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Rotary announces US$2 million Programs of Scale grant to work with farmers in India

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Rotary International Convention also spotlights programs to create healthy communities, eradicate polio


Rotary International’s fourth Programs of Scale grant will support members' work with Indian farmers who have been affected by climate change. Barry Rassin, chair of The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees, announced the US$2 million grant at the 2024 Rotary International Convention in Singapore.

The program, Partners for Water Access and Better Harvests in India, will aim to increase groundwater tables, extend cultivation areas, and raise the incomes of about 60,000 farmers by 25% to 30%.

“Farmers in India are responsible for producing much of the world’s wheat, rice, and other food staples. But the groundwater these farmers depend on is vanishing. Climate change is making rainfall more erratic, which leads to drought,” Rassin said. “We are working with Indian farmers on a five-year program to plant the seeds for sustainable farming in India for generations to come.”

Partners for Water Access and Better Harvests in India will build rainwater collection systems such as check dams and ponds to increase groundwater tables by 10% to 15% each year in four states. It will also work to reduce soil erosion on about 4,100 hectares (more than 10,000 acres) of land by introducing drip irrigation and planting native species and fruit trees. This will help offset the effects of climate change and facilitate sustainable farming practices.

The Rotary Foundation has awarded Programs of Scale grants to evidence-based, sustainable, and successful programs that target at least one of Rotary’s areas of focus and can be expanded to create far-reaching change. The programs are sponsored by Rotary members in collaboration with local communities and partners that offer additional expertise and support.

The other finalist this year is One Million Healthy Mothers and Newborns. This Ugandan initiative aims to reduce maternal deaths by 35% and newborn deaths by 35% in at least 200 public health centers.

  1. Visitors explore the Peace Park in the House of Friendship at the 2024 Rotary International Convention in Singapore.

  2. Attendees at the 2024 Rotary International Convention in Singapore participate in a workshop about measuring the results of their service projects.

  3. Audience members discuss ideas after the third general session at the 2024 Rotary International Convention in Singapore.

  4. Participants chat at the 2024 Rotary International Convention in Singapore.

  5. Attendees learn about the progress toward eradicating polio during a breakout session at the 2024 Rotary International Convention in Singapore.

Healthy communities and the fight against polio

The Rotary Healthy Communities Challenge, launched by Rotary International in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and World Vision, was also formally announced at the convention. The US$30 million program will address some of the deadliest childhood diseases in four African countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Zambia. Obinna Onyekwena, the deputy director of program advocacy and communications for the Gates Foundation, introduced the program and presented a video address by Bill Gates.

“This program will empower Rotary members in target countries with resources to implement large-scale interventions, focusing on reducing deaths from malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea  the greatest threats to children under five,” Onyekwena said. “I’m Nigerian, born and raised, so believe me when I say I know this work will change lives in my home country and far beyond.”

Convention attendees also got updates on Rotary’s progress toward eradicating polio.

Audiences at the day’s general session heard from Aidan O’Leary, director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization, and Tayyaba Gul, a member of the Rotary Club of Islamabad (Metropolitan), Punjab, Pakistan, and CEO of the group Youth Catalyst. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, of which Rotary is a founding partner, is vaccinating 400 million children each year against the disease.

Two breakout sessions – Making World Polio Day a Public Image Triumph and Together, We End Polio – also addressed the future of the eradication effort.

Other breakout sessions included Trauma and Mental Wellness in Times of Crisis, which reflected RI President R. Gordon R. McInally’s focus on mental health, and Exploring AI and the Future of Our Clubs. At the latter session, Annegret Schnick and Peter Wilfahrt presented an overview of artificial intelligence and offered ways for Rotary members to use it in their clubs. “The topic is important to us because AI is developing really fast,” Schnick said.

The speakers, both members of the Rotary Club of Bayreuth-Eremitage, Germany, sought to quell fears about AI and demonstrate its practical potential. They said clubs could use AI tools to enhance their public image efforts, for example, in creating newsletters and social media posts. AI can also generate ideas for service projects, transcribe and summarize club meetings, and analyze member surveys, they said.

Wilfahrt, an information technology specialist who describes himself as a “friendly hacker,” developed an AI tool specifically for Rotary members to help them get started. “AI is a way to make everything we care about better,” he said.

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- May 2024