Helping over 4000 families recover from a disaster

In 2009, heavy rains caused massive flooding in the northern part of Karnataka, India. The Bagalkot district, a predominantly agricultural region with 3 rivers, was one of the worst affected areas. The flooding caused tragic loss of lives, destroyed over 50 thousand homes in 65 villages, wiped out entire crops, killed most of the livestock, and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people in the surrounding communities in that district alone. Many of the people already lived below the poverty line.

When the disaster struck, many government agencies, NGO’s, and humanitarian organizations worked to rescue people, treat the injured, and begin the process of rebuilding damaged infrastructure. Intel donated money and other supplies to assist in the recovery efforts. Intel could have just written a check and scratched “disaster recovery donation” off a list of CSR tasks for the year… But that just isn’t how Intel works. We are a bunch of geeky engineers who do “root cause analysis” and find “systemic fixes” for everything that we do. Why would we treat our CSR efforts any differently?

So, in addition to making an initial donation, Intel’s relief efforts took an innovative and long term approach to disaster recovery by focusing on rebuilding the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable, enabling them to reestablish their economic independence.

Intel teams worked with local citizens, community leaders, government officials, and several NGO’s to develop a multi pronged program to help the flood victims rebuild their ability to earn a living in a sustainable and dignified manner. The program was designed to restore the agricultural base as well as provide locally relevant skills training to help diversify the local economy.

Intel helped to establish farming cooperatives that work together to share farming resources, improve irrigation and farming methods, and market their produce. Improvements in the irrigation and farming techniques has improved crop yield and converted over 100 acres of dry land into cultivatable land. In addition, replacing the fruit trees that were damaged in the flooding reduced soil erosion, improved the land fertility, and provided a long term economic opportunity to the residents.

To help those who had lost their livestock in the flooding, groups of families were given cows or sheep. The livestock program included long term plans for to improve its sustainability. Families receiving cows were connected with the Karnataka Milk Federation to provide support and the opportunity to earn money by selling dairy products. Families receiving livestock donations committed to donate part of their earnings back to a self help group they created among themselves to extend the program’s reach in helping other flood victims. Other families were given a local poultry species which requires less maintenance and has higher resistance to disease than non native birds.

The program restored the fishery occupations of over 48 families. The flooding destroyed the ponds and washed away nets and other tools. With the restored fisheries it is expected that 15,000kgs of fish will be harvested, providing a substantial economic benefit for the families.

Intel also worked to diversify the livelihoods of the predominantly agriculture dependent poor families through skills training including carpentry, sheet metal work, leather work, weaving, welding, house wiring, electric motor repair, tailoring, as well as basic PC literacy and repair of mobile phones. And in the true Intel style of results orientation, the program didn’t stop just at the skill training but also ensured that each of the trainees were either placed in jobs or able to start their own enterprise through access to seed capital, thus creating a regular income stream. This was done to ensure that while the land regained its fertility, and farming was restored in due course, the dependent families were able to diversify their income source and break the vicious cycle of debt.

Finally, the program worked to create revenue generating microenterprises for women that respected the social norms of the community, enabling women to work in small groups, to earn money for their families. These groups of women worked together to achieve an economy of scale that enabled them to create self sustaining profitable businesses.

Intel’s efforts in Karnataka demonstrated the company’s culture of innovation. Intel believes that social responsibility means more than just writing a check. It’s about making a real impact in people’s lives by addressing the root cause.

Maybe it is the geeky engineer in us that makes us think this way, but in the end, this innovative approach allowed Intel to help over 4000 families restore their means of economic support in a sustainable and dignified manner. By working directly withthe communities, the government leaders, and partner organizations, Intel was able to use its innovation to address the real and fundamental needs of the people in Karnataka and make a substantial difference in the communities’ recovery.

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