipal wasteland. Their hastily constructed shelters made from governmentissued rickety poles and tattered plastic tarps offer little protection, with non-existent access to basic amenities like water. Unlike other groups that have been historically deprived, nomads have not benefited from constitutional safeguards and welfare schemes. On the contrary the efforts have neglected nomadic culture and tradition. Even today these tribes are struggling to identify their social niche using their traditional skills, even as they adopt education and embrace a partially settled life.

For the younger generation, this involves an identity crisis: pride in who they are, versus the increasing allure of a ‘settled’ life. Most of the younger generation still remains uneducated, since many government facilities remain tied to a permanent residence. Meanwhile the older generation cling on to their accepted way of life. Nomadic groups are often hostile, seeing outsiders and settled people as a threat, often as a reaction to the way they themselves are perceived by the mainstream. Bringing their traditional bias against the ‘gypsies,’ the British passed the Criminal Tribes Act, criminalising the nomads. Although this law was replaced post-Independence with The Habitual Offenders Act, the stigma of criminality still dogs the nomadic communities. However, the fact remains that traditional nomadic skills and knowledge like effective communication, readiness for travel and their nuanced sense of economics is very much required and needed in today’s age of globalization. The challenge remains for us to recognise this, and help make them relevant to today’s modern world.

Kaustubh Pandharipande, through his organisation Samvedana, is creating trade networks and a legal framework that will enable India’s nomadic communities to overcome their severely marginalized status and assume their rightful place as respected citizens valued as much for their economic contribution as for their distinctive cultural identity. You can contact him at 6


A scene from the Ramayana as depicted by the traditional performing tribe, ‘the Baharupis’

An open air bathing space, with only the sky for cover

A makeshift home, belonging to the Vaidu community

“Phasepardhi” girls return with drinking water for the tribe

Young “phasepardhi” boys enjoy a playful moment during summer vacations 7


Phasepardhis Despite years of co-existence, the stigma of criminality still dogs the nomadic communities. One such tribe is the Phasepardhi tribe from Maharashtra, among the 150 tribes branded as criminal by the British. In 1952, the tribe was denotified and given the ‘nomadic’ status. However, this has not changed people’s perception of the tribe, and they continue to be stigmatized, living as outcasts. The criminal stigma is attached from birth, and by the age of sixteen, the young Pardhi often features in the criminal records at the local police station.

The 1000 Words Campaign is an opportunity for Ashoka Fellows to share their stories, through pictures of their work, ideas, and communities. If you would like to contribute, please write in to for more details.

Two young “Phasepardhis” smile for the camera, despite the terrible odds they still have to face.


An old man belonging to “Phasepardhi� tribe which is known as traditional hunters of wild birds.




By Bibhu Kalyan Mohanty

Photo Courtesy: Bibhu Mohanty, Sambandh

Orissa accounts for nearly 20 percent of malnutrition deaths in the country, with India’s highest infant mortality rate.

Picture Courtesy: Bibhu Mohanty, Sambandh


Preparation of nitrified food by the mothers.

In view of meeting the Millennium Develop-

ment Goals, one challenge is to halve the prevalence of underweight children by 2015. About one-third of all pre-school children in the world who are malnourished, live in India. The 1998 – 99 Indian survey shows 57 percent of the children aged 0 – 3 years to be either severely or moderately stunted and/or underweight . During 2006 – 2007, malnutrition contributed to seven million Indian children dying, nearly two million before the age of one. According to the National Family Health Survey 2005 – 06 , 30 percent of newborns are of low birth weight, 56 percent of married women are anaemic and 79 percent of children aged 6 – 35 months are anaemic. Orissa has seen some of the most dismaying examples of malnutrition deaths in the recent past. Between May and July 2007, in Simlipal Biosphere Reserve in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, 34 children died of severe malnutrition and subsequent infections. Fact finding teams by various organisations reported that the reasons for these deaths included malnutrition, poverty and inadequate public health services. Orissa – one of the richest states in India in terms of natural resources – is also the second poorest state, economically. It accounts for nearly 20 percent of malnutrition deaths of

the country, and has India’s highest infant mortality rate at 69 per 1,000 live births in rural areas (against the all-India figure of 57 per 1,000 live births). Eighty-seven per cent of Orissa’s population lives in rural areas with an annual per capita income of approximately USD 250. Over 60 percent of infant deaths occur at the neonatal stage, in the first month of life. The maternal mortality rate in the state – 358 per 10,000 live births – is higher than the national level. Major causes of infant death are poor maternal health, low birth weight, malnutrition, and infections and diseases such as diarrhoea and malaria. More than half of infant deaths are caused by major diseases such as malaria (67 percent), diarrhoea (61 percent), pneumonia (52 percent), and measles (45 percent) Located inside the sanctuary area, the villages of Gudgudia remain cut off from the outside world for more than four months. According to a study, the staple diet throughout the year is rice and salt, while vegetables and mushrooms, which are seasonal, are treated as luxury. Malaria is endemic to the area. Coupled with poor nutrition and a weak immune system, a bite from the deadly mosquito P. falciparum can prove fatal for children.

percent in 2003 – 04, the entire state is covered by Government health infrastructure (Health Sub-centres, Primary Health Centres, Referral hospitals, District Head Quarter hospitals) with a network of well-trained paramedics and doctors at all levels. Poverty and lack of access to health services Let’s take a closer look into malnutrition deaths that occurred in the Simlipal National Park and study some remedial measures for avoiding such a situation in the future. The Simlipal National Park, around 270 kilometres from Bhubaneswar, is home to over 100 tigers, an equal number of leopards, more than 500 elephants and was created as a Biosphere Reserve in 1994. It is the richest watershed in the state of Orissa, giving rise to many perennial rivers. The area is closed to the public from June to November every year to protect wildlife. This makes life difficult for its human inhabitants, 74 percent of whom are tribal. Inside the National Park, development is restricted and the tribals have limited rights. Most of these tribes live a life of bare sustenance. Sixty percent of the households have a monthly income of Rs. 500, while 32 percent earn Rs. 250 a month, securing just about two square meals a day.

This is despite the fact that Per Capita Income in the state rose by about ten 11

HEALTH & NUTRITION In terms of health, the nearest hospital at Jasipur is 28 kilometres away, and its distance from the villages increases as one goes deeper into the forest area. The district health service has provided an ambulance based in Gudugudia village, which charges five rupees per kilometre to transport patients to the hospital. But in many cases, people are not able to afford that cost and take their patients by cycle or on foot. During 2006, 21 deaths of children below five years were reported in and around Gudgudia, and the figure went up to 34 in 2007. A local social watch group formed by Sambandh identified the following reasons for the deaths: lack of food and nutrition security; lack of transportation and infrastructure; illiteracy and blind beliefs; lack of adequate safe drinking water; scattered houses over the hills and forest area leading to difficulty in service delivery; lack of any weather communication; traditional tribal treatment; involving black magic, worshipping and other superstitious practices; high population due to poor acceptance of contraceptives. Intervention and Action Keeping in view the high likelihood of a repeat of deaths in the coming years, Sambandh launched a programme supported by Welthungerhilfe aiming at food and nutrition security, better health services and improved transport and communication systems to deal with emergency situations. It first sought to bring about a change in health seeking behaviour amongst women and girls especially on nutrition, health, hygiene and safe drinking water, through training programmes. It then aimed at meeting nutritional need by production of fortified supplementary food, and supply of seed kits for kitchen herbal gardens. The program also looked at improving food and nutrition security by taking up land development works, agro-horticulture, and kitchen herbal garden, changes in cropping pattern, grain banks and income generation programmes. Finally, through the program, several mobile health checkup camps were also conducted. Results achieved The results of the program have been conclusive. Between 2006-2010, the number of malnutrition deaths of children under-five years of age came down from a peak of 18 deaths to less than 5 in 2010. Looking at trends in child birth, the number of children born came down from 91 births a year in 2007 to that of 39 in 2010. The trend in child delivery shows that more children are being delivered in institutional settings, as compared to traditional and home deliveries. The trend in malnutrition show that this has also reduced, particularly in the Grade III and IV range between 2007 and 2010.

To improve the nutrition of families, Bibhu emphasises on kitchen gardens to supply the daily nutritional requirement of each family. Photo Courtesy: Bibhu Mohanty, Sambandh Way ahead The initiative taken so far is just a beginning, a mere drop in the ocean. Going forward, Sambandh plans to address the problem on multiple levels: • Enlarging the food basket, incorporating many types of millets and other underutilised crops such as tubers that are rich in micronutrients • Dietary diversification and increased availability, of fruits and vegetables through horticulture interventions, and promoting kitchen gardens • Community and public health measures, to improve healthcare, safe water and sanitation that influence nutrition security, using local herbs and standardised traditional medicines • Supplementing or supporting programmes, that are functioning poorly, for example, by giving iron and folic acid supplements to under-nourished people and also developing the sustainable herbal alternatives using the local resources • School education, supplementary feeding, nutrition education/counselling, promoting breastfeeding, hygiene awareness

Bibhu Kalyan Mohanty is establishing an industry with small farmers, healers and government to create a healthy and sustainable industry of Indian natural herbal and plant-based medicine and remedies. His Home Herbal Garden concept alone has spread to 22,000 households in 3 districts and over 2,000 local healers are part of his local network. You can contact him at 12

Social Watch Groups An interesting feature of the approach is involving people in the Social Watch Groups. The idea of forming these groups was embedded with the concept of localisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), through community monitoring of these goals. Members comprising media, Community Based Organisations (CBOs), local Government authorities and other members of the civil society track work of the local government authorities, influence policy-makers and mobilise people to actively participate in local governance. In the case of children falling ill in Simlipal, the Social Watch Group has started playing an active role in arranging medical care, interacting with the Health Department for providing necessary preventive and curative medicines and in spreading awareness amongst the people. Also a Rural Call Centre has been set up to meet the different levels of information needs in the communities, as this information gap at the different levels has been identified as the cause of the lack of participation and action from the community.

Nutrition in India – Exploring alternative paradigms Checking the arm circumference of the child is an easy and cost-effective way to assess the extent of malnourishment in the area. Malnutrition is a cross-sectoral issue While exploring opportunities in the field of Health for Ashoka Fellows, nutrition came up strongly as a space for intervention. We discovered that there were few organizations squarely working to address malnutrition. Taking this exploration forward, we brought together a group of Social Entrepreneurs to explore the future of the field of Nutrition. (The group included: Prasanta Tripathy, Ekjut; Indu Capoor, Chetna; Bibhu Mohanty, Sambandh; Bablu Ganguly, Timbaktu Collective; Michael Prakash, Spandan, Vandana Prasad, Public Health Resource Network) Addressing malnourishment and hunger in India calls for a change in the way we look at the problem itself. It calls for a shift in the debate, from the perspective of health and nutrition, to one that is embedded in the social, political and economic realities of the communities. Malnutrition has its causes and effects in many aspects of one’s life. Known effects of malnutrition include weakened immunity; decrease in efficacy of medicines; increase in maternal and child mortality, and susceptibility to diseases. It thus becomes a serious healthcare issue. In addition, malnutrition severely affects productivity and ability to learn; hence having direct and indirect implications on social and economic development and overall well being. A plethora of solutions addressing malnutrition in India have emerged from citizen sector organizations, addressing the problems at different levels. From crèches for young children, to local production and distribution of nutrition supplements, the promotion of kitchen gardens, engagement with communities towards behaviour change, and linkages to livelihoods, various strategies have been used to address nutrition. Despite this, the problem still exists at a mass-scale in the country.

Nutrition is closely linked to the health of soil, water and animals. Nutritious food grows in soil that is nutritionally replete. Therefore, poor agricultural practices affect the soil which adversely affects the level of health and nutrition in that region. Unfortunately today few entrepreneurs working on agriculture and environment see the linkage of their work to the nutritional status of the communities. Additionally, the lack of adequate livelihoods and the resulting financial burden further reduce access to varied diet needs.

Similarly, health experts are usually only called on to address malnutrition after a resulting health problem has become apparent. Often the connections between nutrition and other segments of health are not made apparent. For instance, patients suffering from various diseases and undergoing intense medical treatment require nutritional support to increase their immunity and to absorb strong medications. Yet initiatives focusing on treating diseases rarely include addressing malnutrition in their agenda. It is clear that malnutrition is an underlying cause of multiple social problems and vice versa. As a result, it should be addressed as a part of different fields rather than as a standalone issue. Solutions should be holistic and flexible There is an increasing interest in and support for “technical” solutions to malnutrition, such as the use of various supplements and ready-touse therapeutic foods. Such nutritional enhancers help to replenish essential vitamins and minerals and are required as an immediate cure for malnutrition. However, there is a need for rigorous research into efficacy of particular formulas and appropriate models of production and distribution of such products. It is crucial that they are not perceived as a stand-alone solution as they do not sufficiently address underlying causes of malnutrition.

Photo courtesy: Seema Prakash, Spandan


Measurement and evaluation There is a need to come to a greater consensus on variables used to measure malnutrition. This will standardize how people assess health. This can encourage and inform mothers’ participation in monitoring the nutrition of their children. It will also allow for more accurate data on malnutrition to be collected. Few initiatives in India to date have effectively tracked and evaluated the impact of their interventions, data which is critical to replicate and scale models, or influence policies. Designing a successful intervention Thus, for an initiative in malnutrition to be successful, it should first have multiple entry points. It is critical that nutrition becomes an agenda for both health and allied sectors. It must be seen as a major health, social, educational, environmental and economic issue. It should be both flexible and contextual. Food traditions and consumption patterns are highly local and for any initiative in nutrition to succeed, it has to be embedded in local practices. Additionally, communication at the grassroots level, between members of the community from different backgrounds, is important for the dissemination and the acceptance of an idea. There needs to be a minimum understanding of good health and nutrition at the grassroots level. Any intervention that is carried out must measure and track impact. This necessitates systems of data collection using scientifically sound and appropriate methods in the field and its interpretation by qualified individuals. Ashoka and a core group of Fellows will be working with Fellows in the health, education, environment and agriculture spaces to explore linkages and potential strategies for integration of the lens of nutrition in their work. If you are interested in learning more, or being a part of the initiative, we encourage you to reach out to us. 13



By Sunish Jauhari

The ‘ownership’ of a house is a huge deal for

most of India, even for those who are part of the informal sector. And yet, they remain largely ignored by housing providers. A large part of this segment comprises of plumbers, electricians, industry contract workers, petty-shop owners, hawkers, domestic care workers and cab/auto-rickshaw drivers. None of them carry a proof of income at the end of the month, and hence they do not qualify for credit in the open market. While they consume products and services just like everyone else, and have the capacity to pay, little or no thought has gone into ‘designing’ products and services for them. This is alright if the product is toothpaste or soap. But the problem arises when products are beyond ‘cash’ terms and need credit, for example, a house. With housing loans available only to a privileged few, the gaps at this end still remain massive. However, they are not insurmountable.

Let’s have a look at what makes a housing provider tick. The players here are passionate about profits. They are used to property appreciation, and most of the homes created by them are sold – either for immediate use or for investment. Investments in housing projects are treated as the safest, as they provide strong and appreciable collateral. So, for a housing developer to begin to think about ‘affordability’ and ‘low-cost housing’ is often inconceivable. On the other hand, affordable housing conferences in India attract a good number of developers, keen to know if new technologies, or government policies, or other innovative approaches, could help them access this market and make some profits. For this, developers need to carefully understand the dynamics of housing for the informal sector. They need to understand the customer well, for whom data does not exist in the public domain (unlike for the all-time-favourite Indian middle-class). They do not live in formal housing, many of them do not even have savings bank accounts! Yet each household takes home Rs.10000 to Rs.20000 every month and could potentially be a paying customer. So this segment has a great potential for profits, but not with the traditional approach to housing development. The market needs enablers and innovation more than government subsidies and incentives. This segment requires tearing down the walls of traditional product development and delivery. A symposium on how and why to reach the affordable housing customer At Ashoka Housing for All, we have begun bringing those actors together that have an interest in looking at low-cost housing. Ashoka has been bringing on board people who know the customer well, those who fund that customer, those who have built housing for them and made money out of it, and also authorities who have vested interest in sustainable housing for the informal sector. Thishas been received well during the pilot in Bangalore, and several key insights emerged from major players in the sector. Understanding the real-end customer: How can one take a bottom-up approach towards the customers of lower-income brackets? Janalakshmi Financial Services (JFS), a microfinance institution has been preparing their customers for home loans using proper Credit Assessments. With over half a million customers who are prospective affordable housing customers, JFS has ensured that all of them have established credit history and are able to access housing finance.



• Implement Rajeev Awas Yojana subsidies • Encourage Public Private Partnership projects • Single window clearance of building plans • Interest subsidy from National Housing Board to lend to the poor through Microfinance institutions and housing finance institutions. Another way to reach the end customer is using the Hybrid Value Chain (HVC) approach of Ashoka. By enabling HVC Entrepreneurs to connect housing providers with civil society organizations (and indirectly, to the customer), this approach works to catalyse outreach to the underserved. Such an operating framework leverages the strength of for-profit business entrepreneurs, as well as not-for-profit social actors. The builder experience is also not to be discounted in this. For Janadhaar Constructions, India’s first developers for affordable housing, the key insight is to clearly define the target group. Janaadhar defines its buyers as those, whose Monthly Household Income is between Rs.15, 000 and Rs.35, 000. At least one of the applicants needs to be female, preferably living in rented homes or owning a home not more than 250 square feet. A key insight was that the need is not just to build affordable houses, but to build affordable communities. The community dynamics will thus determine the sustainability of such a development. The importance of CSO participation In order to realize the mission of establishing an efficient, viable and transparent system for large scale mass production of affordable houses, Mr Manish Pancholi of DBS Communities in Ahmedabad emphasized the need for appropriate systems of housing finance and community services. The need is to go beyond plain design and construction, by strategizing and validating design concepts with user communities. SCALING AFFORDABLE HOUSING • Larger infrastructure to support Housing Financial Institutions • Pre-approval of loans without conditions attached on fees • A guarantee fund to be parked with HFIs • A revolving fund to bridge the margin money gap, by investors, high-networth individuals, and CSOs • A rental + lease model Thus, the idea is to bring social and for-profit entities together to build a viable economic solution that delivers something as basic as shelter to many more families, while also creating profits for the housing developers.

WELCOME NEW FELLOW More than eighteen years ago, 22 year old Vandana Gopikumar set up a shelter for homeless mentally ill women, to provide basic care and treatment for the mentally ill. During her work, she was struck by the realization that the problem was much deeper since India lacked an effective overall mental healthcare system. Furthermore, she saw that the homeless mentally ill required not just medical attention but a whole spectrum of healthcare and psycho- social services ranging from their rescue off the streets to rehabilitation and reintegration into society while ensuring a continuum of care. Vandana set about creating a community friendly, intensely localized full range of solutions for effective mental healthcare delivery to both urban and rural populations in Tamil Nadu. Vandana’s organization, The Banyan, proactively seeks out the homeless mentally ill, brings them into its fold for treatment, and provides a medical-socio model of healthcare in which psychiatrists and psychologies closely monitor the stages of recovery and incorporate learning of life skills. The Banyan facilitates reintegration by locating clients’ families, assisting with travel and relocation, identifying opportunities for localized aftercare, providing disability allowance to ease financial burdens, and offering vocational training to clients. To ensure its spread across India in the most effective manner, she is widely advocating the replication of these models into the government healthcare systems. Building on this, she is seeking to transform mental health infrastructure, through policy reform, and to address the issue of lack of trained mental health professionals in India, she is devising courses in partnership with Universities and the Government for the training and placement of professional and community based mental health managers across the country. Through her organization, ‘The Banyan’, Vandana has designed a mental health care delivery system that is designed to address the complex mix of mental illness and homelessness. Vandana’s work is fuelled by the passionate belief that everyone should have the freedom and opportunity to strive for a better life. Rooted in the belief of ‘I exist, therefore I am’, she strongly believes that mental illness is a part of the experiences of an individual’s life and should not define them as people.

Sunish Jauhari works with Ashoka’s Housing for All program. 15

VALUE ADDITION – Knowledge to empower farmers By Shree Krishna Padre

Nutmeg is one of those spices that very few

Indians know. But if you go to Malaysia, they make pain balm, chocolate, squash, candy and a range of products that we have never dreamt here in India. Buderim, an Australian city doesn’t have lot of ginger production. But, they are world leaders in Ginger value addition. You will be surprised to learn that such a range of value added products is possible from a hot spice! Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and even our small island neighbour are far ahead in value addition of their fruits and crops. Take for example coconut and jackfruit – both crops that we grow in abundance. Despite this, India is still far behind in the value addition map. Farming in India is in an unprecedented crisis now. Farmers continue to commit suicides. Labour crises and increasing labour costs affect productivity and pave the way towards urban migration. Farmers from rain-rich areas, who, given a chance would have happily lived in villages are bidding good-bye to farming and ending up in cities. This, if it’s an indication of

anything, is a fore-runner to a catastrophe. Agriculture scientists, planners and rural development experts and people’s representatives believe that the production of crop is the ultimate task of the farmer. The farmer is always asked to increase productivity and bring down production costs. This is easier said than done. The need of the hour is to give emphasis and government support to farm-level value addition. Let the research centres come out with small-scale technologies and small machines affordable for farmers and rural areas. Take the case of Jatropha or any oil-seed crop. Instead of taking the crop to the city thousands of kilometers away and bringing the finished produce back, why can’t we have a decentralized production system like the ones that Philippines or Indonesia have. Farmers and farmers’ organizations should be taught to take-up primary processing in village levels. This augments rural economy and can check urban migration to certain extent. Take the case of Jackfruit – an important food

source that is grown abundantly in the country. Up to 70 percent of this is wasted without utilization, even though almost 600 value added products can be made out of it. If training and machinery support is given to rural areas, a good percentage of it can be preserved in various simple ways, contributing significantly to rural income generation – both for small farmers and self help groups. What the country needs is a paradigm shift in rural development. Let us shift more of our focus to villages at least for agro-based industries, provide the farming sector with small scale machines, and marketing infrastructure. Let our farmers gain an additional margin by value addition to at least a small portion of what he has grown. Let there be division of labour of a particular product so that the whole village gets the benefit. This will put a halt to distress sales and strengthen our rural areas considerably. If farming turns viable, it is good for the urban sector. Migration will be checked, and civic facilities will become tolerable. Decentralized development has its own advantages.

Shree Krishna Padre is building the field of grassroots agricultural journalism that puts farming information into the language of farmers. His efforts gave birth to Adike Patrike, the first farmer-produced journal. You can contact him at

Photo Courtesy: flickr user: gjofili


Fellow Connect June 2012  

An insight into Ashoka India