Bengaluru: Akamai’s India Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Trust is helping to tackle a major challenge. By the country’s CSR mandates, the Trust allocates 2 per cent of the branch’s revenue to CSR programmes. Its flagship initiative is the Akamai Accelerator Programme, which supports innovators who use scalable and sustainable technologies to solve India’s water crisis. As the impacts of climate change accelerate, so must we.
More and more countries worldwide are experiencing extreme water shortages as a direct or indirect result of climate change. But few are feeling this issue as acutely as India.
Despite being the fifth largest country in the world, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, India houses only 4 per cent of the world’s water supply. The monsoons that farmers have historically relied on to water their crops have become unpredictable, forcing them to turn to the country’s quickly depleting supply of groundwater.
As a result, more than two-thirds of Indian districts are experiencing severe water depletion, and less than 50 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water.
A springboard for early-stage innovators
The Accelerator Programme provides early-stage organisations with funding, mentorship, and other support to help them achieve a market-ready proof of concept and secure more funding after the Programme ends. Since its 2020 launch, four organisations have completed the Programme: the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, the Foundation for Environmental Monitoring, SmartTerra, and Jaljeevika.
“Akamai’s vision through this flagship Programme has been to identify early-stage innovators and be catalytic in integrating smart, technology-based solutions for water conservation,” says Neha Jain, Director of Programme Management and Co-chair of the CSR Trust.
The Programme has partnered with the International Centre for Clean Water (ICCW), an initiative of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Together, they select grant recipients based on the maturity of the applicants’ technology, their impact and scaling potential, and the credibility of their team. In addition to monetary support, the Programme provides mentorship and coaching, as well as access to labs, resources, and experts at the ICCW.
An educational system for small-scale fish farmers
In celebration of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, we’re spotlighting Jaljeevika, one of two organisations in the Accelerator Programme’s 2021 cohort. India is the second-largest fish-producing nation in the world and its fishing sector has promising growth potential, but small-scale fish farmers face many challenges, including food, nutrition, and economic security.
Jaljeevika seeks to help relieve these issues by:
- Lowering water dependence: Jaljeevika aims to reduce dependence on large water bodies for fish farming. To increase fish production, they are helping farmers tap into the potential of reservoir fisheries, freshwater aquaculture, and small backyard farm pond units.
- Developing knowledge through an aqua school: Jaljeevika has built an aqua school system to help farmers develop their skills across different geographies and aquaculture systems. The school has reached more than 200 women and youth to date and has led to higher wages and enhanced social status for the extension agents leading the community teaching efforts.
- Building an app-based advisory system: The Accelerator Programme’s grant supported Jaljeevika as they built an app-based system to advise farmers about water quality. The system has helped farmers reduce farming investment while growing their income.
“The grant from Akamai has helped us scale enormously, both in terms of technology and business model,” says Neelkanth Mishra, Chief Enabler at Jaljeevika. “Further, ICCW is helping us develop a business and operation system for transforming this model. We started with a pilot in Maharashtra, and now scaled up the idea to test in different geo-climatic environments of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat.”
Community commitment and corporate citizenship
In addition to supporting local organisations, the Accelerator Programme engages Akamai employees who are looking to give back to their community. Employees can participate in either time- or skill-based volunteering, exemplifying the Akamai values of innovation and corporate citizenship. When Cohort 1 grantees needed UI/UX features for their solutions, for instance, Akamai engineers helped develop them.
Because of the success of the first two cohorts, the Accelerator Programme’s team is excited to launch the third cohort this year.
“We are very committed to making a deeper impact in the day-to-day lives of the community,” says Jain. “Cohort 2 grantees have received a grant of over INR 60 lakhs for development and early-stage innovation in water. And we are continuing these efforts with the onboarding of Cohort 3.”