Rome Club Report 2018, Chapter 3.2: Development Alternatives
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Development Alternatives is an extremely encouraging example of an initiative taken in one of the world's poorest regions, which has provided reliable livelihoods, jobs, ecosystem health and optimistic prospects for literally millions of people. The initiative was launched by Dr. Ashok Khosla, who in 1982 left his comfortable career with the government and the United Nations to create a new type of institution designed to bridge the gap between civil society and the Government, on the one hand, and civil society and business, with another. Ashok and his team were able to demonstrate that environmental problems are best addressed by addressing their root causes. Although in many cases immediate remedial measures are needed,

The development of alternatives began with a $ 100,000 grant to the project from UNEP. It began its work by analyzing what changes are needed in existing systems of the economy, society and management to ensure the preservation and restoration of environmental health for future generations. She acknowledged that since more than 70% of India’s population (and, in fact, most of the South of the world) lives in villages and small towns, the environmental picture should include issues that concern them most, even if they are not usually perceived by city residents or international community as relevant to them.

The main social goal of the DA was to find and implement methods for empowering people in various ways. “Empowerment”, in his opinion, includes the ability to participate in the modern economy, social status for access to benefits, and the power to participate meaningfully in family, community, and local government institutions. The end result of this chain of growing potential is the creation of citizens who are more in control of their decisions and their future. In essence, this means sustainable sources of livelihood — jobs or occupations that provide income, dignity, and meaning. Such work should create goods and services to meet basic needs, as well as preserve and rejuvenate the environment. It means,

In accordance with the philosophy of Gandhi, technology must be more human in scale, less wasteful in terms of resources, and directly respond to the basic needs of the people who deal with them. The possibility of such sustainable development is undermined if economic and social inequalities in society are large. The extremely poor tend to overuse and destroy (mainly the so-called renewable) resources because of the need for survival and the need. The very rich tend to overuse and destroy others (mostly non-renewable), most often from greed and law. Thus, increasing social justice, as well as the eradication of poverty, are becoming the main instrument for environmental protection.

To implement the concepts and developments, DA has created a group of associated organizations that are formally independent, but have contractual obligations to put these concepts and projects into practice. In addition to non-commercial flagship development alternatives, they include the commercial wing, Technology and Action for Rural Development (TARA), as well as various subsidiaries that operate as business entities and are registered as companies that produce and sell Technology Development. Alternatives.

As an analytical center, DA has done pioneering work in developing such concepts. In addition to these core objectives, it has a very innovative research and development mechanism that develops specific technologies that meet both environmental sustainability criteria and criteria related to poverty eradication. These include cooking machines and appliances (household wood stoves), power generation (gasifiers), green, available building materials (mud blocks, concrete micro-plates, fiber cement elements), weaving (extended hand; see fig. 3.2), hand recycled paper and other environmentally friendly products for sustainable livelihoods. Much of the work of the DA was focused on restoring the health of land, water and forest resources.


Picture. 3.2 TARA “Flying Shuttle Loom” - a loom without power: it gives the weaver 3-4 times more income than a traditional loom (photo: Development Alternatives)

Ashok Hosle and his team have many years of experience in this area, which cannot be sustainable livelihoods if there is no ecological security - and vice versa: densely populated ecosystems cannot survive without sustainable livelihoods for all. Thus, in the aggregate of measures developed and implemented by Development Alternatives, sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection are interchangeable concepts.

Can the official sector solve the problems of unemployment?

The question, as a rule, is whether the formal employment sector can solve the problems of unemployment.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the world will need approximately one billion additional jobs to overcome global unemployment. This is actually the goal of sustainable development (SDG). This will mean that developing countries need to create more than 50 million new jobs each year. At the same time, even in the poorest countries, the ability of agriculture to recruit additional labor is rapidly declining.

Box: livelihoods are low compared to regular jobs

According to basic economic principles, the creation of livelihoods and jobs should, as a rule, be the work of the corporate sector. However, the corporate sector is currently not created to create jobs or livelihoods in third world countries in the required quantity. The imposition of global competition encourages industrialists to invest in cars, not people. Global competition dictates the criteria leading to the high costs of creating new jobs. The capital required to create a single industrial workplace in an industrialized country is about $ 1,000,000. Even if wages in developing countries are much lower, new jobs in industry can also be very expensive.

Such large initial investments are a serious obstacle to the creation of new enterprises in the formal sector and, consequently, to the creation of jobs.
Even India, which is regarded as a successful country in terms of creating new jobs in the manufacturing industry, has not been able to achieve a net increase in such employment. Over the past 25 years, the economy has reached new heights, but the total number of people employed in India’s large formal corporate sector (including business outsourcing - BPO processes) has remained virtually unchanged.

Therefore, it seems extremely unlikely that the 8th goal of sustainable development will be achieved through additional jobs in the formal sector.
Considered leads us to believe that someone else must take responsibility for creating jobs and providing sustainable livelihoods. It is here that the sector of small and medium-sized businesses appears: market-based, profit-making enterprises, which are mostly small and generally local. In most countries, they are the largest sources of jobs and livelihoods. Development Alternatives is an innovative part of this segment.

Perhaps the most important, but least understandable, impact of large-scale livelihood creation on a country's demography. Along with girls and women’s education programs, sustainable livelihoods are likely to be the most effective incentives for small families and fertility declines. As for the long-term interests of global health, it is in the interest of all, rich and poor, to speed up the process by which the demographic transition to low birth rates and, as a result, to low population growth is achieved in poorer countries. And lower birth rates can be the most powerful answer to the unemployment problem!

During its 30-year duration, Development Alternatives has implemented about 700 projects worth over $ 150 million. This has led to large-scale changes in people's lives, especially in remote communities, mainly in northern and central India. These changes include the creation of jobs and livelihoods as end products of many intermediate steps, which can be summed up, as mentioned earlier, by the term “empowerment”. It is not difficult to estimate the “direct” jobs created by industries created using technologies, or the number of farmers who immediately occupied jobs because of their dams and water management systems, or the number of women who were able to get paid for their work that from time to time is no longer required to collect water or fuel.

Many of those who are “empowered” - through the acquisition of skills, assets, material rights, access to knowledge about job opportunities and other similar factors - have the opportunity to get a job or create livelihoods for themselves. The proportion of those who are empowered in different ways, who actually make a profit, varies (based on field experience) from 10% to 30%. For women, this figure is probably lower due to their limited mobility in traditional societies.

Development Alternatives typically take a lower number to estimate its impact on livelihoods and job creation, or about 1.6 million people, in addition to creating direct and indirect jobs that are estimated to be in area 1 million people Thus, according to estimates of external observers, Development Alternatives are directly and indirectly responsible for creating about 2.6 million jobs over the course of more than 30 years of its existence. This is amazing, everyone would agree. However, if the downstream multiplier is also taken into account, the final figure may be in the range of 5 million.

Education is an important element in the livelihoods of the poor. In this context, the DA has developed the Literacy to Self-Sufficiency program, a comprehensive solution primarily designed to meet the basic literacy and numeracy needs of rural women. As a first step, registered women are provided with functional literacy through the TARA Akshar + ICT program, a computer-based training program that uses advanced teaching methods that allow students to read and write in Hindi, as well as simple mathematical calculations, for 56 days and at a very low cost. At the second stage, postgraduate education is carried out by the Academy of Welfare TARA, a division of advanced training of DA.

TARA, the commercial wing of the DA Group, generates corporate ideas and business models for aspiring micro and small entrepreneurs. TARA aims to promote low carbon paths and inclusive growth through enterprise development in rural housing, renewable energy, water management, sustainable agriculture, and waste management and recycling. Together with its partners, TARA has contributed to the creation of more than a thousand enterprises since its inception, thereby mobilizing the local economy and creating green jobs. One unit TARA TARA Machines and Tech Services Pvt. Ltd has created small “waste for wealth” business cases based on green building materials production technologies. Their product range is developed for the Indian market,

Another DA activity is the construction of more than 400 “control dams”, which counteract the alarming trend in India to lower groundwater levels. The chronic drought in Bundelhande has been exacerbated over the years. But control dams were the right answer to disaster. They revolutionized water safety at a very low price. In fact, they support the slow movement of surface water, which also leads to much more efficient use of water for crops. Productivity growth is about 25%, which leads to much higher income for local farmers. Impressed with the success of the WF in the 1980s, “control platinum” technology was widely adopted by other development organizations and the Indian Government for large-scale implementation throughout the country.
Control dam:

  • 200 ha of irrigated land
  • 2 crops per year

Groundwater Replenishment:

  • 200 sources to existence
  • Cost: 8000 €. ROI: 200 +%

Development Alternatives was one of the first large international NGOs headquartered in India. DA and its associated manufacturing and marketing organization TARA are now the main institutions in India for environmentally sustainable development with more than 800 employees working in various parts of India.

The following diagram shows an impressive picture that summarizes the DA's success story for three decades in empowering people.
A similar picture is observed with regard to environmental and production achievements, such as a reduction in CO2 emissions of 850,000 tons and a reduction in water consumption of 935 million liters. As for jobs, the previously mentioned modest figure of 2.6 million


Picture. 3.3 Social achievements DA for 30 years (Source: Development Alternatives)

The DA group defines a transformation program for India as the restructuring of institutional systems, as well as changing virtually all approaches to society and the economy, including consumption and production patterns, welfare and equity, as well as business and management. Its essence lies in rethinking the economy as a subsystem of society and nature and, thus, as a means of ensuring a socially just and environmentally sustainable future, and not as an end in itself, as is the case at present. Instead of following the path of development of Western societies, going through a phase of intensive industrialization with extremely negative environmental and social consequences, the DA stresses the need for India to define its own development path - at best,

To be continued ...

For the translation, thanks to Jonas Stankevichus. If you are interested, I invite you to join the “flashmob” to translate a 220-page report. Write in a personal or email

More translations of the report of the Club of Rome 2018


Chapter 1.1.1 “Various types of crises and feelings of helplessness”
Chapter 1.1.2: “Financing”
Chapter 1.1.3: “An Empty World Against Full Peace”

Chapter 3.1: “Regenerative Economics”
Chapter 3.2: “Development Alternatives”
Chapter 3.3: “ Blue economy ”
Chapter 3.4:“ Decentralized energy ”
Chapter 3.5:“ Some success stories in agriculture ”
Chapter 3.6:“ Regenerative urban planning: Ecopolis ”
Chapter 3.7:“ Climate: good news, but big problems ”
Chapter 3.8:“ Economy of a closed cycle requires a different logic "
Chapter 3.9:" The fivefold performance of resources "
Chapter 3.10: “Tax on Bits”
Chapter 3.11: “Financial Sector Reforms”
Chapter 3.12: “Reforms of the Economic System”
Chapter 3.13: “Philanthropy, Investment, Crowdsors and the Blockchain”
Chapter 3.14: “Not a single GDP ...”
Chapter 3.15: “Collective Leadership”
Chapter 3.16: “Global Government”
Chapter 3.17: “Actions at the national level: China and Bhutan "
Chapter 3.18:" Literacy for the Future "


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