"All the women united… invoking the rights granted to them by the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996, which recognises non-timber forest products as the property of the tribal families," Karami Bai, Board Member of the Ghummar Mahila Producer Company Ltd.

Pali, a district in Southern Rajasthan, embodies a climate defined by hot and dry conditions, where the sun casts its relentless gaze upon the terrain below. Date palm trees sway gracefully in the warm breeze, while textured rocks and distant hills provide an ancient foundation for the undulating landscape. Here, amidst the semi-arid expanse, where the weather holds court with unyielding power, reside tribal, forest-dwelling communities, such as the Bhil and the Garasiyas. Their deep connections with the forest, coupled with an inhospitable environment for agriculture, led to a reliance on non-timber forest produce (NTFP) like sitafal, ber, palash, and tendu leaves to generate an income; however, a lack of sustainable, efficient value chains and market linkages for these NTFPs and their value-added products was stifling economic growth in the region.

Traditionally, NTFP collection in the region has been undertaken by women; however, with an increasing number of men migrating out of their villages to find other sources of income, women have also taken up key responsibilities as cultivators. The increased burden of such activities, in addition to women’s pre-existing household responsibilities, led to deleterious effects on women’s health, mobility, and independence; widespread domestic violence and alcoholism exacerbated their plight.

On a field visit to Rajasthan last month, aimed at strengthening our ties with partners we are featuring on the upcoming Climate Solutions Platform, we met the very same Garasiya women who are now using solar energy to revolutionise the local NTFP ecosystem, and the team at SRIJAN (Self-Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action), a local non-profit working to enable them.

Since 2009, SRIJAN has not only supported the creation of women-led Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in 56 villages, but also worked towards building livelihood opportunities for the local women, by enabling them to collect, store, add value to, and sell NTFPs in their vicinities. Through these SHGs, over 4000 women have been mobilised, with the SHGs providing opportunities for social, economic, and financial support in the community. Additionally, SRIJAN has helped establish a farmer producer organisation (FPO) with local women as shareholders, called the Ghummar Mahila Producer Company Limited (GMPCL). We learned about this journey from the women involved, particularly from one of the Board Members of GMPCL — with a loud, gravelly voice and an easy smile, she was the centre of attention during our visit to Pali. Dressed ornately, glittering in the late morning light, she had plastic flowers sown to her clothes and her name stitched onto the sleeve of her blouse — Karami Bai.

Sitafal trees come to fruit in the Deepavali season, a time of great festivity in Pali.

Karami Bai (extreme left) at the Central Processing. Unit in Pali district.

As Karami Bai’s story keenly illustrates, climate projects intersect deeply with development concerns in India. Her experiences and SRIJAN’s efforts in Pali provide crucial guiding principles for effective and inclusive climate solutions across India that enable sustainable development and community empowerment. For example:

  • Facilitating access to finance to unlock women’s potential, whether within the community through interlending, or through the banking system. This enabled the women in Pali to invest in their families’ businesses, expand their operations, and create a ripple effect of economic growth, dismantling financial barriers.

  • Establishing and strengthening independent, community-owned and -led institutions to act as vehicles for participatory development, and foster self-sufficiency among the communities at large, and women, in particular.

  • Harnessing renewable energy, such as solar power, to drive the development of rural economies and generate employment opportunities. These clean energy initiatives not only provided a sustainable solution for meeting energy needs, but also facilitated the establishment of businesses and creation of livelihoods, while mitigating the impacts of climate change.

  • Encouraging sustainable and responsible management of natural resources, through collaborative efforts, to strike a balance between socio-economic development and environmental stewardship.

Members of the GMPCL show us how to operate a machine that processes ber fruit to make candy.

SRIJAN is one out of several non-profits that are implementing inclusive climate solutions across the country, and reimagining development in the process; their efforts need more visibility and capital to be brought to scale. The goal of the ICC’s upcoming Climate Solutions Platform (CSP) is to curate high-impact climate solutions in the development sector — a pathway to protect ourselves against accelerating risks and enabling larger social change through novel technologies and livelihoods. Robust climate projects need to take on multiple lenses to ensure their effectiveness; but clearly also have ripple effects on other areas like women’s agency, healthcare, and poverty. The CSP is our way to illustrate how we can begin to solve the climate problem; and the solutions being painted by our network of incredible partners — of which SRIJAN is one — will be on display this July.

Members of the GMPCL stitch together palash leaves to make plates and bowls

SRIJAN is one out of several non-profits that are implementing inclusive climate solutions across the country, and reimagining development in the process; their efforts need more visibility and capital to be brought to scale. The goal of the ICC’s upcoming Climate Solutions Platform (CSP) is to curate high-impact climate solutions in the development sector — a pathway to protect ourselves against accelerating risks and enabling larger social change through novel technologies and livelihoods.

Robust climate projects need to take on multiple lenses to ensure their effectiveness; but clearly also have ripple effects on other areas like women’s agency, healthcare, and poverty. The CSP is our way to illustrate how we can begin to solve the climate problem; and the solutions being painted by our network of incredible partners — of which SRIJAN is one — will be on display this July

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