Wednesday, 13 December 2017


SHGs has thus far been just a theoretical aspect in our curriculum. A comprehension of how they actually work and the issues faced by them were just academic manuscripts! Being students from Xavier School of Management (formerly known as XIMB), Bhubaneswar, we yearn to perceive the practical Rural Development and the opportunity just knocked itself with the ladies from a village Peria Kanur, Tiruppur.
After joining SLI, Auroville as a part of our Learning experience, we were exposed to a plethora of colours: colours laid by the people of Tamil Nadu, with enthusiasm bubbling and the endless interest to learn and develop not just for themselves but the society in which they live in. During the first few days of our expose, we came across a SHG of 17 women, from Peria Kanur facilitated by Ms. Arockia, a force of empowerment all by herself. They were about to rebuild the brand of their own product, a herbal Thuvaiyal, which they were forced to shut down due to labour issues.

So, timing was perfect: our interests intrigued and they also wanted to have a different perspective of the issues. Not a responsibility, but a herculean task to uphold the confidence in them, their products and its fruition.

Supported by Mr. Michael, Project Director, DRDA, their products were put on sale in the 45-day Government Exhibition of Tiruppur as a market test, being held at Chikkanna Government Arts College. The stall, in which the products were sold, came under the category of Mahalir Thittam (Ladies’ Self Help Group Exhibition and Sales). Keeping the total cost in mind, each bottle was priced for Rs. 70. The product name was unanimously decided to be ‘Tirumadi’ (‘Tiru’ for Tiruppur and ‘madi’ meaning purity). Though the sales have skyrocketed, with the first batch of 40 bottles being sold in the first 3 days itself, keeping it up will be very challenging.

This trial run will be monitored for future expansion by making more products, like herb infused Idli Podi. Gradually, they plan to enter retail shops of the Tiruppur District and also launch their product in Amazon Saheli, an online store which will feature unique products produced locally by Indian women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs under the program will be able to enjoy a slew of benefits such as subsidized referral fees, free imaging, and cataloguing during launch, account management and post-launch support and enhanced discoverability and differentiation of products through specialized storefronts.

Over time SLI has stupendously supported many dreams, given a lot of people the skill not just to work but the motivation to boost their morale to keep them dreaming about their future. They have broken all stereotypes and replaced the notion of earning money to earning sustainable money! They have instilled the society with hope: overcoming all social barriers, the women have high hopes. And we justified the famous quote from Desmond Tutu, “HOPE is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”.

Sarthak Das
Xavier School of Rural Management (XIMB-XUB)


Thursday, 16 November 2017

People. Food. Music.: Rural Women Empowerment

Two years ago, Krishna McKenzie published this song which was part of an initiative by Solitude farm, SLI and Emergence to bring permaculture to rural villages of Tamil Nadu. The song and video were sponsored by SLI and recorded during one of our programmes.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Rural Development Secretary of Tamilnadu visits Auroville, 7th November 2017

Mr. Hansraj Varma, I.A.S., Addnl. Chief Secretary and Secretary, RD&PA, Government of Tamilnadu visited Auroville on 7th November 2017. The Chief Secretary was accompanied by the District Collector of Villupuram meet Mr. Mohan Verghese Chunkath, Secretary, Auroville and SLI Executives and Director. He also visited Aurvoille Earth Institute, Sunlit and Naturllement.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Follow up Visit Coimbatore

As part of our training programme, we, SLI, periodically visited districts to study the impact of our programme and also understand the training requirement of the community from the particular district. On 4th Oct’17, a three member team comprise of Mr. Lakshminarayanan, Liaison Officer, SLI, Mr. Raja Ganesh, Programme Coordinator and Mr. Ramkumar, Logistics Support from SLI visited Coimbatore district and meet the district officials, cluster facilitators and community members. Further the team visited some of the community initiated Common Livelihood Group activities to identify the areas of training needs.

Coimbatore is one of the major industrialized districts of Tamilnadu and much closer to Kerala state. It is a hub for major textile and garment industries. Most of the population mainly depends on these factories for their livelihood. Agriculture is equally important since the climatic condition of this region is so feasible for crops and animal husbandry. Coconuts, Paddy, Cholam, Pulses are major agriculture products of this region. Minimum wage of the labour here range between Rs. 200 to Rs. 400 per day.

The team interacted with Assistant Project Officers and Cluster Facilitators of the district TNSRLM and assesses the impact of our programme at district level. For the past two years more than 30
participants attended various training at SLI and some of them initiated their enterprises activities based on the skills they acquired from the training. Cluster Facilitators informed that 2 of them started Herbal Beauty care units at their villages and 1 of the participants – Ms. Annapoorna –SS kulam- is doing Masala ball preparation for her personal needs and also provide it to neighborhoods. Community Facilitators and members requested to organize training at their Block or Panchayat level since Auroville is located far away from Coimbatore, most of the women group members find difficult to travel and stay out of home two to three days. It was suggested that to do some advanced session at Block level based on the requirement after completing basic / introduction session at SLI, Auroville.

The training requirement of the community are Vermi Compost, Mushroom production, Country Chicken, Millet based food processing, Herbal products. Marketing of their product is one of the major challenges of the community; hence their main request is to train them on Branding and Marketing related support.  Asst Project Officers of the district suggested provide training on Dairy Products,  Millet processing, Herbal food production and Marketing & Packaging.
The team visited Thamaraikulam and Aanamalai villages to meet Coir production CLG and Petal leaf growing CLG members respectively. The team interacted with the group members to understand the livelihood opportunities of their products and its main challenges to address in their future course of training.
As a whole, this visit gave wonderful experience to the team to understand the ground realities of rural livelihood sector and also helped to identify new avenues of training to promote more income generation activities to the communities in livelihood front.

written by Mr. Raja Ganesh 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Read September Report on our blog!

SLI creates a report about its work once a month. It includes various details about all the programmes that happened in a month as well as some feedback and pictures. The monthly reports starting with September 2017 will be posted on the page "Monthly Reports". Please enjoy these further information on our work.

Newsletter September 2017

Friday, 6 October 2017

Video: Former Interns talk about their time at SLI

Varshini and Harish spent 40 days as interns at the Sustainable Livelihood Institute as a part of their studies at Tata Institute. In this time they learnt a lot about farming as strategy for disaster management. At SLI they enjoyed the freedom of choosing their field of work and created for example their own gardening patch.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Introduction To Urban Vegetable Gardens - An Experiential Learning Workshop @ Sustainable Livelihood Institute

If you have been dreaming all along of starting your own garden for vegetables and don’t know where to start, here is where you do it. SLI has been organizing and providing training on various nuances of sustainable agriculture over 2 years for rural community leaders from across Tamilnadu and other states as well. Currently, it is launching an exclusive experiential training programme for backyard / terrace vegetable gardening for the consumer who wants to grow her own vegetables.

The programme will give a basic understanding of – local food and food culture, advantages for health in consuming self-grown food and also provide you with techniques on setting up your food garden and nurturing the same.

The course has been designed primarily for the urban consumer and is directed at providing them with an understanding and appreciation of vegetables grown in their own backyard or terrace apart from providing techniques to manage the same. The one day programme has been designed with a view of convenience for the urban consumer and comes along with package of practices that can be adopted easily.

Date: 07th October 2017
Time: 09:00 am to 05:00pm
Venue: Sustainable Livelihood Institute, Auroville.

Write to us at for more details.

Contact Deatils:
Sustainable Livelihood Institute, Kottakarai, Auroville, Villupuram District Tamil Nadu - 605 111,
Phone Number: 0413 - 2622333 / 2622690. 
Mobile Number: 97878 54557 (RajaGanesh) / 99434 64311 (Kumar)

Faculty Profile:

Subha Bharadwaj is a socially sensitive and active professional from Chennai. She has been an ardent gardener for a couple of decades now. Organic Garden Foundation provided her a platform to share the knowledge and learn more and more about the challenges and pleasures of terrace gardening. Her journey with OGF started in 2015 in organizing a seed and sapling sharing event and there’s no looking back since then. She says everyday for her has been a ‘rewarding experience’.

Raja Ganesh is an experimental learner of organic farming. Having roots in farming, he has been a professional on the way to becoming a farmer. Currently, the Programme Coordinator of SLI, Raja has been actively pursuing learning various schools of natural farming and combining them towards developing unique sustainable agriculture training programmes at SLI.

Parthasharathy belongs to a dryland farming family from rural Virudhunagar district and has been a successful farmer and farmer institution builder for over a decade and half. A consultant for several farmer producer companies today, Partha combines an unique background of skills, knowledge, experience and insights in working with several organic farming initiatives apart from setting up farms.

Ramasubramanian is the Director of SLI and a safe food activist for almost 2 decades. He has been involved in several organic farming initiatives in the state of Tamilnadu including the drafting of the yet-to-be-released policy on organic farming. He has set-up city based organic farming consumer networks, information services for the safe food consumer and also facilitating dissemination of knowledge on safe food. 

Radhakrishnan is one of the several field workers who had been directly influenced and worked with the famous organic farming guru of Tamilnadu, Sri. Nammalvar. Hailing from Villupuram, he has been involved with organic farming practices training since over 2 decades. He has been a regular faculty at SLI for preparation of organic inputs to the soil and natural pest management techniques.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Chinrampatti - A Sustainable Livelihood Village in the making? -Part 1

On the 29th of April 2017, a team from SLI visited the small village of Chinrampatti in Vellore district as part of their follow-up field visit. What greeted them in this village far exceeded their expectations, and has now filled everyone at SLI with new hope for the future.
               Chinnapappa Thangavel, an enthusiastic resident and SLI trainee from Chinrampatti
with SLI director, Ram and Program Manager, Raja Ganesh.

From September 2016, three different groups of women had come from Chimrapatti to SLI to attend training programs. Following this, the village had prepared meticulously for the SLI field visit in April 2017 to showcase everything they had implemented in their village as a result of their training at SLI. From establishing and successfully running a community nursery (with over 50,000 plants) to conducting a health survey of the village to investigate how they can provide basic health care with ethno-botany knowledge they had gained from ‘Herbs for health’ training program in SLI, the villagers exhibited unique aptitude and capacity to make substantial change in a very short time. They had also organised a cattle camp on the day, and had prepared herbal remedies that they learnt during ‘Ethno-veterinary’ program at SLI.  

The SLI team consisted of Ram, our Director; Raja Ganesh, our Program coordinator; Parvathy, one of our key faculty members and Lakshmi Narayanan, our Government Liaison officer. While Parvathy provided expert advice at the cattle camp and discussed more ideas for ethno botany innovations for health with the women, the others interacted with the rest of the villagers and were approached by many, especially the youth, asking for more training programs. They were impressed by the villagers’ desire to learn more to improve their living condition, the conditions of their village and more importantly the youth expressed desire to train in livelihood options to stay in the village rather than go to the nearby town or city looking for work. This is a development that gives a lot of hope for future rural development initiatives, and The SLI team returned feeling that Chinrampatti could be a model village in the making where villagers themselves are taking initiative to bring in positive change.

  “It's not every day we get to visit a village as part of our follow-up that has adapted and utilised each one of our training programmes that it's village women have attended as an enterprise. Chinnarampatti panchayat is a small village of about 350 households in vellore district. Since a few months now, thanks to one panchayat functionary who has taken the responsibility to drive innovation in the village, the village had taken several interesting initiatives forward... Young men come up and tell us, "we don't want to leave the village, want to stay and work here, but, don't know what opportunities we can tap into", that is a promise. A very satisfying day...” Ram, SLI Director.

How did this small village start its journey in to sustainable livelihood?

Madesh with his nursery team at Pitchndikulam Forest, Auroville

It all starts with the story of one man, whose passion to bring  change to rural Tamil Nadu has now been taken up by his entire village. His name is Madesh. Madesh serves as a clerk in Tamil Nadu Panchayat. His relationship with Auroville goes back a long way, and he is devotee of Shri Aurobindo and the Mother. During one of his visits to Auroviille, he became friends with Mr. Loudres from Pitchandikulam Forest. His subsequent visits to Lourdres’ community, meeting Joss Brooks, learning about Pitchandikulam’s rural outreach programs left a deep impression on him. He realised that there are alternatives to what was happening in rural Tamil Nadu villages where globalisation and consumerism were taking over traditional livelihood options. He returned with a burning passion to ‘create a little Auroville’ in his Panchayat. He tried doing this in the Panchayat he was working at the time, but his senior officers were not interested, so he got a transfer and moved to his native village of Chinrampatti where he knew he would be supported in this initiative.

In September 2016, under the leadership of Madesh and support from their Panchayat, the first group of women came from Chinrampatti to attend ‘Raising Nursery and Maintenance’ training program at SLI. They have now set up a thriving nursery on peromboke land around Chinrampatti, with over 50,000 plants, mostly using the seeds they were given during the training. They are supported by their Panchayat through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

This was followed by an SLI field visit in October 2016. This visit helped to further develop the nursery, and plan for future training. Two more groups of women from Chinrampatti visited SLI in April 2017 to attend two different training programs; namely, Ethno-veterinary & clean dairy practices, and Herbs for primary health care. The second field visit happened soon after these programs, and within that short time, the villagers had already identified 40 different herbs in the village area that could be used for primary health care and ethno-veterinary practices.

Future plans?

The community of Chinrampatti has requested SLI to organise training for them in five different areas including sustainable agriculture, waste management, marketing and sustainable entrepreneurship. We are currently in the process of designing these programs for them. The community of Chinrampatti is in the process of expanding the nursery and planting more trees on poromboke land close to water bodies in the area. They are also in the process of using the 40 herbs they have identified in their region to make herbal remedy preparations for ailments identified during their health survey and establishing an herbal primary health care system in the village. Madesh continues to lead the village in visioning a sustainable future together, and taking concrete steps in that direction. The SLI team hopes to welcome groups from Chinrampatti here soon to continue this journey of sustainable livelihood development. 

* As this story continues to unfold, the team at SLI has organised more training programs, and other groups from Chinrampatti has visited our campus. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog soon! *

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Community Dinner at SLI

On occasion of Buddha Purnima, SLI organised a community dinner on our Campus in Kottakkarai. Aurrovillians, guests and participants who had come for one of our training programs joined SLI staff for a beautiful evening under the full moon. Arnab.B Chowdary ( led an enchanting meditative chanting session which was enjoyed by all. SLI hopes to organise such events regularly on our campus from now on, bringing elements of our work in to the realm of community building within Auroville and the bioregion. Introducing music as a core element of sustainability has been an area that we have explored before in SLI by organising talks on ‘Music and Sustainability’. On the occasion of Buddha Purnima, Arnab’s chanting was the perfect way to experience healing the world is yearning for. Delicious food, memorable company and a beautiful evening- we are very grateful to all who attended !

Friday, 24 March 2017

Sustainable Livelihood Institute (SLI): Second Year Anniversary

Visit of Additional Director, Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Guindy

Ms. R.V. Sajeevna, Additional Director, Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Guindy visited SLI on 23rd March 2017 and discussed with Executive members and Director of the Institute. It's an opportunity for both the institutes to share our experiences and explore possibilities to work and exchange ideas and resources.