An innovative Model harmonizing Ecology, Emotions and Economy of the villages by Govardhan Ecovillage (GEV)
Please find below the
The idea of an ecovillage that ensures that people live a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature is inspiring. In its current form, the proposal describes in great detail what has already been done in one village to this end. It is, however, unclear what exactly is being proposed. How will the concept be implemented in other villages in India? Why has that not been done to date? What are the challenges and the obstacles? Not every village can become an ecovillage that is supported by tourism. If there were too many such villages in close proximity, attracting tourists would become very competitive and might lead to unproductive dynamics and results. It is important to recognize the limits to scaling up and to address them directly in the narrative. This proposal could be developed into a more compelling case but needs significantly more work that goes beyond what has already been done into what needs to be accomplished.
This project aims to extend a successful eco-village model to some of the other 650,000 villages in India. Projects demonstrating alternative ways of structuring living, working, housing, and social arrangements are important. Exporting this model to other communities will provide valuable experiments showing which aspects are most generalizable to new environemnts.
But it is not clear how villager interests and ideas are included in the proposal. No mention of global networks of ecovillages that could be learned from and transformed. Reliance on charity from wealthy may be necessary, but is a weakness. Lack of focus on the social.
Judge 1: This is a compelling proposal to replicate an already successful village model. It's well presented; The proposal would benefit from some critical reflection / articulation of challenges, opportunities and specific strategies to scale-up and replicate this project. It's not clear from the proposal where funding come from to initiate and sustained the effort (before they can start hosting tourists). Is the idea to select an existing village and build from there? The idea holds good promise for relatively high impact-to-investment (effort) ratio.
Judge 2: Well presented, comprehensive and based on a working model. Although not at all a new idea and many examples exist globally of similar initiatives, many do not seem as successful nor as comprehensive. A key area requiring more information is whether the success of GEV is due to any particular local/national/cultural aspects/contexts which would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. In addition, more information is required on the costs and budgeting than currently supplied -and in US$.
Feb 2, 2018
Thank you very much for your comments judges. All comments have been addressed in the proposal now.
Feb 2, 2018
Thank you for giving us an opportunity to participate in the semi-finals. I have made appropriate changes in the proposal answering all your queries.
1. We have listed out the challenges and possible solutions in the end of the questions on "What action do you propose?"
2. We have mentioned specific strategies to scale up and replicate this project in the answer to the question on "Where will these actions be taken and how could they scale?"
3. The source of funding to initiate and sustain the project is mentioned as answers at the end of the questions on "What action do you propose?"
4, Another questions was that more information is needed whether the success of GEV is due to any particular local/national/cultural aspects/contexts which would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. The answer to this is given in the proposal while answering the question on "Where will these actions be taken and how could they scale?"
5. More information on cost and budgeting is given as answer to the question "What are the proposal’s projected costs?"
Apart from including the answers to your questions, i have also tried my level best to improve the proposal in various places so that it is appropriate.
Mar 9, 2018
Thank you for giving Govardhan Ecovillage an opportunity to participate in the contest as a Finalist. We have put together appropriate responses to your queries on the Finalist Evaluation. Below are the responses for your perusal.
A) Project Proposal and Implementation stages.
The proposal is to showcase a rural circular economy that maximizes synergies and minimizes trade-off’s in achieving SDG’s and how it can be replicated throughout India and globally. The stages of implementation for the proposal are as follows (Stages 1-3 are already in place):
For any concept to be applied nationally or globally, it would entail ensuring funding availability. The concept has currently been rolled out to the nearby 16 villages in one zone and for it to scale up throughout India and globally, it would require contribution from the Government, Corporates and other institutions with a mandate and Programme of Work on Environmental issues such as the Green Climate Fund, the UN Environment, etc. Govardhan Ecovillage is a model which was developed based on funding from the corporate leaders. However, replication of this model can easily be done with the support of the government. Government of India is keen to promote Eco-tourism initiatives and Govardhan Ecovillage has already received invitations from Tourism Secretaries of 4 states of India including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa and Maharashtra to help in replicating the model in their places. Therefore, with the help of investors and identifying a team of dedicated volunteers, the process can begin.
2. Hesitation to invest in new technologies:
Initially there was hesitation amongst some of the board members of Govardhan Ecovillage to invest in green technologies. However, on discussion with the experts and studying other places, we came to the conclusion to invest. For instance, initially like most rural locations, GEV had adopted the system of open sewage and later septic tank based systems. However, in both cases the groundwater bore wells were getting contaminated. But when we went ahead with installing Soil Biotechnology plants, not only the problem of sewage solved but also recycled sewage water could be used for irrigating the fields. Similarly the hydro-geological survey proved to be effective in conservation of water for the growing needs of our community.
3. Grass-root level challenges (for the farmers):
During the implementation of the Rural Development Programme, some village families were encountering various obstacles and therefore requiring additional support. This included forest fires, water shortage at the peak summer, poor health of farmer, pest and disease attack, destruction by animals and other people. We incorporated this into the project strategy and based on individual family challenges, we provided the necessary intervention such as Water Resource Development (small wells, lift irrigation etc), provision of saplings, vegetable seeds, etc. We also conducted follow-up meetings on the progress of the village participants.
4. Community co-operation
A major challenge was winning the trust of the villagers and making them realize GEV's service nature. Six years were spent in building relationships with the local community by the community of monks residing in Govardhan ecovillage. After that the various rural development activities were started with the co-operation of the local community.
C) Including Villagers Interests and ideas
The entire work of rural development in the villages is only possible based on the agreement with the villagers. As mentioned above, the process involves developing a bond with the villagers and giving them the confidence that we are here to serve and not to exploit. The process of rural development involves taking the villagers views, interests and active involvement in its various initiatives:
Another aspect of all the above interventions is that they are done in a way which promotes communal unity amongst the local people. Villages are generally divided into paadaas or blocks of few families staying together. While approaching to each of these blocks to train them for Wadi farming, people’s organization of all these farmers is formed in each block and a leader is identified amongst them who represents the whole group of farmers of that respective block and becomes a via media between GEV and the farmers. All these leaders of different blocks also meet together and in this way gradually the mood of unity percolates by thinking about the welfare of everyone. Similarly for village women and for water resource initiatives, people’s organizations are formed called as self- help groups or Paani Panchayat.
The leaders from each of these groups interact amongst each other and share any best practices or issues with each other and GEV during regular meetings. Thus many of these leaders become mature leaders, start taking care of the whole village area and even become part of Gram Panchayat. In this way by taking responsibility, a second line of leadership with in the villages gets established.
Another aspect of all these people’s organizations whether ksetkari vikas karyakram of farmers, Paani Panchayat of WRD initiatives, or Self Help Groups of women, all of the members of these groups are given guidance on opening a bank account for the group and saving money so that in case of any urgency or break down in the equipment in the future they can use that money for taking care themselves. Thus financially they become independent through this process.
Moreover, during the regular general meetings of all these people’s organizations, GEV also trains them in values and character along with income generation, health and hygiene and other issues. This has significantly helped in reducing alcoholism, usage of tobacco etc. and hence lead to stability in relationships in the families.
D) Global Network of Ecovillages
The Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course offered by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) lists out 4 dimensions of human experience – Worldview, Ecological, Social and Environmental Aspects which should be encompassed in a sustainable community. Being a faith based organization, Govardhan Ecovillage covers most of the aspects under the World view dimension in both in it campus and in the villages nearby. The green initiatives of Govardhan ecovillage cover the Ecological dimension. We are in the process of covering most of the aspects listed out under the Economic Dimension namely Local Economies, Right livelihood, legal and financial issues. However, certain aspects mentioned by them such as having community banks, is something we need to learn from them. Under the social dimension, we have covered few aspects like empowering local villagers to take leadership roles by forming people’s organization, building community. However, we are exploring and learning other best practices in this dimension.
E) Social Focus
The project focuses on the vulnerable groups and the excluded groups in implementation of the SDG’s. Regarding the social safeguards, the proposed project is highly positive and productive as it addresses the rural and tribal communities in particular by providing multiple livelihood opportunities for the marginalized (poor, women and children and youth). It is very responsive in adequately addressing gender dimensions by enhancing access and equitable sharing of benefits from biodiversity as well as livelihoods.
The adaptation rationale inherently relies on improved environmental outcomes to lead to productivity increases. Also, the widening of livelihood strategies and the economic and social co-benefits are closely interrelated. The proposed project will benefit some of the poorest communities of India. This is critical to contribute to poverty reduction and food security in India, two major development goals of this country. Gender equity will also be progressed by including women in the proposal activities. The national incidence of poverty has the largest proportion of the poor located in the rural areas of India and majority rely on agriculture as a means of sustenance. Yet agricultural productivity is low and many rural households are affected by food insecurity. To compensate for low agricultural yield, such households turn to migration to urban areas for jobs. Climate change impacts greatly exacerbate the negative effects of environmental degradation and result in extensive additional damage. With this project, GEV is aligning to national adaptation priorities of the country and having a central focus on the social aspects (as the proposal’s is centered around peoples needs). Some of the social co-benefits include:
- Improved access to education
- Improved health and safety
- Improved regulation or cultural preservation
Apart from women empowerment and rural education initiatives, GEV in collaboration with Annamrita provides midday meals to schools in these rural villages. Spread over 10 states in India, the Annamrita project is spearheading the country’s fight against poverty and illiteracy, providing hygienic, nutritious, and tasty meals to more than 120,000 students. To many children, Annamrita provides their only complete meal for the entire day. This nutritional meal has produced dramatic results in terms of increased enrollment at schools, retained attendance levels, reduced drop-out rates and the improved attention spans of the students. The Annamrita kitchen near GEV caters to almost 30,000 students from 400 schools.
Govardhan ecovillage has collaborated with agencies for improving health and nutrition of the villagers. GEV in collaboration with Bhaktivedanta hospital has been rendering free and concessional community health services to the villagers in and around GEV. A Community Health Care center was established at Hamrapur, 5km from GEV, where thousands of patients have been screened and medicines distributed free of cost. The Community Health Care Center is a boon for locals, who otherwise do not have access to medical services. Thousands of villagers locally in and around GEV have been screened for cancer as a part of the preventive health initiatives. Cancer patients have been provided treatment for free or in some cases at nominal cost treatment at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mira Road, Mumbai. In the past few school years, Bhaktivedanta Hospital has screened thousands of municipal school children in and around the Eco Village. The main objective was early diagnosis and treatment, which also created health awareness among children. In the coming years, the plan is to screen all the schools in the Wada area. Supported by the Lions Club of Juhu, the senior citizen camp initiative focuses on providing healthcare for elders in the villages. Patients requiring specialty care are referred to the Bhaktivedanta Hospital for free treatment. Some of the social initiatives GEV is involved in are the free distribution of blankets to senior citizens, classroom seating and school exercise books along with water filters for the schools. Hand driven tricycles were provided to the physically challenged.
This is our humble attempt to respond to your queries. We hope it is to your satisfaction. Thank you.