The Livelihood Improvement For Economic Security (LIFE)

At CTRD we believe the only way to break the cycle of tribal and non-tribal rural poverty is by providing these communities with the ability to help themselves. The LIFE project focuses on helping tribal families make the best of the small plots of agricultural land they have.

Traditionally tribal families were subsistence farmers, growing crops and keeping animals merely to feed themselves. Using the land strictly to feed their families is no longer a viable financial option for many tribal families. The need for a reliable monthly income to pay for education, health and all of life's other challenges has meant that many tribal communities are now turning to their richest asset ? the land- for help.

The Nilgiris Hills are famous for their tea plantations, with the conditions and soil perfect for cultivating this cash crop. A number of government agencies, such as the Tea board, are actively encouraging small scale tea farming in the local area and are willing and able to provide both technical and financial assistance to small tea farms. LIFE is working with over 500 tribal individuals to make tea farming profitable by teaching them good agricultural practices such as pruning, the application of fertilizer and manure, soil testing and leaf plucking, and by increasing the awareness and uptake of government schemes.

In order to do this the LIFE project has created a comprehensive network of all 500 tribal tea farmers in the area. Each local community has a Village Level Group (VLG) where members meet monthly to discuss any issues that have had regarding their crop and to receive agricultural training. The training each VLG is given is shaped by the wants and needs of each village. Each VLG must elect 2 or 3 members to become part of a regional Self Help Group (SHG). The SHG-elected members meet weekly and are given technical training which they then share with the VLGs. The SHG is enrolled with the Tea Board to ensure all 500 tribal tea farmers are represented and aware of the support available to them. Members of both SHGs and VLGs are encouraged to save a manageable proportion of their profit from their crop, working to ensure financial security in years to come.

The ultimate aim of the LIFE project is to build a tea factory where the leaves cultivated by the tribal tea farmers can be bought and processed at a fair price. This factory will represent another leap forward in the socio-economic security of the tribal communities as it will be owned and run by tribal individuals who will gain the necessary expertise to do this through training and participation in VLGs and SHGs. Furthermore the factory will provide jobs as labourers, mechanics and drivers, providing the local communities with livelihoods for years to come.