MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) & MARG Karaikal Port proudly announce the success of their joint initiative,"Knowledge Connectivity Program"

~Has led to enhanced livelihood opportunities for fishermen, farmers & Self Help Groups (SHGs), in Karaikal & Nagapattinam regions~

~Has set standards for a successful Corporate – NGO community development partnership model ~

~Has so far benefitted over 20,000 farmers, fisherman and SHGs ~

~Has bagged "Best Community Program Award" at the Responsible Business Summit held at Mumbai in June 2012 ~

~MARG Karaikal Port plans to further scale up its social initiatives having successfully executed this project ~

Chennai 19 June 2013: Witnessing a highly successful joint endeavour in the form of "Knowledge Connectivity for Rural Empowerment" project, MARG Karaikal Port & MSSRF have plans to scale-up this initiative for greater social benefits in the Karaikal & Nagappatinam regions. The project was conceived as a pilot phase for one year in 2011-12 and has been successfully executed by MSSRF with the financial support of MARG Karaikal Port in the districts of Nagapattinam & Karaikal.

The ultimate objective of the project was to deliver information at the doorstep of rural community that is critical to their livelihood using variety of communication channels. Most of the govt. research institutions have considerable wealth of useful data. However, the mechanism to reach data to the needy poor is rather weak. The pilot project has achieved its mission to fill this missing link between Lab and Land and has been successful in promoting the livelihood opportunities among 20,000 target audience in 34 villages of Karaikal & Nagapattinam districts.

The project followed a five pronged strategy of need assessment, mobile phone audio-advisories, help line, phone-in-programme and awareness & trainings to reach the target group and their neighborhood besides reinforcing them through the fortnightly community news paper titled, "Namma Ooru Seithi".

The project predominantly built on a technology platform has tapped the penetration of mobile phones in rural areas and effectively used it as medium for exchange of information and knowledge.

In the present scenario of dwindling fishing & subsistence farming, this project has breathed a fresh lease of life among the fishermen & farming community and has been a ray of hope in reviving the two major economic activities of rural development i.e. fishing & farming.

The project has brought significant changes in their capacity in terms of (a) confidence due to acquiring new knowledge and skills, (b) updating existing knowledge and skills and (c) blending science with traditional knowledge, resulting in improved productivity.

Commenting on the success of this joint venture, GRK Reddy, Chairman & Managing Director, MARG Group said "We are encouraged by the outcome of the project. It has been an enriching experience working with community around us and this strategic partnership with MSSRF has helped us in our social endeavour to enhance livelihood opportunities of local population. We have leveraged advanced technologies employed by MSSRF and their rural networking platform to ensure that our social endeavours produce tangible results. Working closely with a dedicated team of the prestigious MS Swaminathan Research Foundation has been an honour for us".

The commemoration of this event is significant at this point of time when Government is actively advocating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among business houses. MARG Group – one of Indian's fastest growing infrastructure companies has been practicing CSR as an integral part of its business model with principle of inclusive growth cutting across its projects.

Ever since the launch of the MARG Karaikal Port project, the neighborhood population around the Port has been strategically taken under the developmental plan from day one onwards.

MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), the institute of repute for its breakthrough research in the fields of Bio technology, Coastal Systems Research, Eco technology, Food Security, Bio-deversity has pioneered the concept of hub and spokes model. The ICT enabled development instituted through the Village Resource and Knowledge Centres has demonstrated the last mile connectivity in reality. Over a period of time, the efforts through hub and spokes and virtual mode of extending knowledge and skill services has grown to cover 1119 villages in Tamil Nadu across different districts benefitting more than 80,000 rural communities on day to day basis. It helps to enhance their economical status, minimize risks by helping them take timely decisions and appropriate action in aspects related to fishing, farming and enterprise interventions. The thematic helpline services play a pivotal role as a "one stop shop" to get timely advice and inputs for their decision making and appropriate action. MSSRF undertakes a very systematic process to identify and prioritize the felt needs of the rural community, with which it works and extend required services to address those needs in the form of information, knowledge, training and linkages. The periodical follow up and success stories carried out by the Programme and Village Resource Centres help to understand the effectiveness and efficiency of the project.

Commenting on the partnership, Prof. M S Swaminathan, Chairman, MSSRF said, ""The green-revolution helped to improve the productivity and production of major cereals like wheat and rice. In contrast, the rural knowledge revolution facilitated by ICT based knowledge empowerment enhances the quality of life in its totality. Thus, it promotes not only agricultural growth but also education, healthcare, and livelihoods. I therefore complement MARG as well as my colleagues in MSSRF for the remarkable progress they have achieved in assisting 20000 community members from 34 villages with need based services. I wish this programme continued success"

MSSRF has documented the entire process & progress of the project through a web based knowledge management system  on a continuous basis. The occasion also witnessed the release of 3 booklets on Knowledge and Skill Building on Integrated Agriculture, Fisheries and Microenterprises: Case Studies of Rural Women and Men in the Districts of Karaikal and Nagapattinam and Compendium of Thematic focused Knowledge generated out of Expert and Community Interaction "Prof. MS Swaminathan, Emeritus Chairman, MSSRF presented the compilation of success stories from the field to GRK Reddy, Chairman & Managing Director, MARG Group.

The insights & knowledge gained out of this initiative was systematically documented in Q&A format and the same has been unveiled by Prof. MS Swaminathan and was received by the representatives of target community presented in the meeting.

These repositories of knowledge in the form of booklets would come handy for organizations, who wish to replicate this project elsewhere.

Dr. Ajay K. Parida outlined the results of the project and expressed that the 15 years of experience in making best use of the power of appropriate technology with relevant content enabled us to realize optimistic results among the rural community. This project adds value to it contributing for enhancing the livelihoods of the rural community and expanding the services to the last mile, which are evident through community sharing".

MLN Acharyulu, Executive Director - Marine Infrastructure, MARG Group  say, "The program has proved to be very engaging & productive with the combined efforts of MARG Karaikal Port & MSSRF. This initiative with MSSRF has had a very visible positive impact on the ground & is endorsed by the live case studies collected from the target audience on the impact of our pilot project. This collaboration is a role model in terms of 2 organisations coming together for a common cause and leveraging each other's strengths to achieve desired deliverables".

In lieu of the success in improving the livelihood of rural populace of Karaikal and Nagapattinam, the Project is adjudged as the "Best Community Program Award" at the Responsible Business Summit, 2012.

An enthusiastic stakeholder of the project, "Kalaiselvi" who hails from Akkaraipettai village said "I have undergone series of trainings at MSSRF on preparation of sambrani powder, soap oil, phenol, and flower wash. The training not only focused on products but also gave me the courage to start a part-time small scale business. Today I prepare and sell phenol, soap oil and blue liquid that are better in quality than those available in the market. I earn a profit of up to Rs. 6000 a month."

The next phase of the project would leverage the usage of FM media for greater coverage of the audience and would further focus on cluster approach method for creating master trainers among farmers & Special focus on SHGs to pursue economic activities with bank linkages.