Social Enterprise Programs & Their Impact
Dal (Lentils) Mill Co-op
In 2008, Seva Mandir partnered with farmers to found a cooperatively run dal mill. There are currently 86 cooperative members from seven villages. Cutting out the middlemen allows the mill to offer these farmers much better prices for their crop, and this has forced competing buyers to offer 30% higher prices region-wide, directly benefiting another 3,500 farming families. The mill has won and retained a number of commercial clients such as the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur. By making dal a more commercially viable crop, the mill has also reduced the number of farmers choosing to grow genetically modified cotton. (GM cotton damages the soil and often uses child labor during the harvest.) The cooperative is now planning to invest in heavy machinery that will greatly expand mill capacity, achieve economies of scale and allow the inclusion of more farmers.
Fish Farming Co-op
With the backing of Seva Mandir field workers, 40 women from two Seva Mandir self-help groups decided to fight for their rights to farm fish. Over a remarkable three-year struggle, they endured threats and physical assault, organized mass demonstrations and fought a court battle. In 2009, the self-help groups finally won the right to their community’s resources. 39 women now fish farm the dam, and have been able to build new homes with Rs. 2,000,000 granted by the Government’s Department of Fisheries. This is not an isolated story: 145 people in total have won the right to fish farm six different dams across Seva Mandir’s work area. Their struggles show the power of community solidarity, and speak to the underlying social changes taking root in the communities where Seva Mandir works.
Soy Milk Co-op
A soy processing micro-enterprise selling soy milk and tofu was set up in Kaya in 2010. The enterprise sells its products to a local university as well as to the Kaya Training Center, where Seva Mandir runs its Residential Learning Camps for hundreds of out-of-school children, and the Seva Mandir-run Balwadi preschool in Kaya. In this way, the enterprise is also addressing severe malnutrition in Kaya, which affects about 20% of children.
Delawara Heritage Walk
One of the most innovative Seva Mandir projects has been the creation of a Heritage Walk led by local guides, which offers visitors a tour of Delawara’s thousand-year-old Jain Temples and thriving tradition of crafts, as well as a view of the transformative social and development changes that have come about with the help of Seva Mandir. The Heritage Walk is staffed by locals who have trained for hundreds of hours and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Seva Mandir’s first experiment in social enterprise, Sadhna is today an independent textile business employing 700 rural women, and exemplifies the promise of incubating socially profitable ideas. In order to generate an alternative means of income to combat the negative impact of a severe drought in Rajasthan in 1988, Seva Mandir set up a patchwork sewing program with 15 local women. After years of slow but steady growth, the coop achieved commercial viability in 2000 and in December 2004 was registered as Sadhna, an independent women’s artisans’ enterprise listed under the Mutual Benefit Trust Act. Sadhna’s 700 artisans share nearly 60% of the profits and are divided into roughly 50 groups, each of which has a representative elected every three years who serves on the organization’s management committee and participates in enterprise-wide decision making. Today Sadhna is thriving, with a brick and mortar shop located at Seva Mandir headquarters in Udaipur, direct international sales via the internet and substantial retail relationships, including with Fab India.