Written by Sahithi Divi recorded with weaver’s family of Gudapalli village, East Godavari, AP, India
Venkata lakshmi garu , Lakshmi garu , Chitti babu garu and Suryanarayana Rao garu are weavers located in Gudapalli village. They are weaving from 22 years and have not known any other way to live. While we know that there is a huge demand for handloom clothes, increasing vitality of use local arts and rural products. Execution on groundlevel and partnering with a family is much beyond a formal association. While they create extra ordinary products using their livelihood skill on the other hand it is a delight for the consumer to be able to wear a sari or any of the product handwoven due to it uniqueness.
In the below video I tried to ask them questions like the following –
Writing this from a village called Malikipuram, East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, located 2kms from Mori which is India’s first smart village. I am surrounded with a long unexplored path hooked with rural India. This did not happen as a part of the plan yet it feels like everything that ever happened to me was for today. So many reasons for not relocating could not shake my urge to finally leave the city that embarked me to set free. Amongst memories woven by Hyderabad, Bhopal, San Fransisco and Rajahmundry I was inclined to take the interior route down south , by the river and on the edge of where that river meets the sea.
I imagined flashes of this dream a few years back while I was understanding the real meaning of impact. Being here isn’t feeling new but takes me back somewhere constantly, where I saw the parts this world from elsewhere. People who can unlock their happiness to me and people whom I can share my life with. Moving to a village with a population of 7000 people brought me closer to that dream of empowerment.
Education has given me a platform to imagine and question. Life came in various patterns asking me if I was sure. Near ones baffled to some extent added with slight amount of my self bafflement about moving from a metro city to a three tier village. Unrest inside settled only as the time passed by, meeting new people who came in form of assurance, availability of high quality basic resources increasing my quality of life, livelihoods hidden under sceneries, food that reminds of my grandmother and generosity covered by real problems in rural India.
The beauty of a village is that it can withstand pain and still be able to give. A village understands who is true just by a look in the eye. It is not possible to manipulate a village dweller because there is a strong relationship that binds people with each other and their customs and traditions coming from hundreds of years. A village is home to collection of skills, farming , and traditions. There is more to learn than change from our villages in today’s context.
As a part of my project I began researching the local products and endangered skills. I learnt the urgency hovering on fading arts of our country that remained as livelihood to thousands for decades. My visit turned into a decision that changed my life forever. Here I am, representing rural India to the rest of the world. I feel surprised by it’s beauty and suffering co existing. This opens me up to an opportunity for belonging here. More power to rural India.
Written by Sahithi Divi @chintalanka, East Godavari
Fruit Supply Chain
The East Godavari seems like the fruit garden of Andhra Pradesh region tremendously yields a variety of fruits standing a commendable market across the world. Producing large scale local fruits like mangoes, coconut, banana, palm, pineapple, coco, guava, water apple, custard apple, water melon, pomegranate, citrus varieties, papaya, grapes and also diversifying into premium crops like dragon fruits, strawberries to exotic varieties. Tropical vibe sown by sandy and clay soil from the other ends of Godavari provide livelihood to hamlets of tribal migrants who farm and paralelly look for work.
Although it projects a high volume economy there is a fragile supply chain vulnerable to numerous factors. Beauty laden by scraps of pained lives by farming conditions, wastage around logistic mismanagement, fruit vendors facing scarce shelf life affects, unsustainable packaging methods worsening the ecosystem for farming ultimately, washed away by extreme weather conditions and still finally leading to an unhappy consumer due to quality adulterations intervened by technology.
From the recent years government has been providing verified seeds and required information to the farmer regarding the weather , soil , yield storage , market price etc. Definitely progressing still unable to translate into financial gains primarily making it an irreversible loss. If one time’s produce becomes a victim of climate, inflation, lockdown or reduced selling platforms , farmers give away their produce for throw away prices after all the exploitation by markets lead by institutional change induced by demand on customer. Farmer is not aware of the scope of his product if value added.
A farmer who is below the poverty line can maximum work for a leased land and share promised profits depending on the land owner. The exploitation can occur from both the ends shadowed by a complete perspective of the middle men who face the market realities and competition amongst the wholesale dealers at the auction cluster. The produce is divided according to the shelf life , cost , distance to be travelled, packing cost, transportation logistics and human resources like traders. That is when the fruits reach the face of retail terrains for a consumer dominated universe of space deficiency, competitive pricing, storing facility, advertisement , marketing efficiency , sales, retail and individual sellers.
Consumer on the other hand can choose from the platter of online , onsite and home delivery options. The customer becomes the confused object seems like enjoying a variety of options unconsciously gets looped in loosing track of the farm to mouth supply chain transparency , real costs and quality manipulations.
Seed companies, Agri tech companies , Farmer benefit organisations, green start ups and crop influencers are working on rural innovations and ground issues. There is threat related with technologies that solve the problems on temporary basis without a collaborative effort of subject professionals.
The social paradise of the whole informal structure of rural fruit distribution mixed up with large pieces of corporate agriculture led farming where the farmer is over powered with information and course of direction but provided with welfare and betterment initiatives. It is very important to understand the foundational story behind all the products that we use or intake. Being aware helps us progress as a conscious buyer who is promoting a sustainable product where the money is equally distributed to beneficiaries.
Challenges And Opportunities
Absence of platforms creating awareness about perishable food industry
Small scale farming is struggling for market linkages
Manipulation in organic farming – adulterated organics
Absence of innovation due to retainment of talent at villages
Our educational system is not promoting agriculture based courses that will create local jobs and solve local problems
Scope in packaging
Encourage kitchen gardens by homemakers and provide micro market linkages and empower
Value addition is opening up new markets but it is a threat to farmers as the increase in number of middle men puts pressure on the farmer to sell the produce at a throw away cost.
Transportation challenges , shelf life, processing based on demand.
Inclusion of the uneducated segment or the educated but unemployed segment into execution on large scale
Buy local promotion
For more information or consultation services please email to me – email@example.com
Written By Sahithi Divi ( social entrepreneur , influencer ) and Suren Thiparthi ( orthopaedic surgeon / consultant , social entrepreneur )
Today is the day of research on health metrics along with my partner Dr. Suren who is an orthopaedic surgoen | consultant in Rajahmundry town. While on the steep journeys of different people and ancient skills attached to the current rush of shaking economies, we made a small health survey in a village located in interior delta region of east godavari district. Innovation for rural pockets below the general transport facilities requires a detailed understanding of cultural norms alongside the geo – tropical data.
In a district where 55% of the population resides under the below poverty line , where the government is able to provide health cards to only less than 15 % of them. Healthcare penetration is a continuously improving segment yet with no hope of containment due to the alarmingly increasing need of doctors at the submerged level of the pyramid. There are millions of people who displace with changing seasons jolting for a day’s meal who is not even aware of the guide to find treatment.
Every place , according to its topography and local markets define the nature of chronic hazards caused over the absence of inclusivity, educating of the patient about lifestyle changes and prolonged habits. We asked the village dwellers about the nearest hospital available for them in emergency ? they stated a name which is 25 mins of ghat road away, which is a primary healthcare centre, where there is no 24/7 service support system, where the tele communication is bad , where the street lamps and immediate help / first aid is extremely difficult to reach. This might be the most normal situation in a country of 134 crore people but this is the situation of the farmer who is working 12 months of the year sending us the vegetables we pick from super markets, fisherman who is risking his life to the ocean and tides for livelihood, those women who are making less than a dollar ( <70 INR) a day sewing brooms and bags battling with needle pricked lives and this goes on.
Research about the current population performance with just a handful of people opened us to rethinking the direction of innovation in healthcare at the bottom of the pyramid.
Challenges / Opportunities
More than half the population is below the poverty line
More than 50 + % need of government scheme penetration ( data collection )
Migrant tribes are vulnerable
Absence affordable private healthcare to poor harms the economic development of a family leading to a fallout
New markets for affordable merchandise for rural lifestyle / health improvements
Scope of women / child awareness related initiatives
Digital technologies operational for rural India
Economic activities supported by the ancillaries of the healthcare system
Healthcare obstructed by absence of connectivity in interior rural densely spread clusters.
Untouched population leaves a scope for diagnostic survey
Absence of regulated followup for existing patients
Solution is nothing but finding the right problem to solve. On this journey we will continue to update our thoughts on rural healthcare challenges and scope of innovation from our lens to provide a perspective to the existing players in position to make a difference from their respective positions to welcome innovation and collaboration understand the problems better in order to reach the ones in gravity of unreachability. While we are here , we all are given the power to act, although we hail from ultimately diverse conditions and notably unique lives ; we can make an effort to give and grow.
Pootharekulu were first made in a small village of east godavari district of Andhra Pradesh estimated almost three centuries ago. Currently 400 families depend on this traditional sweet making / selling as a livelihood. This is made mostly by women and marketed by the men of the home. Poothareku has a cultural importance in the custom rituals, ceremonies and festivals. There is a high demand for overseas sale of Poothrekulu as well.
Driving accross the canopies of large maiden trees lead by banana fields altered with papaya plants and while on the right , the canal outlined with coconut trees shadows a welcoming and a beautiful village vibe. You will be able to see collections of packed Pootharekulu being sold on one side of the road. It brings internal joy to stop by one of their homes where they set up this stall for selling the sweet and just talk to them. The whole experience of closely watching this beautiful art and how it actually converts into wide market scope.
Rural innovation must not disrupt what is coming from centuries. While I understand the demand for pootharekulu , what are the challenges/ Opportunities I forsee for this tradition ?
Only 400 families are making pootharekulu
Although this art is not limited to caste yet there is a large scope of lack of inheritance of skill
Irreplaceable by technology , might bring quality issues when needed in large quantities
Packaging innovation required
Lack of action plan for increasing the number of skilled people
Sustainable marketing and scaling
Scope of online teaching
You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to know more.
Impact Hour 17 is being curated into a video you may watch it here.
This is the village of Korukonda, East Godavari where a group of women who are skilled labour perform plate making. There are biodegradable plates made up of Sal leaves or Banyan tree leaves. These women are paid 10 rupees for making 200 such plates as showed on the video. The gap is widening between the customer and skilled labour.
This shall be further extended in the further research that includes visits to the factory outlets and supply chain of vistarakulu.
Written and video by Sahithi divi ( volunteer Ganesh Kalyan )
I walked into the ancient hallway through the gates of a home that was nestled amidst the history seeking to speak about the famously named prophet of modern Andhra Pradesh born in Rajahmundry – Rao Bahadur Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu (16 April 1848 – 27 May 1919). The man who published an exclusive women’s journal to raise awareness against social evil practices against girl/women through his literature.
During the phase of my life where I am still being questioned for working in the area of gender equality, the visit to this historical home reassured me to hold on to the dream of setting people free. He lost his father at a very young age while his uncle held the responsibility of his education. After his matriculation he began his first job as a teacher in a village called Koringa. He got married at the age of 15 while his bride was still 9 at that time.
As he was a scholar in literature , he used words as his weapons to revolt against the suppressing customs around women. He is a literary activist who was the first person to have the Telugu novel published. Through his writings to various leaders one can gauge the energy he consumed from the unfair practices hailing in the Telugu society then. I was astonished by his unparalleled conviction for women education which also further became a prior reason for his established of school.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu , published an exclusive magazine for women criticising the loop holes and evil practices against women in the society like early marriage, education for women, widow remarriage, Kanyasulakam which mean bride with a price and he also opposed marriage of old men with young girls. Viveka Vardhini was a journal for women education in 1887 and Satihita bodhini a monthly magazine for women were the ideas which laid foundation for a progression in relevance to even the 21st century.
To be a part of the beginning laid by him and for continuing to empower women , the visit to his ancestral home that displays his writings and an installation of the widow remarriage made a very deep impact on my conviction by adding the most bright pages of history in benefit of girls/ women to my life.
Written By Sahithi Divi as told by Konstantia Achilleos
Nestled in the beautiful Cyprus country, Konstantia Achilleos is a Scientist , Earthpreneur and also the activist host of Her Impact podcast and Founder – CEO at Oreen Cherie Blair Foundation Mentee Alumni from Cyprus. She is affected with an unmatched passion for protecting environment which drove her expertise to being an earthpreneur circling her efforts towards public health and environmental protection.
She is also working on reducing the gender gap in the field of science and break the universal stigma about women in science and technology. She has previously had the experience of working with private sector and also NGO space that sums up for her current direction of problem solving.
As a child she did not face the negative affects of gender gap but growing up to be a scientist started to give her the ends of how deeply gender is embedded in science. Konstantia quit her job at the peak moment where she realised that providing knowledge to people about environment on various levels will provide them a voice to save themselves and the environment at the same time.
She continues her wonderful work as a medical geologist while continuing to build impact through her podcast series called Her Impact measuring and creating content about various aspects of environmental and public safety alongside the gender equation.
Konstantia believes strongly that women must be empowered as they encore the inclusive compass of beheld power to substantiate the collective forces. If women do not have to face the critical inequality as the first step of making a career choice it is more ravishing to see the impact a woman can bring to the table. Normalising woman’s presence in the diverse structures is our primary goal. Through her work she is aligning with goal number 3 , 5 , 7, 13,14,15 of Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations. Her projects also include sustainable tourism including nature conserving trails.
She says that leaving a place is the hardest thing to let go but contemplates with what comes along. Her relationship with India is limited as of now but I am looking forward to her in India and introduce you to my community here. Konstantia defines India as a continuously emerging democracy and love as the centre of the universe.
Holding to my surreal heart filled with astonishment of marking the most important milestone of moving to Rajahmundry from Hyderabad and many other places that directed me to land here so that I can unfold the actions of my dream. After all the introspection for years of measuring the impact of my work, I finally started to feel uncertain about where I want to be. Who I am ? Where do I belong ? Begins with a strong inclination to smaller towns with green shields of fertile farms and the dedicated smiling lives behind it. I often felt the need to look for more than the beauty ridden cultural Rajahmundry.
My journey has begun as a women right’s influencer and alongside the events came a deep realisation that held the secret of my inner joy. Migrating back to the roots where I was born was an opportunity for me to connect with the women farmers, florists, artisans, teachers, technicians and many more from the rural front of our country. Visiting Rajahmundry a couple of times in the last few years cultivated more meaning and direction to my dream of economic empowerment through equality.
Being born in Andhra Pradesh engages me personally with the people as it seems more like listening to my uncle , grandmother or a family member. As my father was transferred to north India as a part of his job, Andhra Pradesh remained my summer holiday home ; a place that indulged a million memories and people who hosted with a giant welcoming heart.
Urbanisation is not the solution for a country where the major share of population lives in the rural places. Development of smaller towns demands retainment of talent which needs infrastructure, investment and leadership development. Using concepts like design thinking I want to redefine the problems , create communities that promote sustainability, provide recognition to high performing women at the bottom of the pyramid, conduct events to preserve culture and provide a platform to local artisans through story writing and consulting projects under ImpactScientist.
With a mission on hand , a place definitively mine, force of people surrounding my belief and tucked in the rivers of serenity. Rajahmundry and I have chosen each other for amplifying the potential behind unlocking women to equal resources and participation.
Vandana Vijay is the founder of a sustainable tourism platform that creates experiential travel aiming at promoting eco tourism through exploring diverse destinations in the world in addition to her special inclination to the mountains. She is not only fostering experiential travel but also understanding the local communities to benefit their economic supply chain through her organisation. She has a unique vision to create an inclusive affect on the traveller as well as the local community upliftment and catalyses the process of culture preservation.
Vandana hails from a progressive defense family with strong role models. As a child she remembers no adversity due to gender in fact narrates how her mother pushed her at public speaking. Although every girl child would have been through a certain amount of societal conditioning about her dressing or being stated as reckless venturing yet she boldly enamoured to be an army officer. She fought through the cross roads by re defining her journey. Vandana then continued to work at Facebook for few years when she happened to travel as a volunteer to Ladhak. Exposure to rural mountain communities , their ways of life, indigenous resources and regional challenges created a large impact on her.
She then decided to create a platform to empower the mountain community. She identified the entrepreneur spirit showcased by women and saw the power behind using women as the main agents of change in her journey. She believes in the blend of equality whereas also enjoys the beauty of an all women core team that brings empathy and skilled feminism into the thinking frameworks. She began making a deeper research and connected with women on all levels to create a dialogue of communication for executing her idea of experiential travel platform .Vandana is working in alignment to Sustainable Development Goal 11, 8 and 7 using 17.
Vandana expresses that women in India have the opportunity to enjoy an innate sense of network to fall back on. She travels to understand , creates to boost communities and believes in inclusive growth. When asked about the hardest thing to let go she said, ‘ Comfort zone is stable’ . She continues that people assume that dressing is an ideology of independent personality whereas this a just a false myth. She defines woman as creator, democracy as unity in diversity and love as passion.
Currently based out of the United States , Sujay has co founded a tech start up called ‘ Wearlilu ‘ that was formed after recognising the inclusive benefits for a mother provided by a breast pumping bra. Their idea resonates with the operational jeopardy’s of especially working mothers who find it very challenging to breast feed while battling between motherhood and professional containments.
Sujay also happens to be my classmate from high school while in Hyderabad, Telangana where he spent most of his childhood. When asked about his view on gender parity as a child he explains how he unlocks certain norms in today’s context with how some rules are only oppressed upon a single gender. Activities performed on daily basis are ingrained with gender norms; are often not treated with revolt and taken for granted, he adds. Systemic differences are required from the basic level to see through this challenge.
During his under grad years, Sujay was shaken by a prominent case of rape that took place in India for which the whole country shouted back in rebellion for justice to that girl. That was the time he began working on a non profit project called Jyothi – a 24 hour awareness patrol for educating women about harassment , violence and all the information required by a victim of abuse. Although he moved on from this project his journey started as a change-maker that very moment.
Sujay moved to the United States to pursue his Masters Degree in Science from the University Of Pennsylvania where he met Ariana ( his now co founder ) in Robotics class. He admits to be surprised on that day to learn about the breast feeding technologies available for moms from the last fifty years with very less innovation but unlimited scope and unexplored markets. He developed a rational inclination for the idea that empowers mothers during the time of their lives that cannot be reversed. In his research he also found that more than 65 percent of the mothers have issues with the existing products in the market and this is a wonderful opportunity for science and technology to make a real impact in this space. A diversified approach is required to understand the needs of millions of different mothers with objective needs. ‘ Wearlilu ‘ aligns with SDG 3 healthcare, 5 gender equality and 8 decent work and economic growth of the United Nations Global Goals. With 3.2 million new moms in United States every year ; scaling is still a challenge as it points towards the fundraising cycle due to the fragmented nature of this industry. As one product cannot serve all moms he is parallely focusing on bringing a line of products to serve the diverse needs of new moms.
Sujay defines women as a resilient and the perfect tool for making a change in the world, India as a change which is getting there and love as compassion.