Coorg (Kodagu) is one of the smallest districts in Karnataka State, South India typically known for its coffee plantations. The district has a population of  5,54,000 of which nearly 50,000 or 9 per cent are indigenous people (Scheduled Tribes in official parlance).

Cividep seeks to improve socio-economic opportunities for tribal coffee-plantation workers and their families. Currently we are working in a few tribal villages to address community health issues. We train young tribal people to become health activists and spread awareness about common illnesses, nutrition, immunization and hygiene among their community.

Till the forest laws were implemented stringently, the tribal people depended upon the forests for their livelihood. Now their main source of livelihood is wage labour in the coffee plantations and farm lands.

Employment is seasonal and apart from daily wage, they do not receive any social security benefits from employers. Poverty and ill-health are endemic to these communities of working people. There is well-entrenched social discrimination practiced against tribal people and their status on human development indicators like infant mortality, enrolment in schools, per capita income are far below that of the other communities in the district. State and private initiatives to ameliorate their situation have had only marginal effects.

Long-term objectives

  • Improving employment conditions including wages and social security benefits
  • Enhancing access to resources within the forest like land, herbs and other minor forest produces, fuel and fodder
  • Influencing CSR initiatives of corporates to ensure that tribal people benefit out of these projects
  • Effective utilisation of tribal welfare projects
  • Participation in forest conservation projects such as the ‘Model Forestry Project’ so that interests of tribal people as stake-holders are protected
  • Integrating tribal livelihood with and deriving greater benefits from the organic farming movement
  • Integration of tribal livelihood with fair-trade initiatives
  • Exploring non agrarian skill training and employment avenues for educated tribal youth

The logic of the project is to obtain sustainable livelihood options for the tribal workers by adding value to their skills and integrating them in an advantageous position into the plantation economy of the district as well as into forest conservation efforts by public and private agencies. The district is termed a micro ecological hot-spot within the macro ecological hot-spot of the ‘Western Ghats’ of South India. The growing global market for fair-traded and organically produced coffee, tea and spices also would be accessed for better wages and social security benefits for the tribal plantation workers.