Conservation-based Livelihood Opportunities that Sustain Rural Lifestyles
Nestled in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, Avani is a community built on the principles of sustainability and local empowerment. A global network of diverse employees, interns and volunteers give life to Avani’s community-centric rural development programs.
In a region where small farms are many families only source of income, Avani is a hub of opportunity; constantly developing new approaches to sustainable, conservation-based livelihood generation for rural communities.
The name “Avani” comes from the Hindi word for Earth. Avani creates opportunities for rural women and men to find viable employment through a self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable supply chain. Every business decision related to Avani products is guided by a strong responsibility toward environmental best practices and sensitivity to the cultural context of the villages where we work.
Avani was founded in 1997, originally as the Kumaon chapter of the Barefoot College. In 1999, Avani was formally registered as a non-profit organization.
Social Enterprise Meets Social Empowerment
Avani creates a lasting shift in the socio-economic fabric of rural villages. Our holistic approach to employment opportunities ensures sustainable livelihoods for women and families, resilient communities and vibrant ecosystems.
At Avani, the process of production is as important as the products themselves. We combine traditional knowledge and craft with a modern approach to production and distribution. We take a triple bottom line approach to address Economy, Ecology and Empowerment. We use local resources to create contemporary products and services for a global market.
The cornerstones of our work have always been environmental conservation, women’s empowerment, fair trade and preservation of traditional knowledge.
Our projects are inspired by and tailored to the unique topography, resources and culture of this Central Himalayan region. Building on local knowledge and practices, Avani puts naturally available resources to use in innovative ways in collaboration with local people.
COMMUNITIES WE WORK WITH
Local people. Local skills. Locally-sourced materials.
Avani focuses on capacity building in rural communities, and on creating opportunities for women and families to make sustainable contributions to their villages. We are devoted to generating income for local people using only local skills and local, environmentally friendly materials. Our primary focus is on sustainably harvested and produced tints, dyes, textiles and garments.
Today, Avani includes a network of nearly 800 artisans and farmers who work together to grow, process, design and create products that generate income for local residents. Products range from raw natural colorants for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to eco-friendly art supplies for children to textile printing and dyeing. Each product line is part of a high quality industry on track to scale and compete in international markets.
Avani initially began working with the Shauka community, also known as Johari or Johari Shauka, of the Bageshwar and Pithoragarh districts. Traditionally, the Shaukas lived a nomadic life and were a part of the thriving Indo-Tibetan trade before Tibet was taken over by China. This made them increasingly dependent on spinning and weaving – a traditional craft they practiced to process animal fiber for their use and commerce.
More than 63% of Avani’s artisans come from the Bora Kuthalia community. Traditionally, this agrarian population processed hemp fiber grown in Kumaoni valleys but they are now abandoning the craft because of the ambiguous legal framework around the growth of Indian hemp. We train them to work with silk and wool in a profitable manner.
Though both men and women are involved in the activities of Avani, the focus is largely on women, where 85% of the participants in the programmes are women.
Apart from the main Tripuradevi center, Avani has six field centers in the villages of Digoli, Sukna, Dharamghar, Chankana, Thanga and Basti. The villages of Digoli, Dharamgarh and Sukna, and Chankana have donated land for construction of production centers. Most of the villages are very remote, ranging from 30 minutes to four hours walking distance from the nearest road. To date, Avani has worked directly with 108 villages, benefitting 4,540 people and indirectly impacting 22,700 people through its various projects and activities.
Avani works with a variety of natural fibers and materials to create its artisanal products. Several species of rare plants and trees provide dye materials, as well as the natural soap (from the soapnut tree) with which we wash and care for our textiles. The farmers who cultivate and collect these materials enter into sustainable livelihoods and become a part of a larger production cycle. Using these renewable materials also provides incentive to plant, grow and protect the plants and trees that yield them, thus preserving the local ecology.
Rashmi , co-founder of Avani, has been working in the field of rural development for the past 22 years.
Rajnish began working with Avani in 2001 as a trainee supervisor, and has since become
Rajnish, co-founder of Avani, is a management graduate from Lucknow University with over 22
Deepa came to work at Avani after twelfth standard in 1999 as a community worker
Rajendra Kumar Joshi
Popularly known as Raju da on the campus, Rajendra has been with Avani since 1999.
Santoshi is in charge of finished goods stock for Kumaon Earth Craft. She was trained
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