Mar 5, 2021

Meet one of the women you've helped

With the help of WEEDS and the Mother Theresa Women Development Trust (MTWDT), we have now distributed goats to 35 women in villages hard hit by Cyclone Nivar. 

In Valayavattam, MTWDT asked the villagers to help us select ten widows who were most in need of recovery assistance and Pappammal was one of the women they named. Pappammal, a 52-year-old widow who has lived alone since her daughter married and moved to another village, was among the evacuees who had received one of our relief packages that allowed her to eat and maintain her personal hygiene during the twelve days that she stayed at one of the evacuation centers.  But when she returned home, she found that many local businesses were still shuttered, and she has been unable to find regular employment. As a result, she subsists mostly on the 12 kilos of rice that she gets from the Government each month, and must rely on donations from other villagers to replace what she lost .

We have given Pappammal Rs 4,000 (about $50 US) for the purchase of a nanny goat to breed.  In six months, when the goat gives birth, she can be sold for Rs 24000 (about $300 US), which will be enough to support Pappamal for a year.  As the number of goats increases, and Pappamal’s income with it, she will be transformed from the object of village charity to a strong and respected member of the community, and the community, in turn, will benefit from the money she has to spend. 

Pappammal is just one of the many women your donation has allowed us to help -- thank you so much for your support!

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
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