Empowering some of the most marginalised communities across rural India with innovative and sustainable solutions since 2010, Reliance Foundation has catalysed change across multiple levels to transform the lives of rural communities. Enabling them with opportunities, working through direct implementation and also by working in collaboration with different social impact organisations, private and government stakeholders, Reliance Foundation’s Rural Transformation programme reaches out across 20 states and two Union Territories and more than 350 districts across India. As on August 2022, the programme has reached over 14.6 million people.
Under the Rural Transformation initiatives, Reliance Foundation has two core programmes, Bharat India Jodo (BIJ) and Reliance Foundation Information Services (RFIS). These programmes complement and strengthen each other. BIJ, initiated in 2010 adopts an approach of empowering communities to take collective action towards sustainable livelihoods through multiple pillars. By leveraging digital platforms, RFIS reaches partners across the length and breadth of the country, connecting rural communities to advisories, information and support on weather, fishing, farming, livestock rearing and management.
With an integrated 360 degree approach to support Reliance Foundation builds resilient rural communities. This is done by focusing on the key levers that can help create positive social change, including women empowerment, nutrition security, climate resilience, water and ecological security, rural livelihood security, strengthening community structures. With this approach, positive social change has been fostered in rural communities, with strengthened community structures, providing water, nutrition and livelihood security.
Water as a key pivot to improving lives and livelihoods: Creating water secure communities
In alignment with SDG 1, ‘Zero Hunger’, SDG 6 ’Clean Water and Sanitation’ and SDG 13 ’Climate Action.
Bringing together communities (Shramdaan or voluntary contribution), important partners and stakeholders actualizing one goal for water resilience, Reliance Foundation uses various approaches, plans and structures to help conserve and harness water in sustainable ways. This enhances the community’s livelihood security and potential. Technical, financial and capacity building support help plan and execute appropriate water security measures and Reliance Foundation helps build capacities of representatives and leaders of community institutions such as Gram Panchayats, SHGs, and youth groups.
Reliance Foundation has also been a principal funding partner of Paani Foundation since 2015, supporting the work that this organisation is doing at the grassroots to help communities tackle drought, achieve water security and make agriculture as well as other means of livelihoods in rural India environmentally sustainable. These water initiatives are part of a larger holistic approach to environmental sustainability.
Creating Nutrition secure rural communities: bringing alternate livelihood opportunities and a bountiful platter to the community
In alignment with UN SDG 2 ’End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’.
The Reliance Nutrition Garden (RNGs) is a model that bridges the nutrition gap in low-income communities, especially for women and children, while helping them take up vegetable farming - improving income and enhancing livelihoods. Not only families but also community institutions like Anganwadis are encouraged and supported to develop RNGs to ensure nutritional self-sufficiency.
The RNG is a cost-effective, scientifically designed kitchen garden, wherein fruits and vegetables are grown using a multi-tier cropping system. As a low-cost initiative, it has helped provide fresh fruits and vegetables, grown naturally, to rural households across the country. It has also been a new source of income to many households as a site for imparting awareness on importance of vegetables, fruit and nutritional diversity.
Creating, supporting and encouraging leaders of tomorrow: strengthening governance
Aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) 16, ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’, and 17, ‘Partnerships for the Goals’
By creating platforms for collective action and with support from stakeholders, Reliance Foundation is helping to strengthen rural institutions and leaders to solve challenges and find solutions. Engaged with 965 Gram Panchayats (GPs) across 11 states, Reliance Foundation works towards institutional strengthening in cooperation with Gram Sabhas, Block and District Panchayats.
Reliance Foundation contributes towards the preparation of an inclusive as well as participatory development plan in the form of Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs), ensuring ownership and effective implementation of plans made by Gram Sabha members.
Since 2017, Reliance Foundation has also worked with the Government of Maharashtra’s Village Social Transformation Foundation (VSTF) on a unique initiative – to transform 1,000 villages into ‘model villages’, by solving their social, economic, livelihood, infrastructure and connectivity challenges. During 2019-20, Reliance Foundation directly supported 27 Gram Panchayats under the programme, catalysing their transformation into sustainable model villages through VSTF’s holistic development interventions. These initiatives are led on the ground by a specially trained cadre of Rural Development Fellows, who are deputed to each village to enhance service delivery.
Empowering women: strengthening women entrepreneurs across rural India
Aligned with SDG 5 to ensure ‘Gender Equality’.
Committed towards creating a battery of rural women leaders who then lead and support their communities to solve some of the most complex challenges of our times, Reliance Foundation works extensively with Women Self Help Groups (W-SHGs). They are supported to identify diverse, sustainable and scalable livelihood opportunities at every step from skill trainings, linking them to various government schemes, to making them market ready or bringing them closer to financial inclusion. Reliance Foundation is thereby creating a network of grassroots women leaders who can help transform the world around them. This in-turn ensures increased women participation in rural economy and ownership of livelihood assets. Many women & W-SHGs have turned micro-entrepreneurs and have embarked on their self-entrepreneurial journeys through this mentorship.
Transforming rural economies: facilitating market linkages
In alignment with UN SDG 9 ‘Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation’.
Supporting market linkages for farmers through a variety of ways, one intensive and significant approach of Reliance Foundation has been to nurture and strengthen over 100 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). Many of these have started providing mentoring support to other FPOs in their districts, creating a cascading effect. FPOs provided with market linkages, helped other FPOs establish and run Minimum Support Price (MSP) procurement centres and access agricultural inputs providing overall training and capacity building.
Reliance Foundation Information Services: technology at the heart of our interventions
Initiated in January 2013 to provide tailor-made value-added information at the right time from the right source to the right target group towards improving lives and livelihoods, Reliance Foundation’s Information Services (RFIS) have reached over 11.9 million people across 19 states and two Union Territories.
Bringing technology solutions and helping to address information gaps or asymmetry for livelihood practitioners including agricultural farmers, marine and inland fishers, livestock & dairy farmers. Reliance Foundation reaches communities by adopting a phygital model, leveraging digital pathways like mobile phone services, digital media platforms, audio-video conferences and YouTube, besides television, radio toll-free helpline and various other physical interventions.
RFIS has been providing virtual advisories reaching diverse groups of beneficiaries’ year on year with inputs on weather, better farming practices, disease and pest management and better livestock management.
Advisories for fishing communities: Reliance Foundation endeavours to make fishing safer, sustainable and more profitable for marine fisher folks along India’s expansive coastline with information support from the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). The advisories through digital platforms- reach out to nearly 250,000 people annually.
A fishing-community specific mobile application, the Machli app provides real time updates on weather and oceanographic parameters for all major landing centres. It also helps the fishers with information on potential fishing zones ensuring optimum results
Over the next five years, Reliance Foundation’s Rural Transformation programme aims to build resilient and self-reliant rural communities by improving lives and livelihoods of 10 million individuals across 45 districts, over five years through following interventions:
1) Climate Resilience for Sustainable Development (CR4SD) - Reliance Foundation aspires to build climate smart & resilient communities through various interventions such as adopting Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), adoption of efficient irrigation & management of water resources. Some of the other interventions are:
2) Integrated Value Chain Development (IVCD) – Reliance Foundation will seek to unlock value for farmers in identified crop value chains through interventions from sowing to end consumer markets.
3) Diversifying Rural Incomes via Women Entrepreneurship (DRIWE) - De-risking Household incomes by diversifying into agri-allied and non-farm sources and also capacitate women SHGs who then branch out as micro-entrepreneurs.
Awards and recognition for work in Rural Transformation
• Reliance Foundation bagged the CII National Awards for Excellence in Water Management in the “Beyond the Fence” category for two consecutive years (2019 and 2020)
• Reliance Foundation was conferred IAA Olive Crown Award 2022 under ‘Green NGO of year- Silver’ category for its green initiatives aimed at conserving natural resources and promoting ecological sustainability across India
• Reliance Foundation received the CII DX Award 2021 under ‘Innovation in CSR through Digital Transformation” category for improving rural livelihoods.
• Reliance Foundation received several awards for its Machli App, an AI-based Mobile Application for marine fisherfolk, including:
o Winner of World Summit Awards 2021 for providing digital solutions contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
o mBillionth South Asia Award 2017 and 2021 under Agriculture & Environment Category for its information services to farmers, fisher folk and livestock owners
o The 10th AEGIS Graham Bell Award 2019 under the category of “Application for Social Good”.