INTRODUCTION TO VIHARA FOUNDATION
The Vihara Foundation (VF) is a US 501(c)3 non-for-profit registered in the State of New York. VF was commissioned in April 2009 to formalize and incentivize the design and implementation of whole-system business and scientific modelling for poverty alleviation and climate risk management in Bihar/Uttar Pradesh, India, one of the most poverty stricken and challenging regions (developmentally) in the world (and according to the World Bank). Today, VF is engaging in humanitarian and sustainable project development not only in India, but in the Caribbean, Philippines, Australia and United States.
VF’s founding was championed by senior retired United Nations (UN) Ambassadors who saw the importance to collectively continue their work by supporting and encouraging young and motivated sustainable development practitioners to further the innovative ground and strategic development work being undertaken in India, including, innovating programs to support creative development financing. To date, the Vihar Poverty Project of the VF stands as one of the few promising non-govt driven initiatives to scalably uplift marginalized farming communities of North India, and support mitigation of climate risks (which threatens the livelihoods and sustainability of millions of people subject to direct and indirect climate impacts).
Over the years, VF has also seen its mission evolve to include economic development advisory to developing nations of the Caribbean, as well as natural disaster planning, relief and climate impact resiliency for hurricane affected regions. To sustain these robust non-profit mission, project developments, and good causes, VF is also associated with implementation of creative development financing programs, i.e., Rock against PovertyTM.
Extension of work by VF are also currently being facilitated for the Caribbean. At present, lessons learned from the Indian poverty project are being benchmarked and transferred into the Caribbean and in support of Climate and Disaster planning and recovery.
ABOUT THE STORY BEHIND THE VIHARA FOUNDATION
The concept of whole-system planning for addressing poverty is not common amongst today practice and practitioners, as too many individualized and micro-approaches exist. VF identifies that a macro whole-system approach can be more profound and sustainable in addressing poverty over micro approach – (not discounting the invaluable benefits micro programs has contributed to over time).
The rationale behind whole-system planning for addressing poverty was first conceived during travel and documentation (by VF Founder) of the abject poverty situation in Bihar India, 2003. Here, (one of the most poverty stricken regions of the world), it was difficult to comprehend the state of underdevelopment and suffering (in context with the rest of the developed world), especially since Bihar was once a place of marvel, culture, tremendous historic and intellectual value, and the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Indian civilization as we know it. It was here that the vision for whole system integrated planning for addressing poverty presented itself, and a vision of how to pursue this, conceived.
VF APPROACH TO POVERTY ALLEVIATION (AND POVERTY RELATED CLIMATE RISKS)
VF aims to help poverty stricken communities from across the world move up and out of poverty towards sustainable livelihoods. To achieve this ambitious goal, the VF is focused on designing innovative poverty alleviation business models that are whole-system in design, sustainable, and aims to be self financing (and least burdensome to governments and donors). Presently, our sphere of focus are on rural farming communities, fishing communities, artisans communities, and other marginalized sectors.
Development agencies acclaim the Bihar region of India (including Eastern Uttar Pradesh) presents much difficult challenge to development practitioners; the region missed most of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) targets. In recognition of this, VF has designed a development framework for poverty alleviation and climate mitigation to complement the many combined efforts underway on the ground, to help provide “non-governmental driven” development progress for the region.
Theory vs Practice in Bihar/Uttar Pradesh
VF recognizes farmers and farming communities are “the thread” that make up “the fabric” of local, national and global food security, and their welfare and sustainability is intrinsically tied to the stable functioning of international policies (trade, migration, resource management, political stability and conflict resolution, etc). Hence, unsustainable livelihood at the farming level is not mutually exclusive of the general equation which service those in need, and whose needs are met with contentment and enjoyment (meaning, those as the consumer end of the supply chain typically and inadvertently do not relate to (and are at most times not aware of) the hardship and poverty experienced by those at the producing end).
VF strategy is built entirely on a foundation of “creativity through sustainability” and “creativity in thinking,”, and that all solutions concerning poverty alleviation strategy need not be individualized, micro, or subsidized approach. Its development approach embraces an attitude and implementation outlook of “think big!”, and the reasoning of “wherever there is a problem, there has to be a solution.” In this regard, poverty alleviation is looked at from a whole system fix/macro development planning and design undertaking using sustainability as the innovative driver for solutions that are uplifting and self sustaining.
VF INTERVENTION AND GROUND WORKS
The success of this approach is highly dependent on the attitude and willingness of the people (which is found to be very positive) and has been the basis of moving ground work to where it is, along with the ability to champion new strategies about undertaking poverty works, and international policy surrounding development creative financing, equitable distribution of wealth, and others.
VF APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION
VF is innovating scalable community-based energy efficiency and renewable energy residential retrofit business modelling for both new construction and the vast existing building sector markets. The intent is to achieve scalable impact in low income communities in New York Metro area which can then be shared with other regions within the US and Canada.
VF’s strategy also aims to support the objectives of pro and urgent climate action, contributed by both of the two extremes – developed and developing worlds. This is envisage to take the form of carbon sequestration through agricultural land reform, livestock management, sustainable agriculture, agricultural based fossil fuel phase out, and energy efficiency overall.
VF is also contributing to other main sectors that are significant contributors of carbon pollution, i.e., power generation and the transportation sector.
VF APPROACH TO CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT FINANCING
Vihara Foundation mission to work for the cause of poverty alleviation and climate change in support of the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) demands effective funding mechanisms.
Fortunately, in the case of the Vihara Foundation’s proposal, implementation costs are not foregoing and only initial, limited to the design, testing and expansion phases of its projects only; a unique framework for development self-financing is being developed on the basis of harnessing previously unaccounted and unqualified equity that exists in the poverty stricken economy.
Also, some technical problems extend to national and international domains: for example, instituting creative self-financing instruments for development, and, countering the long standing problem of inequitable distribution of wealth; these require strong legal representation with justifiable expenditure of costs targeted to deliver across the board sweeping results for the benefits of supporting creative development financing.
Reckoning poverty and climate change as technical problems, and designing and testing solutions to address such demand the inputs of technical experts with associated incurrence of costs. THESE COSTS MUST BE MET, BUT DO SO WITH GREAT DIFFICULTIES!
With regards to financing the work and projects of Vihara Foundation, extensive work is being been conducted, and there is strategic action to introduce creative financing instruments in support of project development needs. One such program area is Rock against PovertyTM.