Last summer, the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand experienced devastating flash floods and landslides that killed thousands of people. Relief was slow to come, with survivors in deplorable conditions for months after what some called the “Himalayan Tsunami” struck the region. The Uttarakhand government reported that as of July 16, 2013, over 5,700 people were presumed dead.
The natural disaster also destroyed crucial infrastructure such as roads and bridges, erasing the livelihoods of local communities. Many families lost their sole earning members. As villages crumbled, many locals saw their entire lives washed away.
In a region that has historically depended almost entirely on tourism, the pilgrimage season, and agriculture for livelihood, villagers are still struggling to make ends meet. “There are thousands of villagers like me who have no means of livelihood today,” said a villager from Phata. “The river has swallowed it all.” Women were left particularly vulnerable, often with no family support or source of income.
In response to this tragedy, the American India Foundation in partnership with the Uttarakhand Mandal of America (UMA), created the Uttarakhand Relief Campaign to rebuild and heal the communities destroyed by the “Himalayan Tsunami” by empowering women. The Campaign supports projects to help women and families who have lost their homes, businesses, or their primary income earner, through rehabilitation interventions designed to promote livelihoods generation.
As of May 30, 2014, AIF is pleased to announce a partnership with the Mount Valley Development Association (MVDA) for the first of several livelihoods projects. This project is investing $114,000 across 11 villages along the Kalimath Valley, and empowers women in the community to play leading roles in dairy and agriculture related enterprises. Using a tried and tested collectivization model, the project federates 50 women’s self help groups and facilitates productivity in the local industries, creating agriculture and livestock based livelihood opportunities for over 600 families over two years.
AIF was born out of disaster relief after the Gujarat earthquakes in 2001, and knows how natural disasters can completely uproot entire communities, leaving people with nothing. Fortunately, with 13 years of experience promoting sustainable development and with the help of our dedicated partners, we can begin the long process of rebuilding and healing communities in Uttarakhand.
We will continue to find and assess the best and most effective ways to help empower the women of Uttarakhand to rebuild their lives. Check back for more project updates coming soon.