John Deere Foundation Partners to Improve the Lives of Farmers in India

January 16, 2018

For eighteen years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has recognized leading businesses whose purpose-driven work makes the world around them a better place. During the recent Corporate Citizenship Awards, held November 15th, 2017, the John Deere Foundation received the Best Community Improvement Program award for its work partnering with smallholder farming communities in Rajasthan, India.

The Joint Initiative for Village Advancement, or JIVA, is an extension of John Deere’s higher purpose to support elevated living standards for people everywhere through a commitment to those linked to the land. JIVA traces its roots to a volunteer project championed by John Deere’s CEO Sam Allen in 2011, when he led a diverse team of employees that worked for a week side-by-side with farmers in three villages in northwest India - Morra, Madara, and Sakrawas. From this initial experience, Mr. Allen and the John Deere Foundation enlisted PYXERA Global, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, to work with these three communities to co-create JIVA and bring John Deere’s higher purpose to life.

JIVA is guided by John Deere’s and PYXERA Global’s belief that farmers are some of the world’s most gifted entrepreneurs. The JIVA approach empowers farmers to explore high-value agricultural interventions that are well-suited to the area in order to increase household income and resilience. Similarly, JIVA’s approach to improving education for youth is informed by the belief that the schools belong to the community and that education is central to strong agricultural practices. In response to the local opinion that the public schools offered limited value, JIVA developed a holistic, grassroots approach to expose students, parents, and teachers to quality education. Both the resilient agriculture and accountable education initiatives are supported by investments in foundational infrastructure projects, such as drip irrigation for farmers and functional toilets in schools, which are critical to enhancing program impact.

JIVA’s integrated approach of simultaneously bolstering agricultural productivity and educational opportunities feeds into a virtuous cycle, where increases in average household income through advanced and more resilient farming practices have improved community investment in education. Meanwhile, gains in education help drive farmer productivity and profits, improve community health, and expand opportunity. JIVA’s impacts are meant to be deep and lasting in the three original villages. The partners are now scaling up the program and extending it to new villages in the surrounding area – with the benefit of five years’ experience and trust established through the community-first approach.

Distinct from many philanthropic or sustainability initiatives, JIVA embodies true partnership and collaboration between the John Deere Foundation, PYXERA Global, and the community. Embedded in the partnership is a trust that encourages experimentation. JIVA is not static. Like the weather in Rajasthan, the program’s activities are ever-changing, evolving to deliver fit-for-purpose solutions for an always-changing reality on the ground. Trust among the partners – and in farmers’ and families’ abilities to make the best decisions - makes this possible.

When describing JIVA during a keynote speech at the World Food Prize in October, Mr. Allen stressed, “[The] initial trip to Rajasthan in 2011 was more than an act of corporate responsibility; it was the spark for launching John Deere’s formal employee volunteerism program.” Mr. Allen has challenged John Deere employees to record one million hours of volunteerism between 2017 and 2022. Clearly, the impact of JIVA has been felt not only by the villagers in Morra, Madara, and Sakrawas, but by the entire John Deere team.

JIVA has positively impacted the lives of many farmers in India. In this video, you’ll meet Sita Kumawat, Morra resident and food entrepreneur. With the region’s scorching climate and lack of water, farming in Morra is extremely difficult. Additionally, all of the work must be done by hand. But with help from JIVA and new farming techniques, like vermicomposting and line sowing, Sita is helping transform her village. Watch the video to learn more.

JIVA: Sita's Story