As you may have seen in my previous blog posts, TGG Foundation are using their grant fund from RG Foundation to build a Rural Development Hub near to their current HQ in Wayanad, India.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been getting to grips with the project, how it will benefit the local community and how we can help to get the job done.
So what is a Rural Development Hub?
This is something I’ve had to go back to a few times for clarity, as a Rural Development Hub (or, RDH for short) is not something I’ve ever come across before.
Laiju (Founder and Chairman of TGG Foundation) describes it as: “a centre which aims to provide the rural community with good, sustainable working opportunities, fair levels of pay and a healthy environment in which to work”.
OK, so that's the big picture. How about on a practical level?
Once completed, the RDH will support the following activities:
With the grant money from RG Foundation, TGG will be able to complete Phase 1 of this facility, which will cover land acquisition and development, a research and innovation unit and process and packaging.
It will also ultimately provide the charity with a permanent residence.
Each additional function will provide new jobs and skills for the rural community, in particular marginalised groups of the community like women and young people.
Simple. But how do we get it done?
Step 1: Getting the funding across
Because TGG Foundation is a registered charity in India and the RG Foundation is an overseas organisation, the transfer of funds brings a few challenges.
In 2010, the central government in India introduced new legislation concerning NGO’s and charities receiving foreign grants or donations. This was introduced mainly because some NGO activity was deemed to be counter-productive to the growth of the country (Greenpeace is one of the highest profile examples of this).
All charities must now obtain FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) to receive funds from abroad. This means working with a legal team who understand the application process, submitting an application and waiting 2-3 months for a decision.
Step 2: Land acquisition
It may sound pretty obvious, but in order for the RDH to be owned outright by TGG, they must first purchase the land that it's being built on.
Luckily, Laiju has had his eye on a prime piece of real estate which is only about 100m from the current TGG headquarters.
When we first got to India, he took us to see it and I found it a little difficult to visualise the development. At 13,000²ft, it’s certainly big enough for the project, but it’s full of tall jungle grass and trees, and it’s on a pretty dramatic slant.
Laiju assures me that once the necessary foliage is cleared, we’ll be able to dig down into the slope and at that point everything will become clearer.
The important thing at this point is that we’ve secured the land. Once the monsoon season has finished and the planning has been completed, construction can begin.
Step 3: Building design
For us this started with research. In 2016, one of the working committee members of TGG conducted a piece of research as part of her Master thesis for Tufts University in Boston, USA. The research aimed to understand developmental issues in Wayanad, identify gaps in service and specific at-risk groups which organisations like TGG can help address.
Using the results from the research, we identified the key objectives for the RDH. Knowing that the facility aims to create more working opportunities in the area, TGG Foundation had to first take a look at what sort of work there is demand for here and how the Hub can best support that.
Because Wayanad (and actually most of Kerala) is mainly a farming state, naturally there is work to be done in the area to support local farmers (processing and packing their crops, for example).
We also wanted to offer some diversity in opportunities and provide a space for learning new skills. The processing and packaging unit will be a good start addressing local needs with extra demand coming from social enterprises connected with TGG, like WYNAD Clothing.
Finally, as more people become engaged in work at the Hub we want to be able to create new products and revenue streams. For example, at the moment TGG are working out the best ways to produce virgin coconut oil (coconuts are an extremely high yield crop here) to trade. This requires a space for research and development.
Once we know the requirements, an architect and designer can be engaged to map everything out with us.
Step 4: Construction
Just a minor point this one (!) but unsurprisingly, once the funding has been received, land has been purchased and plans are in place... we need to build the thing!
Luckily, Laiju is well connected in Wayanad with some of the most industrious people you’ll ever meet. Hari in particular (pictured below) can literally turn his hand to anything from carpentry to mechanics to masonry and the job will be finished to a high standard.
A key element to our construction will be ensuring that not only is the building up to code regarding health, safety and hygiene standards but also the workspace that is created becomes a comfortable place to work.
Now that it’s written down it all seems so easy...