By Dr. Natalie Schoon, Steering Committee member
On the 6th of February, we were joined by Olly Belcher and Victoria Denison of Shivia for the first WAM Dinner of 2018 at the Waterloo Bar & Kitchen. After a brief introduction, the rest of the evening was an open exchange of views and questions. You just know when an event is successful when the discussions continue well after the bill has been paid.
Founded in 2008, Shivia operates in rural West Bengal and has specifically chosen to assist not by giving money or lending, but by promoting entrepreneurial activity. A poultry toolkit comprises of chicks, training, and inoculation and on-going guidance by a local specialist. The farmer contributes £5 to the £15 cost of a toolkit, which further promotes the entrepreneurial proposition. To date in excess of 42,000 tool-kits have been delivered to more than 10,000 farmers across 1,028 villages impacting an approximate 61,000 people. Shivia carefully manages the number of tool-kits provided per farmer and per area to make sure they do not flood the market. An additional benefit from the project is that local staff of Nirdhan (Shivia’s India operations) are also recruited from the villages where the tool-kits are supplied.
In case you missed the event, but would be interested to support Shivia, click here.
More recently, Shivia has started to explore two new programmes: Agri-management services and Goateries. Agri-management provides training and advice to farmers with unproductive plots of land. In addition to providing food for the families, there is an opportunity to sell these fruits and vegetables in the city where many Bengals have moved in search of work. Initially the project worked with the husbands of the poultry beneficiaries, but has since been rolled out to farmers beyond those and includes male as well as female farmers. Among the benefits for the farmers are lower cost of agri-inputs, increased yields, higher quality of produce, and increased profits.
To date, 1,050 farmers have benefited from training across 60 villages. The next phase of this project will be to construct a Farmer Producing Company, a co-operative structure with approximately 1,000 members, which will provide the farmer with enhanced purchasing power, a better position as a seller, and access to larger, low-interest bank loans to further grow the business. Shivia has joined forces with a local company who buys from the farmers and sells the produce to the West Bengal community in Delhi. When surveyed, it transpired that the consumers buy the produce because it is clean, well packaged, and very fresh. To them, the fact that they are helping poor farmers is almost an afterthought. Which means that the business model is solid and these farmers will, at some point not too far in the future will be able to stand on their own feet.
The latest Shivia programme is goateries. Farmers will receive two female goats on loan for three years as well as training, insurance, and access to a male goat for breeding. In each year, the farmer will retain half of the kids for sale or breeding and return half of them to Shivia. After three years, the original goats are returned. This way, farmers can establish a small goat farming enterprise. In addition, the programme will become self-funding. Goats can be given to other farmers, and a profit may be made from the sale of goats which can be re-invested. The programme has successfully completed its pilot phase and is set to be rolled out on a larger scale early 2018.
Shivia was awarded International Charity for 2017 by the Charity Times and there are more exciting projects in their future. Certainly one to watch! To support their work check out this link.