At Allcargo, environmental consciousness and sustainability are embedded in the corporate ethos
On August 04, 2018, farmers in the tribal hamlet of Mokhada near Mumbai were joined by 30 employees of Allcargo Logistics and Avvashya CCI for a tree plantation drive under the group's Maitree initiative. With this round of tree plantation, a good 5,49,000 trees have now been planted across the state of Maharashtra through the Maitree initiative since its inception in 2015. Last year, Avvashya Foundation, which is the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) arm of Allcargo group and the brain behind the initiative, motivated 3006 families across Mokhada and Jawahar in Palghar district and Karjat in Raigad district in Maharashtra to plant 1,51,000 trees. The planting of over half a million trees not just reflects the magnitude of Maitree's activities, but is also a testimony to the organisation's steadfast commitment to the cause of nature.
Over the years, Maitree has shaped up to become a name synonymous with the emancipation of the underprivileged through environment conservation. What started out as a tree plantation exercise to involve employees and farmers in planting fruit-bearing trees is slowly acquiring the form of a movement towards helping the rural population to augment their income by selling the produce obtained from the trees. Beginning with the objective to increase the green cover, the activities have widened in their scope to include awareness campaigns and capacity-building workshops for farmers with an objective to ensure better survival rate of the plants. The important aim through the tree plantation drives now is to develop orchards of fruit-bearing trees to reap the benefits of economies of scale and supplement the livelihood of local farmers. The strategy now revolves around motivating communities to take care of, nurture and manage the plantations to boost the income of farmers, even as the initiative increases the green cover.
Avvashya Foundation has been ably supported in its endeavour by various partners who include NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) like Light of Life Trust, governmental entities like Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission (MSRLM) and educational institutions like Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work. Over a period, the contribution of these partners has increased manifold. From identifying the beneficiaries, promoting awareness about the initiative and helping in the tree plantation drives, these partners are now increasingly contributing towards the next level of activities revolving around improving the productivity of the plantations. The emphasis is now on identifying seasonality risks and mitigating them to ensure better survival rates of the saplings and trees. Emphasis is also placed on improving the level of knowledge of the farmers so that they can take proper care of the plantations. Going forward, they would focus on ensuring backwards and forward marketing linkages so that local tribal farmers are integrated with the supply chain. They have also pledged their support to the initiative to see the fructification of Maitree's convergence with MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) initiative of the Government.
The convergence with MGNREGA, which would be in the form of recognition by the Central Government, will be a big boost to the initiative. Under the act, the Central Government guarantees 100 man-hours of paid work to any adult who lives in rural areas and has applied for employment. If the tie-up with MGNREGA fructifies, the activity of planting and tending to trees will be considered as a productive economic activity and will be remunerated by the government. This will not only lead to active government support but also directly increase the earning capacity of Maitree's beneficiaries.
The tie-up with MGNREGA will be piloted in Mokhada shortly. The beneficiaries have been identified, and the process has been initiated to obtain technical and administrative sanctions. If successful, the association will be extended to all parts of the state. "We are confident that the association with MGNREGA will go a long way in making the Maitree initiative a shining example of public-private partnership in promoting inclusive development through environment conservation activities", says Nilratan Shende, deputy general manager (CSR), at Avvashya CCI, the parent company of Avvashya Foundation.
Avvashya Foundation has drawn up an ambitious expansion plan for Maitree. One aspect comprises roping in other corporate houses and stakeholders to give increased exposure to the initiative. The roping in of corporates will promote economic upliftment through environment conservation, enabling sustainable livelihoods for needy communities. Another component of the plan is to associate with other like-minded foundations including The Nature's Conservancy and Swadesh Foundation to take the initiative to various parts of the country.
There are heart-warming stories of how Maitree has touched people's lives. There are instances of farmers earning up to Rs17,000 per annum by selling the agricultural and horticultural produce. More than anything else, farmers across the locations where the initiative has been implemented are thankful to Avvashya Foundation for touching their lives and bringing about a positive change.