Feb 24, 2021

Help them name their growing business

In December, we held a workshop to train a women’s self-help group (sangam) in making various tomato products, at which we distributed saplings for them to grow.  Their tomato plants are now brimming with ripe tomatoes, and the women have begun preparing tomato jam from them, using a family recipe one of them contributed.  Everything they have made so far has sold out almost immediately within the village. The jam was flavoured with lemon and ginger juice, and sweetened with jaggery (made from unrefined cane sugar, date sugar and/or palm sap).  It was a wonderful recipe:  we tasted some and it was delicious!

At their meeting this month, the women organized themselves into 4 teams, responsible for jam preparation, tomato pickling, tomato papad (a snack similar to potato chips), and marketing respectively. One member has volunteered her tea shop as a location to sell their products. They are also collecting monthly dues that will help to keep the membership constant and that can be tapped by any of the women as a loan when needed.  They have has set up an accounting log and a book for recording the business decisions the women make collectively. 

VOICE Trust will use the funds you donate to this project to provide the spices and other additional ingredients, as well as branding and marketing support; the women have volunteered to provide all other required supplies (cooking utensils, oil, etc.).  

A brand name, which we will print on labels for them, will provide a recognizable identity for their products.  Suggestions welcome!  

Feb 15, 2021

What do earthworms and mosquito ferns have in common?

making vermicompost
making vermicompost

Happily, infection rates have been plummeting in Tamil Nadu and many restrictions have eased, allowing some businesses to reopen.  But other parts of India have not been so lucky, leaving a patchwork of restrictions of varying severity that makes getting migrant labor or shipping to out-of-state wholesalers a daunting challenge.  Farmers who were plunged into a financial hole last spring, when they were unable to harvest or market much of their produce, are still struggling to save their farms.

We asked some of the farmers we have previously trained in sustainable farming practices what we could do to help, and they told us they needed a source of cheap but rich natural fertilizer.  As a result of COVID disruptions, fertilizer prices have skyrocketed, making purchase impossible for many cash-strapped farmers.  They wanted help creating their own vermiculture compost and azolla manure.

Vermicomposting uses earthworms to break down organic waste, producing even more prolific and nutrient-rich crops than traditional compost.  Manure made from azolla, also called mosquito fern, has been used for centuries as a biofertilizer.  It is another cheap and sustainable way of increasing soil fertility and crop production, and it can be created in as little as a week.  Because it multiplies rapidly, the resulting surplus can be used as livestock feed or sold at a good price, providing a quick source of supplemental income.

Thanks to your donations and a grant from GlobalGiving, we are able to provide 300 farmers in 15 villages containers for vermicomposting and tarpaulin sheets for preparing azolla manure. Because these farmers have already attended our workshops on creating organic fertilizer, they will be able to put these supplies to use right away, without further training.

We are proud to be able to continue helping Tamil Nadu recover economically without having to sacrifice our commitment to working with nature to find earth-friendly solutions to India's most pressing problems.  Since your donations are making this happen, you should feel happy too.

Thank you so much for your support.

the rich, healthy soil it produces
the rich, healthy soil it produces
Feb 5, 2021

An exciting step forward

growing tomatoes to be canned
growing tomatoes to be canned

If you have been receiving our earlier reports, you know that we have been teaching the women we have been working with how to make products like pickles and relishes that will add value to their harvest.   We believe that increasing the income the women can earn from their land by creating products that will sell for more than the raw produce and have a longer shelf life is a critical part of helping them recover from the devastation of the pandemic. 

But some of the women were having trouble marketing the canned products they produce.  Which became the springboard for a grant application that provides a structure for the women to select, can, and market their products more effectively.  

You'll find a link to the grant application below, and will be able to read all the details soon in a revamped version of this project (#38297) that will help them increase sales whether we get the grant or not. 

Designed with milestones for checking our success as we go along and a thorough evaluation after a year, this easily scalable proposal is one of the most ambitious activities we have undertaken.  We are hoping that it will not only help the women involved, but will help VOICE Trust model a new system of project design that will provide more efficient and effective help to hundreds and perhaps thousands more in the years to come.

Your support has helped us take this giant step forward, and we hope that when you see the revamped project, you'll be as excited about it as we are.

Thank you so much -- and stay tuned!

We gave them; she's growing them
We gave them; she's growing them

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