A. Fair Cotton Co-operative Alliance
"Fair Cotton Co-operative Alliance" LEDS has initiated the formation of an alliance of various Cooperatives and worker owned firms engaged in the cotton farming-textile production and garment manufacturing value chain, such that they produce organic and fair trade products for the domestic and international fair trade markets. This alliance would ensure better returns for workers and farmers involved in the cotton value chain, who are amongst the most vulnerable in India.
This project has three basic goals:
(a) the most immediate goal is to bring together existing cooperatives and women-owned firms working in cotton farming, textile production and garment manufacturing to form an alliance which will produce Fair Trade and organic cotton products (e.g., the Fair Cotton Cooperative Alliance). This alliance will draw upon its existing strengths to develop product lines for export in the Fair Trade and organic markets. It will also be able to compete in other affinity markets which may favour alternative forms of production (e.g., cooperative retailers), but which need products which cannot be certified Fair Trade and organic (e.g., they require cotton-polyester blends).
(b) the second goal is for the alliance to develop its own women’s Fair Trade and organic brand for cotton goods (e.g., Our Fair Ladies’ Cooperative Cotton). This brand will focus primarily, though not exclusively, on apparel (for university and school markets) and the bed and bath market (especially for institutional actors, e.g., hospitals). Given its unique selling point as an all-women Fair Trade and organic cotton chain, the brand should be especially competitive among public institutions which have ethical and/or sustainable purchasing policies. The development of such a brand will require the alliance to set standards for participation by women in products that are produced under the brand.
(c) The longer-term goal of the project is to extend cooperation among women’s groups beyond the brand and the value chain to create a broad network of cooperatives and women-owned firms with their own certification program (and label) for gender empowerment.
B. Retail Marketing Project with Elements Homestead Products
"Retail Marketing Project with Elements Homestead Products" LEDS has partnered with Elements Homestead Products Pvt. Ltd, a social business based in North Kerala, in creating and operating a Sales and Distribution system in South India for the marketing of its organic and fair-trade products.
The ‘Elements’ branded products – Coconut Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil, Cashew, Coffee etc - are sourced from around 5000 organic farmers in the Malabar region under the farmer collective ‘Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK). The project envisages linking these small holder farmers to the conscious consumers in the domestic Indian market. LEDS believes that linking Elements- FTAK farmers to the fiercely competitive FMCG markets through a best-in-class marketing system is a critical step in addressing the sustainability of farmer collectives, as this happens to be the weakest functional area for most farmer organizations.
Elements and FTAK evolved as a response to the agrarian crisis of poverty and indebtedness that gripped Kerala during the beginning of the 21st century, when producers were not even getting the cost of production for much of their produce. They aimed to address the crisis and to try and find solutions. This led to collaborative action with producers, distributors and consumers to try and create a more just system, where trade is not just to make profit but is an exchange with a human face. Through working under Fair Trade principles, farmers are given a fair price for their products and sustainable farming means that farming protects and nurtures the land as well as the workers.
Under the project, LEDS has instituted a Sales & Distribution system with best-in-class processes that currently services more than 1000 top retail stores in Kerala. The following sales channels are covered:
•Hyper and Supermarkets
•Provision and Stationary
The Sales & Distribution system that LEDS has instituted for Elements has five key functional areas for which elaborate Core Work Processes are laid out and operated as below:
• Resale Operations
• Human Resources and Capability Building
• IT and Management Information Systems
• Finance and Commercial
The following define the philosophy of the project:
1. The determining characteristic of all our business endeavours will be ‘organic’ and ‘fair’ – the former denoting our relationship with the larger universe and the latter the relationship with our fellow human beings.
2. We will constantly strive to reduce the size of the ‘environmental footprint’ of the goods and services we deal in.
3. We seek to uphold principles of equity and fair play in dealing with our various stakeholders. This would include affirmative action in favour of primary producers of goods and services and preferential commercial dealings with those disadvantaged by global commerce.
4. We will seek to define afresh and continuously extend the boundaries of corporate social responsibility and ensure that our business objectives are not merely aligned to but dictated by our responsibility as a corporate citizen.
5. We will seek to set standards and serve as a benchmark for North- South business partnerships anchored on mutual respect, cultural sensitivity and global economic justice.
C. Retail Marketing of Fish based Value added products of SAF.
"Retail Marketing of Fish based Value added products of SAF." LEDS has partnered with Society for Assistance to Fisherwomen (SAF) for the marketing of value added fish products made by small businesses run by fisherwomen. This initiative envisages providing better market access and higher returns to fisherwomen, who are among the most disadvantaged communities in Kerala.
LEDS is involved in providing packaging, branding and marketing support to the SAF units. LEDS has established a market network consisting of supermarkets, provision stores and other trade for the marketing of branded fish products such as snacks, dried fish and fish pickles. The distribution system positioned by LEDS is a novel initiative wherein the products made by some of the most vulnerable communities finds their way into a FMCG retail trade in branded form, under cutting edge systems and processes. Besides retail marketing, LEDS also assists the units is finding B2B and export orders.
The small businesses of fisherwomen are positioned by the Society for Assistance to Fisherwomen (SAF), an agency under the government of Kerala that works for the social and economic empowerment of fisherwomen in Kerala through its multifarious and integrated developmental programmes.
SAF came in to existence post the Tsunami calamity of December 2004 that left behind huge and widespread destruction in the nine coastal villages of Kerala affecting 25 lakh coast-dwelling people. In order to provide relief and rehabilitation to the affected, Government of Kerala devised and implemented the Theeramythri programme. Under the livelihood component of the Theeramythri programmes, around 2500 livelihood initiatives and microenterprises of the Tsunami affected were facilitated. The enterprises thus started provided alternate livelihoods to the affected people in diverse categories as fish processing, tailoring, food processing, hygiene product units, etc. Thereafter, SAF was entrusted with the implementation of the Theeramythri programme.
SHGs of SAF that are involved in production of different products have been collectivized into category-wise federations. LEDS is engaging with the fish-products category for the marketing of their value added products.
D. Promotion of Farmer Producer Companies
"Promotion of Farmer Producer Companies" LEDS is engaged in establishing and handholding Farmer Producer Companies in its own capacity as also in partnership with Small Farmer Agri Business Consortium (SFAC). Currently LEDS is involved in supporting seven producer companies across Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The main activities involved are capacity building of the project team on the institution, conducting value chain studies of the crops, planning the interventions to improve the returns to the farmers in the project, developing business plan, conducting market studies to establish the linkage for the producer companies, support the team in registering the producer companies, etc.
• Achieving economies of scal
• Increasing bargaining power for the famers
• Introduction of new technologies and sharing of its costs
• Adding value to agricultural products
• Gaining access to new markets
• Reducing risks associated with new enterprises
• Obtaining new services
• Purchasing in bulk to achieve lower prices
• Providing credit under reasonable terms.
E. Coconut Development Board
LEDS is engaged in two capacity building programmes with Coconut Development Board of India.
1) CPS Leadership Training
The first programme involves imparting leadership and management training to the office bearers of Coconut Producer Societies (CPS).
The training module includes
• Management and Leadership sessions
o Governance and leadership
o Project Management
o Sales and Marketing
o Case studies of successful projects
• Exposure visits to successful collectives
• Interactive sessions with best-in-class practitioners
• Action planning sessions
Leadership sessions provide the office bearers inputs that hone their leadership skills, as well as energise and enable members towards setting and achieving common goals. Leadership sessions help CPS officials to set a clear and shared vision for the CPS and work together as a team.
2) Friends of Coconut Tree
The ‘Friends of Coconut Tree’ is a capacity building programme that LEDS is implementing in association with Coconut Development Board. The programme envisages to identify, train and handhold 500 underemployed youth in developing special skills and confidence in coconut palm climbing and plant protection activities for the benefit of the coconut community as a whole. LEDS is currently implementing the programme in Ernakulam district.
The context of the project has been the unavailability of Coconut Tree climbers in Kerala, with very few taking on the traditional profession. Coconut climbers are a very vital link in the production chain. The consistent supply of raw nuts for the market as well as for the processing sector can be ensured only by strict adherence to the regular harvesting schedule. 'The scarcity of labour disrupts harvesting cycles thus causing loss of income to the growers. Though the Coconut Development Board has trained unemployed youth in palm climbing, there is a reluctance to enter this field because of the occupational risk and the arduous labour involved in climbing tall coconut trees. In the recent past there has been an array of coconut palm climbing devices developed by individuals, Research Institutions, Universities and NGO’s , which are claimed to be safe and easy to operate. But in spite of all the efforts taken in the recent past, there is still an acute shortage of trained coconut palm climbers for harvesting and plant protection activities. The ‘Friends of Coconut Tree’ is designed to address this issue to a large extent.
The broad objectives of the programme are as below:
• To develop a professional group of youth under the banner of “Friends of Coconut Tree” for harvesting and plant protection operations in coconut
• To impart training to a group of unemployed youth in developing technical skills, entrepreneurship capacity, leadership qualities and communication skills to address the needs of the coconut growers.
• To make them self reliant and instill confidence in undertaking the responsibility of “Friends of Coconut Tree”.
• To tackle the problem of unavailability of coconut tree climbers for coconut farming and plant protection activities
• Generate appropriate technologies to support sustainable growth of coconut sector and generate employment opportunities for the youth
The training coverage includes Coconut climbing techniques, Coconut harvesting operations and crown cleaning aspects, Spraying and pest control operation, Pollination and hybridization techniques, plant protection measures, identification of tender nut, mature coconut and seed nut, developing leadership quality and communication skills, entrepreneurship development skills and thrift/ savings management.
F. KUDUMBASHREE PROJECTS
1. HOMESHOP LOCAL GENDER VALUE CHAIN PROJECT WITH KUDUMBASHREE MISSION, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
The Homeshop project is designed to stimulate local economic development and alleviate poverty by creating a local network (Value chain) of production enterprises, women sellers (that engage in direct-to-home sales), and a distribution agency. Through this project, LEDS attempts to build a local-to-local economy wherein small enterprises established and operated by women of the local community produces goods meant for the consumption of community members. The products are made available to the local consumers through a network of women sellers and a distribution agency (again recruited from the local community).
The Homeshop system is community-owned. It provides livelihood opportunities to poor women producers and sellers; fresh & pure products for the consumers, and strengthens local economic development in the process.
LEDS has established Homeshop value chains in six districts of Kerala which includes:
• Establishment and handholding of sixty microenterprises that make available local produce and value added products (food, hygiene and apparel) to local consumers.
• Recruiting, training, positioning and mentoring 1200 women sellers (of a targeted number of 2400) that engage in direct selling to local households. The women sellers (christened ‘Homeshops’ and one each in every Panchayat ward) sell the products sourced from the production enterprises to 100-150 households in their neighbourhood
• Positioning six distribution agencies that procure goods from enterprises and distribute to women sellers (Homeshops). The agencies comprises of local youth with adequate exposure in sales and distribution.
LEDS has provided professional support to the project on many specialised functions, some of which are:
1. Conducting trade and market surveys for understanding optimal product portfolio and trade terms.
2. Product development of ten products –food, hygiene and apparel.
3. Establishing a network of vendors for supplying materials for the enterprises.
4. Establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SoP)/ production protocols for the enterprises
5. Costing of the products and their pricing
6. Techno-managerial training for the enterprises
7. Developing and training in production planning systems for the enterprises
8. Develop best-in-class packaging for the products
9. Branding of the products
10. Ensuring that all legal compliances are met
11. Establishing IT and MIS systems
12. Establishing warehousing and logistics systems for the distribution agency
13. Capacity building of the distribution agency in sales, supply chain management, IT, finance, HR management, etc
14. Marketing training and handholding for women sellers
15. Review and monitoring mechanisms for the women sellers
2. WOMEN ARTISAN DEVELOPMENT PROJECT WITH KUDUMBASHREE MISSION, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
LEDS has partnered with Kudumbashree Mission for promoting handicraft enterprises run by below-poverty-line women of the Kudumbashree network, and linking them to remunerative markets. The project was initiated in the context of stagnating incomes for women artisans, due to issues related to product quality, product development, production systems and processes and market linkages.
LEDS has been able to make significant contribution to the project, and some of the key outcomes have been:
1. Handholding of 30 craft enterprises in all aspects relating to procurement, production, marketing and support functions.
2. Developing 50 products that conform to international quality standards.
3. Creating the ‘Charutha’ umbrella brand for the products under the initiative.
4. Establishing a network of 60 institutions (including star hotels, corporate companies and other dealers) that buy from the enterprises
5. Establishing operational systems and processes for the enterprises
6. Establishing a distribution agency for the marketing of the products christened ‘Charutha Craft Development agency’
G. RESEARCH PROJECTS
1) Research project on “assessing the potential and dynamics involved in establishing a tender coconut supply chain”
LEDS is currently undertaking a research project on ‘Assessing the potential and dynamics involved in establishing a tender coconut supply chain’. While attempting to establish a tender coconut supply chain in India, it is imperative understand the end to-end dynamics of the chain involving tender coconut procurement, distribution, sales, capability building and new product development. This would provide information for formulating appropriate strategies and business plan that is sustainable as well as paving way for future interventions involving high-end value addition. The research covers analysis of existing supply chain model for fresh tender coconuts, analysis of supply side dynamics, analysis of Trade Channels for TCs and analysis of consumer preferences and optimal product mix.
2) Research Project on “Assessing the Potential of Social Economy Enterprises for Realizing MDGs
is designed for poverty eradication and stimulating local economic development via forging partnerships between local governments, community based organisations and the NGO/private sector. LEDS partners with Kudumbashree Mission in this project. The project envisages managing existing local resources to create livelihood opportunities for the poor and stimulate the local economy.The Homeshop value chain is a local production-marketing-consumption value chain. It operates by linking local Kudumbashree enterprises to the local consumers through a network of women direct-sellers and a professional management team.
In this project, LEDS investigates the potential of ‘social economy enterprise’ for realizing MDGs. ‘social economy enterprises’ are organizations which provide certain goods or services, but do so with an explicit social purpose. They give equal priority to their social/developmental goals and their financial goals. Unlike conventional enterprises, they are not primarily driven by profit motive or investor interest.
Using a case study approach, detailed case studies of five selected social enterprises are developed. Five sets of information were collected:
(a) the organization’s history and business philosophy
(b) its structure and business model;
(c) market conditions, in particular global market(s);
(d) its policy environment;
(e) its development impact.
A survey instrument was be used to interview various members in these enterprises. Interviewees included senior management, workers and members as the case may be, with purposive sampling when necessary to ensure gender representation
Second, LEDS develop a detailed analysis of the policy environment in which SE enterprises operate. This involved:
(a) analysis of policy documents;
(b) interviews with relevant policy-making bodies
(c) interviews of enterprises.
From here we will generate recommendations for policy support.
Third, we analysed global strategies. The hypothesis was that international alliances between SE enterprises are essential for this purpose. LEDS examined the potential for creating Sustainable Value Chains (SVC), i.e., value chains which link SE enterprises in Canada and India. We will continue this research to assess SVCs as a global strategy.
Launch of ‘Kabani’ pesticide free rice
'Kabani’ pesticide-free rice produced by Wayanad Agriculture & Spices Producer Company Ltd (WASP) was launched and marketed by Elements in partnership with LEDS was launched in the Kerala markets on November 1st 2014.
Completion of 100 trainings for CDB
LEDS has completed 100 trainings in partnership with Coconut Development Board in October 2014.
Palakkad Small Farmers Producer Company commences operation
The Palakkad Small Farmers Producer Company Ltd - a farmer collective incubated by LEDS have commenced operations in August 2014.