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Using ICTs to Improve Awareness and Uptake of Environmentally Friendly Livelihood Opportunities for Rural Households in Bihar

Voice-based + mobile app platform for information dissemination & decision making support about environmentally friendly livelihood options

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

89% of the population in the Indian state of Bihar lives in rural areas, and 80% of the state’s population is employed in agriculture. Yet, stagnant crop yields in the last decades coupled with increased input costs, has led to reduced incomes and increased debts. Low size of landholdings and prevalence of lease farming among small and marginal farmers, and usage of low quality seeds to grow crops resulting in low productivity of agriculture, further leads to food insecurity among poorer households. 70% of Bihar is also affected by flood, which displaces people, damages habitations and affects livelihoods. Major climate risks like increasing temperature and heat stress, intense rainfall, and longer dry spells have considerable negative consequences on staple crops.

Gram Vaani’s Mobile Vaani (MV) solution is a mobile-based voice media platform for underserved areas in India whereby users generate content in their dialect through an Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), free of cost. Initiated in 2012, the platform reaches people in an interactive and measurable manner, and integrates with local community processes to facilitate social impact. With growing penetration of smartphones and mobile Internet, a mobile application for MV is also available to ease digital migration for the users.

Mobile Vaani is most active in the state of Bihar, with seven district level platforms and numerous theme specific platforms in partnership with organizations like JEEViKA (Bihar Rural Livelihoods Mission, Government of India), SEWA, and others, and reaches out to more than 50,000 people each month. This allows a unique opportunity to rapidly mobilize the uptake of a livelihoods and resilience channel in the Bihar Mobile Vaani eco-system, targeted at offering information and urgent messaging, promoting local level information dissemination and advocacy, interaction with experts, decision making tools, and quick collection of relevant data and inputs from communities.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are low-income rural households in the state. We will tap into our existing user base, and also partner with organizations like JEEViKA (Bihar State Rural LIvelihoods Mission) and SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) to mobilize their members and SHGs which are already engaged in farming, off farming and non farming livelihoods or are looking for new livelihoods options to engage.
In a recent survey (conducted by Gram Vaani) among the target beneficiaries (63% of whom were engaged in agrarian work from a sample of 550 people), 76% people said they did not have any form of crop insurance, while 39% said they had to take loans from private moneylenders. An overwhelmingly large 93% of respondents agreed to facing problems that affected their crops, with 58% mentioning that their crops were destroyed due to natural issues like rains, hailstorms and/or pest related problems.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

MV was built as a solution to the broken last mile information distribution in rural India. There is no simple way for people to create and access local media, and for organizations to push information and seek inputs from their communities. MV has been built to be able to jump literacy and internet connectivity barriers, and create supporting processes of community generated content to increase user engagement and offline field teams. Organizations like JEEViKA and SEWA can gain immensely from this platform to connect with their large SHG/member base: listen to and understand their issues; offer relevant and immediate solutions/expert opinions; share ongoing inputs on livelihoods practices and options; push early warning messages before disasters; and offer this as a tool to their community resource persons to stay in regular contact with their constituents. It will help supplement offline information dissemination, collection of community inputs and in tracking developments.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Gram Vaani (legal name: OnionDev Technologies Pvt. Ltd.) is an Indian technology company that uses IVRS technology to bring development solutions for people living below poverty line.
JEEViKA Mobile Vaani that offers information on maternal health, in partnership with JEEViKA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhVn8B6gSA8
Mobile Vaani and how it reaches out to school children using the same IVRS technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q96O6dY35Q

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

MV started to offer rural India its own digital media. It delivers community-generated media content on mobile phones, for low-literacy populations across India with no Internet connectivity or regular access to print media. Launched in 2012 MV has provided 2 million+ people curated & user-generated audio content on local news and events, and a support system for ensuring delivery of public services, and connect rural communities to products/services.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The livelihoods resilience MV channel aims to increase the prosperity of below poverty households in rural Bihar by offering them inputs on green agrarian practices, other sustainable livelihoods options and disaster resilience to promote sustainable development. It is aimed to be made into an effective tool to combat the challenges of the target population. We aim to influence at least 5,000 families to adopt planet friendly and/or resilient livelihood options/best practices that increases their income, during the project period; and establish scaling pathway with our partners to eventually reach at least 0.5 million families across the state of Bihar in the next 5 years.It will build an eco-system of experts and institutions (sustainable livelihoods, disaster resilience & financial inclusion) and local stakeholders & tap into local knowledge by promoting peer-to-peer learning among users; and help reach out to govt on issues and related to access of relevant schemes and entitlements.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We will partner with:
JEEViKA (https://bit.ly/1tV34ZT) works with 7.2 million households and 0.75 million SHGs to enhance social and economic empowerment of rural poor, through livelihood promotion and financial inclusion. JEEViKA works on livelihood options including farming (rice intensification), off farm (dairy, poultry, honey, pisciculture etc) and non-farm (tailoring, incense sticks, madhubani paintings etc) livelihoods.
SEWA Bihar (https://bit.ly/2kIJght) similarly works with 100,000 home-based female artisans, handloom weavers, domestic workers, farmers and agricultural producers, construction workers, vendors, and domestic workers across 6 districts. It creates transparent value chains, strengthen livelihoods, and diversifies employment opportunities for women in the informal sector. The project will help bring a green and resilient livelihoods focus within these organizations, leading to prosperity of the beneficiaries through sustainable livelihoods development.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

“I implemented the advice given by Dr. Pramod Kumar on wheat cultivation. This helped me reduce weeds significantly. I also had to use less water for the crop.” MV User, Bihar regarding a agriculture related programme in Bihar Mobile Vaani
Gram Vaani’s expertise in building and running MV solutions at scale, its presence in Bihar and faith of community members in the MV solution; and its access to the JEEViKA and SEWA network due to its ongoing partnerships are some of the competitive advantage

Geographic Focus

2 rural districts in Bihar during pilot, followed by scale-up across the state.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months:
2 months for identification of partners with thematic expertise; mapping of relevant sustainable livelihoods options; setting up the platform and bringing partners on board
1 month for baseline and system set-up/testing, initial content development
33 months for implementation - new content development on a rolling basis and engaging people through mobilization; including 9 months for testing in Nalanda District followed by 24 months for scaling phase
1 month for endline

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

AADITESHWAR SETH, Co-founder
•Founder of Gram Vaani
•Computer Science Faculty at IIT Delhi
•Winner of Economic Times Power of Ideas, Amazing Indians, Knight News Challenge, GCC Rising Stars
•PhD in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo, BTech from IIT Kanpur

SULTAN AHMAD, Coord. Comm Mobilization
•12+ years of experience in the social sector in community building and community media
•Masters in Development Communication and MA in Social Exclusion and Inclusion Policy, Jamia Milia Islamia

SAYONEE CHATTERJEE, Director Dev. Comm.
•12+ years of experience in the social sector
•MA and Gold Medalist, Sociology, Pune Univ
•Previous organizations include PRADAN and PRIA, with strong grassroots experience

RITESH DATTA, Director Prog. & Partnerships
•12+ years of experience in the social sector in diverse roles: Fund raising, programme implementation, programme design
•Exposure to diverse sectors: Child rights, Health, Disaster Management, Behavior Change

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