Saturday, February 14, 2009

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #55
February 1st, 2009


Message from the Editorial Team

Rickshaw Bank in India
An initiative for alternative employment

4th International Forum on the Globalisation of Solidarity
An invitation to participate

Message from the Editorial Team

As 2009 begins, all we hear is talk of armed conflicts and the chain effects of a recession that could escalate into a major economic depression. Like always, it is the individuals and people who are the most destitute, the most vulnerable, who suffer the most. As in the 1930s, the starting point of the crisis is the most powerful country, the one that has imposed the form and conditions of globalization. We are all concerned and potentially threatened by what is happening. That is why it is essential today to contribute our own thoughts and make our proposals.
The dogmas that we have spent many years denouncing, like deregulation, privatization, and unsustainable consumption in wealthy countries are finally being queried. This provides us with an opportunity to assert that another economy exists.

We have supported change for over twenty years. These changes have progressively spread internationally and recently been reaffirmed at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil in January; this will continue in the run up to the 4th International Meeting of Globalization of Solidarity in Luxemburg in April 2009. The future of our alternatives is bright. The actors of social solidarity economy will have the chance of having their message heard in the coming months. We must seize this opportunity for building convergences and alliances and acting together.

We are happy to share a very interesting innovation by and for the poorest with you in this newsletter. As we have repeatedly said, innovation and creativity of alternative approaches, based on the empowerment of people themselves in their economic activity, is one of the key resources, perhaps the most valuable means of changing the course of events.

It is a powerful motivation for all of us.

Editorial Team
Judith Hitchman
Yvon Poirier
Martine Theveniaut

Rickshaw Bank in India
An initiative for alternative employment

In India, as in many other countries, people who are uprooted from rural life where they no longer manage to survive, try to improve their situation by moving to urban areas. However, due to a lack of training and skills, they simply increase the number of people living in poverty, often in atrocious conditions. There are currently 8 million rickshaw pullers in India of whom 95 percent do not own their vehicle due to lack of funds. In India, rickshaws are modified tricycles used to transport passengers or goods. To earn a meager living, pullers are obliged to rent them on a daily basis at rates that could be considered excessive (usually controlled by a form of mafia). Out of the average daily income of 75 rupees, pullers are obliged to pay the owner 25 rupees (50 rupees is equivalent to $1 US). And as they do not have an insurance policy, they are in a vulnerable situation if an accident occurs and passengers get hurt. Generally speaking, five people live on this income.

Dr. Pradip Kumar Sarmah, Executive Director of the Centre for Rural Development and a veterinarian by profession identified this problem and tried to find a solution to help these rural people; he thought that the best way was to develop a project that allowed drivers to own their rickshaws.

The project : the Rickshaw Bank

The idea of the Rickshaw Bank was born in 2004. Following a number of trials, a system has been established since 2006 to allow self-employed workers to become independent owners of their rickshaws. In addition, the project includes many innovations:
• A new rickshaw has been developed with the help of the India Institute of Technology using materials that are lighter and more aerodynamic
• The new design makes it possible to install advertising, which increases revenue
• Bank loans now exist to buy their rickshaw, with the help of a development NGO, following agreements with financial institutions and ministries
• The loan is fully repaid within a 12 - 24 month period as pullers use a payment plan equivalent to the same amount of 25 rupees a day they used to pay previous owners
• The loan of approximately 13,000 rupees for the rickshaw also covers money for a uniform, an identity card, a license and two-year insurance
• Solidarity forms within the group as drivers are divided into groups of five (along the lines of loan circles in micro-finance). Every five groups (making up 25 drivers) have a garage to maintain and repair their rickshaws. This place, which is also used for families to access cooking gas, produces a sense of community and becomes a place for exchanging ideas.

More than 3000 drivers have already become owners, and there are so many requests that the Centre for Rural Development can no longer meet the demand. It is important to mention that the project received high visibility in the media, including national television and newspapers. As the project is supported by the different levels of government, and Ministers are often present at launches in new cities, public awareness of the project has increased. It is now planned to expand the project by granting franchises to other organizations throughout India.

The impact

The project is already demonstrating an impact on sustainable community development. This is true at three levels:
• Social - improving the health of drivers and their families; better opportunities for children to go to school, improving law and order (less control by the mafia) and creation of a more positive working environment.
• Environmental - an alternative to the use of fossil fuels (cars) and access to more environmentally friendly cooking gas
• Economic - access to ownership of a rickshaw increases income and living standards, access to financial resources, job creation for young people and opportunities for local companies to increase their sales

The future – the Soleckshaw

A new experimental model of rickshaw, operating on an electric motor with a battery charged by solar energy is being tested in New Delhi. Launched with the participation of the Ministry of Science of India, it is hoped to use the Soleckshaw on a large scale during the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

It is a well-known fact that the density of population in the cities of India is such that eco-friendly transportation must be found to move people and goods. While allowing a significant improvement in living conditions for the very poor, the Rickshaw Bank seeks to improve urban life, and with the large-scale introduction of solar-powered rickshaws, the physical demands on drivers will also be considerably improved.

Author : Yvon Poirier
Summary of a presentation at the COMMACT Conference in Brisbane, Australia, October 2008
For further information:

4th International Meeting on the Globalisation of Solidarity
An invitation to participate

The European Steering Committee is actively preparing for the Lux'09 Forum scheduled to be held from April 22nd – 25th, 2009 in Schifflange et Kulturfabrik (Luxemburg). Almost all the members were present when it met January 9th and 10th, 2009 in Saint Omer (in the region of Nord Pas de Calais, France). This location was chosen in response to an invitation by the working platform hosted by the Pactes Locaux. This collective was holding their 5th and final stage of regional capitalization of experiences on the theme of democratic participation and territorial anchoring. This will be the theme of workshop No. 7, one of the 14 scheduled for LUX09. There is an interactive on-line forum for each of these workshops which covers various themes. See -

The sum of the contributions of the workshops is intended to bring food for thought to the theme chosen by the Europeans, and validated by RIPESS (Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Economic and Social Solidarity), for this IV Meeting of the Globalization of Solidarity: Another economy exists: the innovations of the social solidarity economy. Our world is currently undergoing a deep crisis of the growth model. This model has produced unsustainable and deeply unfair globalization. The actors of the social and solidarity economy are aware that Lux'09 represents an important moment and an opportunity to take a step forward. It provides the opportunity based on their collective advances to move out of the woods and assert themselves as stakeholders who can change the rules of the game and move beyond the crisis by coming up with solutions of excellence.

The April deadline is fast approaching and pre-registration is now possible on-line on the site already mentioned above that is dedicated to the forum, and moderated by INEES (European Institute for Solidarity based Economy). We would like to take this opportunity to remind interested persons who wish to participate in Lux'09 that active contribution to on-line discussions is highly encouraged. In fact this is one of the conditions for fully joining in the process. Go for it!

Martine Theveniaut
General Delegate, Pactes Locaux-Lux’09

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Special thanks to:
Évéline Poirier from Canada for the English translation
Brunilda Rafael from France for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin from Brazil for the Portuguese translation

To contact us (for information, feedback, to subscribe or unsubscribe):
Yvon Poirier