Innovation of the Week: Directed Funding to Alleviate Poverty

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By Supriya Kumar

When the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was created in 1997, it changed the top priority of Britain’s aid program from economic development to fighting world poverty. Today, DFID works with various multi-lateral organizations, regional banks, and over 50 countries to alleviate poverty worldwide. In India alone, DFID has directed around £295 million ($476 million) between 2009 and 2010 to programs that work to improve the lives of the 456 million Indians who live in poverty.

DFID-Department-for-International-Development-Energy-Farmer-Food-Security-India-International-Research-Rice-Institute-IRRI-Rural-Livelihoods-Programme-Western-Orissa-WORLP

Jamuna Sabar was able to develop her land thanks to WORLP (Photo credit: DFID)

For 65 percent of Indians, rice is a staple food. Unfortunately, India’s rice production is declining, partly as a result of climate. Global warming has likely increased the frequency of storms and large rice-production areas are now prone to floods. Although rice thrives in wet conditions, it is unable to survive if the whole plant is completely submerged in water.

In response to this problem, the International Research Rice Institute (IRRI), which receives core funding from DFID, has developed scuba rice. This flood resistant rice escapes drowning by extending its leaves and stems beyond the water’s surface. Mini kits that contain five kilogram packets of seed have been distributed to more than 100,000 Indian farmers and the hope is that it will be fully adopted in India within five years.

While climate change has made some areas in India prone to floods, it is also likely making other areas prone to droughts. In Larki, Orissa, people struggle to deal with the aftermath of a 20-year drought, including low wages and income, and the lack of water is forcing many families to migrate to other states.

With DFID funds, the state government’s Western Orissa Rural Livelihoods Programme (WORLP) has helped 800,000 poor people in four districts of the state of Orissa. Under this program, farmers were given seeds, told what crops to grow and given advice on farming techniques to adapt to the changing weather. With over 60,000 water harvesting structures to prevent soil loss and recharge ground water, the farmers are now able to have a grain bank where they can store excess grain for people in need. The community has also saved over 700,000 tons of carbon by moving away from diesel pumps and burning cow dung for energy.

Energy is another area that DFID has helped improve in India. Although it has the fifth largest electricity generation capacity in the world, limited resources, a badly maintained power sector, and defective equipment make India susceptible to frequent power shortages. One-third of Indian businesses have blamed expensive and unreliable power as one of their main business constraints.

Between 2005 and 2009, DFID provided £ 11 million ($ 17 million) to the Madhya Pradesh Power Sector Reform program. Through this program, DFID reorganized the state of Madhya Pradesh’s electricity board, established regulatory reforms and provided technical assistance to power distributors to reduce leakages and carbon emissions. Over those four years, power losses in Madhya Pradesh have dropped from 44 to 37 percent and carbon emissions have been reduced by 38 percent.

To read more about other programs that are working to alleviate poverty, see: Serving as a Catalyst for the Funding Community, Small is beautiful. Big is necessary, It Starts with ONE and Holding Families and the Country Together: Providing Scholarships to Improve Gender Equity and Alleviate Hunger and Poverty.

Supriya Kumar is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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