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Marketing an Idea for Facilitating Urban Food and Environment Security – Experiences of IIIBFT, a Chennai-based NGO, in Promoting Societal Participation for Sustainable Development*

CASE STUDY, CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
ET Cases - GSMC, 17 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Dr. Alagu Perumal Ramasamy - Assistant Professor, Dr. A.Indira - Associate Professor - Loyola Institute of Business Administration

Case Preview

Marketing an Idea for Facilitating Urban Food and Environment Security – Experiences of IIIBFT, a Chennai-based NGO, in Promoting Societal Participation for Sustainable Development

 

“In November 2008, I started to work on a field-based project for Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) aimed at understanding the Entrepreneurship among Dalit women in interior areas of five districts in Tamil Nadu. In my travels during the next two years I found prime agricultural lands being converted to residential plots.

When I enquired about the type of jobs the family members were engaged in, I was told of all kinds of jobs except agriculture. They would say that they were working as construction workers in a city or a security guard at an ATM or something else but no agriculture. When asked why no one took to agriculture, they listed a number of difficulties that they were facing - lack of water, labour shortages and escalating cost of labor, meager and uncertain incomes, escalating cost of seeds and fertilizers among others which discouraged them from continuing farming in their lands. It was more lucrative to leave the land fallow for some years and sell it off as non-agricultural land to a real estate developer later. This experience kept bothering me,” says Alagu Perumal, Founder – Director, Indo – International Initiative for Billions of Fruit Trees (IIIBFT) who is also a faculty at LIBA. Could something be done before it was too late? How could farming be taken up in an urban city? Were there any examples outside India which had tried to look at creating food sources in urban areas? With these questions in mind a quest for a solution began.......

Food Security in Urban Areas

India was surging towards greater urbanization, with an estimated population of 590 million to be living in the cities by 2030. The McKinsey Global Institute Report 20101, stated that this converts to nearly 700-900 million square metres of commercial and residential space that would need to be built up to accommodate this huge rush. It also included 2.5 billion square meters of roads that will have to be paved. The report noted that Tamil Nadu tops the list of the states which were likely to be more than 50 percent urbanized in 2030. Further the report states that as of 2008, Tamil Nadu had an urban population of 35.4 million (53 percent of total population) which was expected to grow to 53.4 million (67 percent of total population). Chennai, the capital city would grow to a population of 11 million in 2030...........

Conceiving the IIIBFT Idea

Alagu Perumal, Founder Director of Indo – International Initiative for Billions of Fruit Trees (IIIBFT) was contemplating on how to create more sources of food in urban areas and he hit upon the idea of a fruit tree by chance. “I had a mango tree behind my house and one day my wife made several types of mango based dishes to add to rice, as for some reason we did not have any vegetables that day at home. Then it struck me if I can grow more of such fruit bearing trees in large numbers and get them planted in all sorts of spaces in the urban and semi-urban areas................

The IIIBFT Model

IIIBFT model propagated mass production of fruit bearing trees by utilizing materials that were usually discarded as waste; seeds collected from homes and used milk sachets. The saplings were grown in small unused stretches in schools as part of school activity by involving school children in a hands-on approach. The saplings produced would be maintained and distributed with the support of civil society, corporate and government bodies. An important aspect of the IIIBFT model was the low cost of production.............

Foray into Schools

Alagu Perumal after serious thought about ‘catching them young’, initiated the activity in his daughter’s school. The children were excited and grew about 1,500 saplings in the first few months. An important learning was school children were interested, readily willing to do the activity than the college students. By the end of 2012, LIBA Green Summit 2012 was organized which was graced by the then Minister for Social Welfare and the Mayor. During the event about 3,000 saplings (both the saplings raised by the students of LIBA as well as the ones raised by the students of the school) were donated to the Tamil Nadu Cooperative Union...............

Seeds Production and Maintenance

Seeds are collected by the volunteers of IIIBFT and preserved in cool and dry environment to be used in the sapling activity at schools. Seeds are collected with the help of school children as well. The children were assigned to collect seeds, typically neem, tamarind, Jamun, Indian Mast Tree, Badam, Mango, Guava, Custard Apple, Sapota, Papaya, Pungai (Pongamia Pinnata), Pinari Sterculia, Punnai (Alexandrian Laurel) among others that were found in school campuses...........

Monitoring

The question that remains is how to design monitoring mechanisms for furthering the activity. Involvement of skilled staff is a very important component of the activity. There is a definite need to help the children while transplanting the saplings from the mother-bed to the packets.........

Attitude

Teachers’ attitude played a key role in the success of the activity in the school. In schools where teachers have freedom and the management was supportive, the impact was very positive. The involvement of both the teachers and the students in the exercise becames rather enjoyable (Exhibit VIII). Where the management was unwilling, and support not available, the quality of output suffered..............

Affirmation

IIIBFT has worked with 25 schools so far and found it a rewarding experience. The faith in children and the teachers has only strengthened and multiplied over the years. IIIBFT has started to identify the talent among students and teachers to protect nature and nurture it by recognizing them with Awards and Certificates of Appreciation..........

Low-Cost Fencing

As the saplings have grown over the years, the issue of guarding them had come to the fore. Tree guards were important for maintenance in the first two years of growth. Different methods were sought to be tried out. It was a practice to fix metal tree guards to protect the saplings from damage. However the tree guards were expensive and had a problem when it came to removing them.............

Collaboration

To get introduced to schools IIIBFT worked with a local NGO which had experience of working with many schools across the city. It had as one of its value statement ‘vegetarianism’ and one of its objective tree planting. However, after a few occasions, it was realized that the scope available for IIIBFT was limited. Alagu Perumal felt he remained a resource person who could be called on Vannamotsav days for schools to deliver lectures........

Finding Sponsors for IIIBFT

Corporate funding has been the main stream of funding for IIIBFT activity. Alagu Perumal’s connection with LIBA is at the centre of the initiative. The idea started with absolutely no financial requirement. Seed money to the tune of twenty thousand rupees was used to print letter pads, brochures and envelopes. However, the main activity as such was conceived as though there would be no need for any major financial outlay meant for material costs............

Way Forward

The IIIBFT had put together a very limited process distribution network within the city among a group of schools. But the processes envisaged in each of the Stages were yet to be strengthened. In stage 1, IIIBFT had reached out to a large number of schools for seeds production, maintenance and distribution. Colleges and a larger participation of the communities was yet to be coordinated. Distribution of saplings was also yet to take off, which was dependent on the number of saplings that can be grown in a site............

Assignment Questions

I. What should IIIBFT do to create better awareness of growing fruit trees? Is the method of using school children a good idea?
II. How can IIIBFT build teams for its social cause that can plan for a more sustained action on the environmental front?
III. ....................

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Seed Collection at IIBFT Founder’s Home

Exhibit II: Drying Milk Covers and Saplings Growing on the Terrace at LIBA

Exhibit III: Initiatives in LIBA

Exhibit IV: IIIBFT Logo

Exhibit V: The Mind Map Showing the Conceptual Framework of IIIBFT

Exhibit VI: Demonstration Lecture Module in Progress and Students Participating in the Activity

Exhibit VII: The Profile of the Schools Where the Project was Initiated (as of 2014)

Exhibit VIII: Students Participating in the Activity

Exhibit IX: Guards for the Saplings

Teaching Note Preview

Marketing an Idea for Facilitating Urban Food and Environment Security – Experiences of IIIBFT, a Chennai-based NGO, in Promoting Societal Participation for Sustainable Development

 

Synopsis

This case study is trying to look at ways in which fruit bearing saplings can be grown in an urban environment. It also seeks to encourage a discussion of how this initiative can grow to support all forms of life. The premise on which this is sought to be supported is that fruit bearing trees can be a source of ready alternate food in an urban environment. The initiative looks at bringing together institutions to further the concept of growing saplings in as little space as possible with minimum or no initial cost. The current case gives an account of how IIIBFT had worked with school children in the city of Chennai. Both government and private schools had overwhelmingly participated in this initiative. IIIBFT has been able to design a small demonstration tool that is being used in the schools. The discussion also highlights the challenges faced by institution. The initiative is open to suggestions and ideas that can help it to scale up and replicate this initiative in different parts of the city and the country.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding before the Classroom Discussion

The students/participants should be asked to do a brief survey of the urban landscape of the city in which they are residing. The students should be asked to prepare a brief study note on how cities are evolving. They should be asked to list out the indigenous trees that are commonly seen in the city.

The following paper is to be given as a reading:

Hughes and N. Haq, “Promotion of indigenous fruit trees through improved processing and marketing in Asia”, The International Forestry Review 5(2003): 176-181.

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in MSW, MBA, Executive MBA or Executive Development Programs, for Course on Sustainability or Course on Corporate Social Responsibility.

  • • Course on Sustainability: “How societal participation can affect in mitigating hunger?” – to sensitize the participants regarding hunger and malnutrition that is plaguing the world, and understand how societal participation can help the cause.
  • • Course on Corporate Social Responsibility: “What kind of initiatives can be brought under CSR?” – to make participants aware of different forms of initiatives that are in need of funding.

 

Assignment Questions

I. What should IIIBFT do to create better awareness of growing fruit trees? Is the method of using school children a good idea?
II. How can IIIBFT build teams for its social cause that can plan for a more sustained action on the environmental front?
III.............

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Abstract

**IIM RAIPUR – ET CASES Award (GSMC 2017) - For Social Initiative/Social Entrepreneurship

Award Winning Case Study

India is surging towards greater urbanization, with an estimated population of 590 million to be living in the cities by 2030. Tamil Nadu is one of the states which is likely to be more than 50 percent urbanized and Chennai, the capital city would grow to a population of 11 million in 2030. Countries like China and Cuba have tried to integrate food production into urban development. Beijing since 1960s, has its vegetable supply come from the city’s own market gardens that costs less than produce trucked from distant areas. Cuba has also promoted intensive urban and peri-urban horticulture since the early 1990s, accounting for 60% of horticultural production. Among other ways of promoting urban food security, FAO has worked to establish school gardens as means of promoting child nutrition by providing tools, seeds and training in more than 30 countries. This helps children getting familiar with horticulture and help teachers develop nutrition courses and, when replicated at home, would go a long way to improve family nutrition as well. This case showcases the steps taken in design and dissemination of the idea of raising fruit bearing and other trees through school children. The work is carried out by Indo – International Initiative for Billions of Fruit Trees (IIIBFT), a Chennai based NGO. It has initiated a billion fruit trees campaign and begun the implementation of the idea in educational institutions (primarily schools) in and around Chennai city. The case documents the experiences in implementing the exercise of involving children in city schools. It identifies working solutions for schools to undertake the project and execute the idea. It looks into the attitudes of schools, teachers and children in developing a sapling bank within the school. It tries to understand the motivation and incentives required to promote societal participation.



Pedagogical Objectives

  • To discuss and debate how teams can be built for a social cause that can plan for a sustained action on the environmental front.
  • To understand the role of institutions in promoting socially responsible initiatives formally and informally.

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in MSW, MBA, Executive MBA or Executive Development Programs, for Course on Sustainability or Course on Corporate Social Responsibility.

  • Course on Sustainability: “How societal participation can affect in mitigating hunger?” – to sensitize the participants regarding hunger and malnutrition that is plaguing the world, and understand how societal participation can help the cause
  • Course on Corporate Social Responsibility: “What kind of initiatives can be brought under CSR?” – to make participants aware of different forms of initiatives that are in need of funding


* GSMC 2017, IIM Raipur



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