The Golden Greens Foundation Charitable Trust (TGGFCT) is a rural development NGO, based in Kerala, India. Its mission is clear: to create liveable, healthy, sustainable rural communities through the empowerment of local people. It has no political or religious ties. 

The Foundation aims to uplift the most vulnerable populations by equipping people in rural areas with skills, resources, and opportunities so that they may become self-sustainable.

Its Founder and Chairman, S.V. Laiju, believes that the rural community, particularly in third world or developing countries, is getting a raw deal and this is something that needs addressing now. “We cannot continue to exploit a population that feeds the world when they themselves do not have enough food to eat”, writes Laiju on TGG’s website.

Currently their focus is mostly local, addressing community needs in the agricultural district of Wayanad in Kerala, although Laiju's vision is very much an international one. But before he and the rest of TGG team take on the world, they need to prove their concepts and capabilities. They need to create a method that works.

Even though it's small, the activities of TGGFCT are many, and I’ve got to be honest it has taken me some time to get my head around the structure and how it operates.

I’ll try and explain as straightforward as I can.

Structure

TGG Foundation is managed by its Board of Trustees which consists of Laiju and his wife Namitha. Laiju is the day-to-day operational head, and Namitha mostly looks after the accounting and legalities.

The Operational Team consists of a Self Help Group (five women, pictured below) and a couple of other people. The Self Help Group act in unison, working together on new revenue generating ideas and depositing a percentage of their income into a micro-credit system called Mouldhan.

the self help group.jpg

The Working Committee currently consists of four people who work with TGG on an honorary basis.  Each person has a specific area of focus like women empowerment projects for example, and is responsible for exploring new ways that the Foundation can generate revenue.

An Advisory Board of two people also working on an honorary basis are available for management to consult with. Regular volunteers, usually at the farm, make up the rest of the team.

Activities

Sustainable farming – The farm managed by TGG Foundation is 100% organic. It produces roughly 1,800kgs of green tea per year as well as a relatively small amount of coffee and spices like cardamom, pepper, turmeric and cinnamon.  Livestock on the farm includes goats, chicken, cows, geese, and recently acquired pigeon (yes, I said pigeon!). The farm is managed by Sushma and Hari (husband and wife) and employs one full-time woman and some seasonal staff. Any revenue generated by the farm helps to fund further TGG activities.

Sushema showing members of the local farming community and Indian Tea Board the handplucking technique_cropped.jpg

Rural empowerment – This is essentially job creation and skill development mainly for at risk groups like women and young people. Alongside the working opportunities on the farm, TGG currently operates a tailoring workshop and packaging centre. The tailoring workshop is ran by Beena Teacher, who is head of the Self Help Group mentioned above.

Responsible India Mission The belief that every person in India shares the responsibility to help those that are less fortunate shapes much of the community work at TGG. Specific examples include sponsoring orphans with accommodation and more recently crowdfunding to construct a small but stable house for a local family that were living in a makeshift shack.

Supporting local farmers  TGG Foundation recognises that farmers are often put in a position where they are forced to sell their produce at an unfair price.  In Kerala and across much of India, farmer suicides have become common as a result of this unfair practice. By working with farmers to establish fair distribution paths, TGG aims to help them get their produce straight to the end customer, whilst promoting ethical farming practices simultaneously.

Market men cropped.jpg

As well as all of the above activities, the TGG Foundation is working on new ideas and practices that will allow it to continue its work and spread its reach to more people.

Not bad for a charity that’s just entered its fourth year!

Interview with Laiju, Founder of TGG Foundation