Inspire others by offering a helping hand

Imagine this.

You are a 20-year-old kid. Your parents could not afford school. You had pre-decided you did not have it in you anyway. You grew up without anyone noticing how.

You went on to get trained on something as humble as bicycle repair.

You gradually learnt the art and the science behind bicycles – 10 years of that to be precise. You get to know the people who come to get their cycles repaired, and how the world works.

And finally, you think you have everything figured out by branching out on your own.

If you are in India, you have primarily two options –

  1. Approach your relatives and friends (who are themselves poor, but a little interest on the side would not harm anyone.
  2. Approach your friendly, neighbourhood go-to guy who makes money go around. The same guy suddenly becomes a toughie when you don’t afford to pay back an instalment. You get owned immediately after – forget the principal, you can’t even think straight about the interest

All this for Rs. 5,000, or Rs. 10,000.

That’s not you, of course. But, that is the real story of Kumar from Karnataka, a 30-year-old who finally decided to get his own business.

get micro finance to set up own business.

Kumar’s story is just one of the countless entrepreneurs who can be found in many villages, towns, and cities. It is inspiring to say the least. We are the people who tend to ignore them.

It is something that most of us here in India relate with, and “think of doing something”.

And then, we forget that. We, the people, are too busy mending our own lives, nurturing our own egos, and fighting our own battles.

We tend to forget that we are the fortunate few. One of those who can afford to pay Rs. 100 without as much as an afterthought, if not for the entire Rs. 10,000 that could have meant using a bus/bike/local train instead of the car.

We are the people who tend to ignore Kumars of the world, but leave it to them to sort out their own problems.

But, not anymore.

Not if you and I could help them at the click of a button with money that would have gone to a dinner + shopping + movie, or as the fortnight’s fuel bill.

 

Micro-finance to the rescue

You get to help people like Kumar and many others through a system called microfinancing.

Many of us will be familiar with the success stories driven by Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. He is the best known of people who took microfinance to new levels. He localized the way things work, helped people around him, and made the concept well known.

Microfinance provides small loans to people who are less fortunate with money aspects. It gives them some maneuverability and an option to get out of the debt trap.

And, it can be driven by people like – yes, you and me.

 

How can you help?

Rangde.org is one of the recent websites I discovered that tries to make a difference. And, you can make a difference as well.

I was hooked when I went through a few stories and saw what people are trying to do in spite of the disparaging conditions around them. All they need is some financial backing.

Rangde makes it easy for you to be that guy or girl.

You select the purpose of the loan (education, vocational courses, microcredit), select regions/people whom you find inspiring and inspire them in turn. It takes as little as Rs.100 to get started.

rangde micro invest and inspire others

 

And that Rs. 100 gets back to you after the loan term if you invest in Micro venture or in a business. You can get interest on your investment if you so desire.

Rangde has put in place an infrastructure to identify potential, qualified borrowers, disburse the loans and collect the repayments. Rangde connects you to the people in need through field agents.

Loans are disbursed at a flat interest that depends on the nature of microfinancing.

interest rates

 

Field partners collect the amount as per repayment schedule. Rangde invests a significant percentage in them, collects a 2% fee to sustain itself, and (if relevant) gets you an interest too.

Rangde has won its share of awards and is a recognized non-profit doing its part towards the good of the society.

rangde.org awards

You, on the other hand, have a well-built website at your disposal. Invest just like you add items to the shopping cart, and pay securely through credit card or through your bank.

You can also track your investments, and track how you are doing your bit at the click of a few buttons and a small amount of money. You could become a larger part of this cycle by getting involved in the activities, or donate to Rangde as well.

So, what are you waiting for?

 

Visit rangde.org and get inspired today.

 

Is Food Crisis Real?

Food crises are never noticed for what they are when they start.

Good examples are the beginning of French revolution, and the American Dust Bowl. What started as “those guys don’t seem to have enough food to eat” led to some interesting changes to mankind – especially in the case of former.

As is the case with humans, we tend to notice the ebola “outbreak”, but not the everyday degradation that seem to impact us much more in the longer term. This is atypical “frog in boiling water” story.

So then, is food crisis really real?

Sometime back I read a free book – the name of which I could not recover. But it had amazing content on population growth, energy starvation, global warming, water wars, food famines and the like. The argument was that we are surely heading to a dystopian future unless we act NOW!

I agree in substance to the argument – we are taking this wonderful planet to something worse than it was. In fact there was a book back in 1960s that argued mass extinction of humans due to unavailability of food.

I had my doubts about whether the trends continue.

Humans are notoriously short sighted, and we cannot think exponentially. Even if you tell us that oil is going to end in 2040, and we will increase in numbers beyond sustainable food production – we will hardly give a rat’s ass to that thought. “That is for the future to decide”, we say.

But, even with all that – I think there is a greater pressure of nature to help regulate humans by themselves. This is inspired by the theory of Malthusian catastrophe. Availability of more food has encouraged population growth. That I can see, but what will happen to all the humans if disaster strikes *after* the growth?

First a couple of factors on why that may not be as disastrous in short time frames –

1. Population growth is decreasing

The growth in population is poised to decrease further till 2100 according to UN. We may hit the peak between 2040 to 2070.

World Population growth
src: wikipedia

2. Humans can survive on other sources of nourishment

Some argue that bugs may just be the next big thing in food revolution. Pressurized into surviving on less, humans can always adapt to eating what is not considered good food source today. That will not sustain long term, but may prevent large scale extinction within a couple of years.

Any such food shortage further negatively impacts the population. Less people need less food.

3. Environment degradation != Immediate food shortage

Even with the chemicals impacting cultivatable lands, and water shortage making it harder, I doubt whether this is going to manifest itself in food shortage in near term.

In fact global warming is causing some positive impact as well (if only in the short term). For e.g. humans can now settle in Arctic, melting Himalayan glaciers have resulted in more irrigation facilities downstream.

Food supply per person has stayed on course/increased in the past. I don’t see why we break up significantly in near term.

food supply per person

More such graphs at GapMinder.

Yes, there will be death and destruction similar to the two instances I mentioned before. There will be suffering. But, not to the scale we love to imagine (and did you notice that we always imagine famine hitting “them”, “larger humanity”  instead of “us”).

So, we as a species will thrive in the long term?

Not a chance. You cannot continuously abuse the resources you have, and hope to survive. But again, that is for the future generation to think about. Let me take my SUV for a spin to shake off all these thoughts.

After the SUV spin, should I care about the so called food crisis?

Yes, of course.

Anything and everything that you can do to avoid being a burden on the planet is welcome. You see that I am just a small part of this universe. Harmonizing my being with the rest of nature is going to make me happy and at peace.

 

Also, read some comics that are going to predict more dire consequences from food crisis than what I do.