2007 Report: Creating Food Security – India

2007 Report: Creating Food Security – India

The Center for Research, Education, Action, Training and Evaluation (CREATE) is a democratic non-profit organization located in Tamilnadu, India. CREATE works to promote democracy among India’s rural and poor citizens, and is associated with the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, a long-time partner of Global Ministries. The project area includes seven villages of Thenkarai Panchayat. The agrarian poor of this community face the persistent challenge of maintaining food security.

Center for Research, Education, Action, Training and Evaluation (CREATE)
Tamilnadu, India

The Center for Research, Education, Action, Training and Evaluation (CREATE) is a democratic non-profit organization located in Tamilnadu, India. CREATE works to promote democracy among India’s rural and poor citizens, and is associated with the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, a long-time partner of Global Ministries.  The project area includes seven villages of Thenkarai Panchayat. The agrarian poor of this community face the persistent challenge of maintaining food security.

PROGRESS REPORT through 2007

Through village associations created for this project, the villagers, their leaders, and the CREATE staff designed agricultural development plans that would enable all villagers to improve their food security. The program, so far, has dug seven wells.  The electrical utility in India is very slow to hook up new customers.  It has been nearly two years since the first wells were dug, but none have been electrified.  Some have been operating with the use of a diesel pump. The three large wells have already been put to use to raise dry crops like millet, and vegetables like bringals and bindi.  Last growing season was unusually wet, however, and the rainfall was sufficient for the growing of two crops even without fully functioning new wells.

CREATE and the villages have also created a Revolving Loan Program to protect the farmers from the exploitation of local loan agents who charge exorbitant rates for short-term loans.  The Revolving Loan Fund is operated by the village associations.  Loans are given out at the beginning of the season to enable farmers to plant.  The loans are repaid with very low interest or no interest at harvest.  The Revolving Loan fund is working very well in most locations.  In two villages the village leaders allowed loans to be given to some who did not qualify for the assistance and these individuals never had any intention to repay the loans.  The two villages where the loans have been abused have been disqualified from receiving any new loans until all the original loans are repaid.  About 40 percent of the loans in these locations have been repaid.  There is still an effort to complete the repayments so that those who really need the assistance can again qualify for it.  Caste and class dynamics make this a very difficult situation.  The lower caste poor who need the loans are pressuring the higher caste farmers (who didn’t need the loans in the first place) to repay their loans so that those who need the help can get it.  This situation makes it very clear to all the village associations that they need to operate with integrity.


Cows are also being loaned to landless village women whose families were not eligible to participate in the revolving loan program.  The selected women are receiving cows and cooperate through Self Help Groups in the care, milking, and management of the dairy operation with the assistance of CREATE’s Program Coordinator for Women and Children.  In 2007, several cows suffered from hoof and mouth disease.  Three cows and nine calves died, so the 2008 proposal includes funds for building of sheds for the cattle to protect them from excessively damp conditions in the rainy season.  The cows were partially insured and so part of the lost value has been recouped.  The Program Coordinator for Women and Children encouraged the Self Help Groups to set aside a small serving of milk each day for each village child under the age of five.  This distribution to young children has been implemented in each village.  The rest of the milk is sold and the profits go to repay the loans and to provide income for the cow owners.  Each cow loan should be repaid within a couple of years and then the income will go to the women who own the cows.

In 2007, CREATE planned to begin developing a direct marketing program for selling organically grown local rice from these villages to urban consumers who would invest intentionally in local agriculture for the reward of quality rice delivered to them at harvest time.  This program has not gathered enough interest to provide significant support to the agricultural programs. 

Agricultural Technicians are providing training to farmers to help them learn organic farming techniques, farming techniques which reduce the use of chemical inputs, and effective pest control practices.  Three women have been trained and employed in the production of vermicompost. 

The project area was subjected to unusual flooding in 2007 and there was some loss of crops and seedlings, as well as damage to fields and homes.  Some disaster funds were secured for assistance with recovery related to the agricultural project.

PLANS for 2008-09

Eighty additional cows will be purchased in 2008.  Their price will be partly paid with funds from earlier cow loans which have been partially repaid.  The sheds that are needed will also be funded in 2008.

STORIES from Beneficiaries

Pothumai, a beneficiary from Naranapuram says:  Our men go out for hard labor.  They become very tired. So they took solace in going to the liquor shop and spending nearly half their earnings in drinking. Only the balance after indulging themselves they used to give us for housekeeping. We tried to make up the balance that was necessary to feed the family and the schooling expenses of children by going out for part time labor fetching only around $1.25 US per day. This part time labor demand is very seasonal, for example, during the season of transplantation of rice seedlings lasting for a month and three periods of one week each for weeding operations during the four month crop season.

To have a little more steady income, we availed the dairy loan given by the nearby local privately owned dairy units. There were many problems related to this. The loan was with interest of 14 percent.  Loan and interest had to be completely paid back within the one milking period. So nearly 75 percent of the money from the milk was deducted by the dairy which advanced the money. Very little was left for the upkeep of the cow. We would grit our teeth and continued with such hard conditions for the little steady income we got hoping that in the end the cow would be ours within a year. But this was hardly ever the case. We ran a debt with the shop that sold feed.  Sometimes our husbands took advances from the milk money from the dairy owner without informing us. So often to become full owner of the cow it took three years. By that time, the cow became quite old and would fetch only a fraction of the loan amount for which we had bought it. We were lucky only if the calf was a healthy heifer.  Anyway it was quite arduous.  

The CREATE loan however, has made a lot of difference. We do not pay any interest.  We are allowed two periods for paying back the loan. Within three years we will have become owners of two cows and three calves

Murugeswari of Naranapuram adds:  Because we women now have the responsibility for and profit from caring for two cows and two calves, our husbands seemed as if they were a little scared about our growing economic independence. Their behavior is changing. They spend their spare time in looking after our little herd and so also do not spend as much time and money on liquor. We are very happy about this turn of events. The fact that CREATE supplies good quality feed because they buy in bulk and supply to us at cost price and the cost of the feed is deducted from the milk money another big labor saving has occurred. Not only that, but before, sometimes our husbands would take the money from us and go to Thenkarai to buy feed and often spend a little on themselves and bring back only a reduced amount of feed. Now that we get feed without paying cash but pay the cost on account this problem also has been solved.  So little by little we are beginning to feel the benefits accruing to us through this CREATE program. 

Therefore, when recently we had a visit from James Vijayakumar of Global Ministries there was great joy.  Dr. Vijayakumar explained that not only is the loan given interest free, there are sizeable subsidies to the tune of another 25 percent and that what is collected back is always used for helping other people who are in need. Only this way maximum number of people can be helped and that we too will grow to care for others. As he spoke to us in our own language we understood and all clapped with joy

Adammal, group leader adds: In addition to all that has been said, some visible developments in terms of access to increased facilities are taking place. We have come to acquire these facilities as a result of the savings. Three families have bought motorized two wheelers (only used vehicles, of course). This helps in transporting children of our families to school and back much more easily. Formerly our children walked three kilometers each way to school and back. We also had to carry head-loads of grass for the cows. Now because of this facility, the burden of carrying head-loads of grass is no more, we go to places where grass is available, cut and make bundles, and leave them with marks of identity. Then often when our husbands come back with our children from school he is able to give us a lift back along with the bundle of grass or we walk back home and when my husband is back from work he would make another trip and fetch the bundle. Having seen this, other wives are able to encourage their husbands also to become thrifty and not waste money on liquor and so more families have begun to save with more care. In this respect we are happy to recount that each member of the Self Help Group who have received loans for buying cows are now enlisted in the monthly savings scheme with the bank which maintains our Milk account. This will also help in getting Government subsidies for home development.

Edited by:  Office of Resource Development
Global Ministries
P.O. Box 1986
Indianapolis, IN  46206
Tel:  (317) 713-2555
Fax:  (317) 635-4323
Email:  gifts@dom.disciples.org

June 2008