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Livelihood Organizations as a Scaling Mechanism and our Ongoing Project with DVARA

By Abhishek Pandey, Fish Welfare Initiative Associate Director, India


While FWI has made significant strides improving our interventions over the years, we’ve yet to validate an intervention that is sufficiently scalable. That’s why we’re dedicating a substantial portion of our resources in 2024 to researching and testing more interventions and scaling mechanisms.

One promising scaling mechanism is integrating our interventions into the services of existing livelihood-focused organizations, known as "livelihood organizations." This post delves into the benefits of this approach.

To evaluate the approach further, FWI entered into a partnership with one such livelihood organization, DVARA, in May of 2024. Through this partnership, we'll work together to train DVARA’s staff to enroll farmers and analyze water quality samples. These samples will be analyzed at a lab supported by FWI, and, based on the results, DVARA’s staff will provide farmers with corrective actions. 

We discuss this partnership and project in more detail towards the end of this post. As always, we welcome your input.

FWI staff training fish farmers on the welfare needs of fishes. This training took place with the Rangailunda Farmer Producer Organization, in December 2023 in Odisha, in conjunction with DVARA’s support.

The Benefits of Collaborating With Livelihood Organizations

Livelihood organizations work to improve the living conditions of marginalized (human) communities. They do this by providing their beneficiaries with resources, training, and support in order to advance their economic stability.

As FWI considers various mechanisms for scaling fish welfare interventions, we are considering partnering with these organizations to include fish welfare in the programs they deliver to the many farmers they reach. There are benefits to this approach—this post discusses several of them:

  • Coupling animal welfare with more holistic societal benefits

  • Tapping into networks of established ground mobilizers

  • Utilizing established government connections

Benefit 1: Coupling animal welfare with more holistic societal benefits

One significant advantage of collaborating with livelihood organizations is that they allow us to integrate animal welfare programs into broader development issues. In the development sector, priorities such as employment, poverty, and gender inequality are often at the forefront. By partnering with these organizations, we can align our animal welfare goals with these critical issues, making our cause more relevant.

Additionally, animal welfare is sometimes seen as an elitist concern in India, one that is primarily championed by the privileged. By working with livelihood organizations, who work directly on behalf of marginalized communities, we can address this perception and make the case for animal welfare as an important component of sustainable livelihoods. This collaboration helps us gain broader acceptance and support for our programs, positioning animal welfare in a more inclusive and practical context.

Benefit 2: Tapping into networks of established ground mobilizers

Livelihood organizations bring with them an established ground network and experienced mobilizers who understand the local context. This existing infrastructure is valuable for the implementation of welfare programs, as it can reduce the cost and time associated with community mobilization.

Additionally, the expertise of these organizations helps ensure that interventions are culturally appropriate and well-received. By leveraging their insights and experience, our projects can potentially achieve longer-lasting and more impactful benefits.

Benefit 3: Utilizing established government connections

Livelihood organizations often have well-established connections with government bodies. For example, DVARA, a prominent livelihood organization (and our now partner—see below), has significant experience working with government entities in Odisha, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and other Indian states. These connections can be critical for our animal welfare programs, as government partnerships can lead to better policy advocacy, increased funding opportunities, and more effective implementation of our programs.

Government funding is another important aspect of these connections, as such funding provides not only financial resources but also legitimacy and access to on-ground support. This support helps in the implementation of projects and in gaining the trust and cooperation of local communities. Additionally, government funding often includes monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that ensure effective use of resources, increasing the overall success of our programs.

FWI’s Ongoing Project with DVARA in Odisha

Given the benefits, we were interested in exploring partnering with a livelihood organization further. The partner we selected was DVARA, a financial services company which uses technology-driven solutions to increase financial inclusion in India.

On one level, the aim of our partnership with DVARA is to expand our programs to a new state (Odisha) and improve the welfare of farmed fishes there. On a deeper level, the aim of this partnership is to assess whether this model—a livelihood organization implementing a fish welfare intervention with our technical and financial assistance as part of their broader portfolio of projects—is promising to pursue further.

FWI staff Karthik and Subrata along with our partners at DVARA, conducting a field visit in the Ganjam District of Odisha (Phase 1 of the project) in December, 2023.

The project with DVARA involves four phases:

Phase 1: Intervention Selection: The first, already-completed phase involved field visits to assess the needs of fish farmers in various districts of Odisha. In these visits, FWI and DVARA teams identified water quality testing as the primary intervention. Stakeholder consent was obtained to define roles and responsibilities, with FWI providing technical guidance and DVARA handling on-ground implementation.

Phase 2: Technician Training & Lab Setup: The second phase focuses on setting up the water quality testing lab and training the technicians selected among DVARA staff. At this post’s publication, the equipment procurement is in process and training is to be conducted shortly. We expect to inaugurate the small lab required for this project at the end of June.

Phase 3: Project Implementation & Sample Collection: In this phase, the goal is to enroll at least 10 farmers to drop off water samples regularly. This phase tests farmer interest and engagement (a key variable), with DVARA taking the lead in managing sample collection and follow-ups. We expect this stage to last several months.

Phase 4: Project Evaluation: The final phase involves evaluating the project's success by monitoring the project throughout the implementation phase. The project report will be compiled, and the promise of this approach assessed. At this point, FWI will make a determination about whether to abort, continue, or scale the project. This determination will be made by the end of the year.

This project is one of our more experimental ones, but we are hopeful that it will yield positive results and illuminate an additional mechanism of scaling welfare interventions to improve fish welfare across India. We will keep you posted on our progress.

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