Ambuja Cement Foundation, India: Social engagement in Kodinar.

Ambuja Cement Foundation, India: Social engagement in Kodinar

Since 1993, Ambuja Cements Ltd., one of the Holcim Group companies in India, has engaged in community development work around its manufacturing plant in Kodinar, Gujarat, through its foundation, Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF). The ACF, currently working with 670 villages in 10 states, has a budget is approximately CHF 11.2 million, of which half comes directly from Ambuja Cements, and the balance from government and donor agencies.

ACF's livelihood enhancement program supported farmers in sustainable agriculture practices focusing on horticulture promotion, more water-efficient cropping and livestock health improvement. The benefits include the supply of drinking water to 65 villages and the possibility of harvesting two crops a year, and the approach has been adopted and replicated by government and other agencies.

Its mission is to energize, involve and enable communities to realize their potential, working alongside rural communities, local NGOs, and governmental and international organizations. This approach helps generate a pool of knowledge and resources that can be leveraged to ensure that the value of every rupee invested is multiplied many times.

The ACF has been involved in community development for over a decade. The last seven years have seen a focus on water management, including developing resources and reducing salt content. This work has been carried out through stakeholder engagement and with the active participation of community members.

Ambuja Cements' first plant and mines in Kodinar are between the Arabian Sea, and the Gir Sanctuary and National Park. Over-exploitation of natural resources, faulty cropping patterns, erratic rainfall and increasing populations have all contributed to higher salinity in the local water supply and reduced availability of fresh water. After consulting with local communities, it became clear that problems could be addressed through large-scale water harvesting, less water-intensive crop cultivation and micro-irrigation devices. Ambuja Cements collaborated with community members to construct dams on rivers as well as improving and interlinking rivers, streams, ponds and wells to ensure a consistent fresh water supply throughout the region, benefiting thousands of farmers.

The Foundation's work also focuses on health care and the empowerment of women through self-help groups, skills training and micro-credit opportunities. In Kodinar, 44 self-help groups were created with total savings of CHF 22,000. Local women were recruited and trained to become Village Health Functionaries, enabling them to conduct preventative health care education in their own villages. This complemented a workplace-based program to combat HIV/AIDS through education, clinics and counseling centers.

As part of a Group-wide review of CSR activities, an assessment of ACF's work in Kodinar was undertaken using Holcim's SES methodology. Focus group discussions with the community concluded that the program's main objective - water resource management - is appropriate, addresses key concerns and enhances economic development. Community members and leaders acknowledge that ACF's contribution is highly valued, and additional social issues are being incorporated into future planning.

Using the SES framework, ACF will now evaluate all its projects and continue to report against a number of long-standing key performance indicators such as the numbers of hand pumps installed, trees planted and people undergoing training.