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How a Bengaluru duo is helping people get better access to emergency services in India

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From connecting people in need to blood donors and ambulances, to creating awareness about first aid – VMedo has come a long way.

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In late 2014, Bengaluru-based Praveen Gowda’s family found themselves in a precarious and helpless situation. His cousin Meena (not her real name) was facing a medical emergency. While her mother managed to get her in an auto rickshaw from their village in Shivamogga to a nearby city, Meena had lost a lot of blood.

At a government hospital there, 28-year-old Praveen witnessed his family’s agony as the doctors said that Meena had a very slim chance of survival. The family took the risk of going to a private hospital, only to find that they did not have an ICU facility. Fortunately, Praveen’s background in bio medical engineering had helped him make some contacts. He was able to figure out another hospital that had the requisite facilities and they took Meena there.

In close to two days that it took Praveen and his family to find blood donors – which ultimately saved Meena’s life – Praveen realised how difficult things become during a medical emergency and how it can make the difference between life and death. The thought took root, and in December 2014, Praveen and his college friend Darshan MK, co-founded a platform that is now helping people across India in not only accessing ambulances more efficiently, but in connecting them to hospitals, blood donors and teaching them first aid.

VMedo (formerly Blood for Sure), was launched in June 2015, and currently has over 40,000 users. Their Facebook page is full of positive testimonials about VMedo having helped them in medical emergencies.

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VMedo works like an aggregator for private hospitals with ambulances as well as private ambulance owners, much like an Uber or Ola would, locating the nearest ambulance registered on their platform and connecting you with it. The app also has helpful tips for disease prevention and to maintain health on a daily basis.  

It also continues to have a network of blood donors for those in need. One can register after fulfilling certain criteria like weight and other health parameters; and based on their blood donation history of the past three months, they can be eligible for those on the platform looking for donors. With 22,000 registered blood donors and over 800 blood banks now, VMedo has come a long way from its initial goal of being a network for blood donors and those in need.

Then called Blood for Sure, Praveen says that they received a very good response post the 2015 launch. “The app was much more popular than what we anticipated. In addition, we started getting calls about people needing an ambulance, or if they had witnessed an accident. Many of our volunteers also started giving us ideas about what logistical deficiencies there were in accessing medical emergency services,” he tells TNM.

So, in February 2016, the ambulance service was added to the app and the name changed to VMedo. Presently, the platform can access 3,500 ambulances across India, and receives 20 to 25 requests of ambulances per day.

Initially, VMedo only tied up with private hospitals that had ambulances. But after a couple of months, they decided to invest in a few ambulances of their own, and outsourced them to hospitals in order to increase their fleet in Bengaluru. While they have tied up with 60 private hospitals in Bengaluru for providing ambulance services via the app, in other cities, they have associated with private ambulance owners.

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The latest feather in VMedo’s cap is having trained and certified over 900 people in basic first aid, conducting awareness sessions on the same with 3,000 people in Bengaluru.

The inspiration for this, like every other addition to the platform, was feedback they got and real-life experiences. “Once, we received a call from a man who had witnessed an accident,” Praveen narrates. “But he could not give us the exact address to send an ambulance, and when we told him to help the victim by following our instructions, he was wary because he did not know first aid. It made us realise that people want to help but often don’t have the knowledge, and hence the courage to help.”

Late last year, VMedo decided to foray into first-aid training and awareness as well. The first to get trained was VMedo’s 12-member team, by three independent trainers certified by the Indian Red Cross. They started conducting similar sessions with apartment complexes as well.

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Presently, Praveen, who holds a certificate of having been trained by the Indian Red Cross, takes out time and conducts awareness sessions about first-aid in schools as well as apartments, most of them free of cost. Only the training and certification sessions are chargeable because for those, the Indian Red Cross trainers are called. 

VMedo presently earns major revenue from their ambulance service, levying a service charge for the platform like a cab aggregator would, as well as by providing technology to hospitals for a monthly or annual fee. For Praveen, the larger goal remains clear. “I want to ensure that people are able to better access services during a medical emergency. But I ultimately hope that I can help them be better prepared for such situations,” he asserts. 

Article Credit: the news minute

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Why Regenerative Agriculture is the Future of Food

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As we face an ever-growing need to combat climate change, many people around the world are looking at how we produce our food. Agriculture has a strong effect on climate change (and vice versa). While some methods contribute to higher pollution and environmental degradation, others actually have the potential to reverse climate change. And one of those practices is regenerative agriculture.

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DEFINING REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative of California State University, Chico and The Carbon Underground — in conjunction with several other companies and organizations — worked together to create a definition for regenerative agriculture. The goal was to give a basic meaning to the relatively new term and to prevent it from being “watered down,” according to The Carbon Underground.

“‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle,” the definition reads. “Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”

According to Regeneration International, the objective is to continuously improve the land, “using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment.” The practice also helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — a key factor in battling climate change. In a nutshell, farmers aim to leave the environment better than when they found it.

Although many of regenerative agriculture’s core tenets are similar to organic farming, the practices are not synonymous. Both farming methods do discourage the use of synthetic chemicals, though regenerative farmers might not necessarily be certified organic. And organic agriculture doesn’t guarantee a carbon drawdown, according to The Carbon Underground. Plus, unlike organic food, there’s no certification yet for regenerative products — though a pilot program is in the works for farmers who practice regenerative agriculture.

REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE PRACTICES

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So what exactly do regenerative farmers do? The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative-The Carbon Underground definition lays out four main practices.

1. Contribute to soil building and fertility.

Regenerative agriculture discourages soil tillage. “Tillage breaks up (pulverizes) soil aggregation and fungal communities while adding excess O2 to the soil for increased respiration and CO2 emission,” the definition document says. Besides carbon loss, it can lead to soil erosion and increased water runoff. Furthermore, farmers increase soil fertility through biological methods, including the use of cover crops, crop rotation, compost and manure. They avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can create an imbalance in the soil’s microbiome, diminish nutrients and lead to weaker plants.

2. Improve water cleanliness and retention.

Avoiding synthetic chemicals also makes for less water pollution — another core tenet of regenerative agriculture. Farmers have efficient irrigation systems to optimize water use and prevent contamination. Plus, as farmers work to improve the soil, this increases its ability for water retention. Among many other factors, limiting tillage is one practice that enhances water infiltration and retention

3. Increase biodiversity, and boost the health of the ecosystem.

Regenerative farmers aim to protect natural ecosystems. “Building biological ecosystem diversity begins with inoculation of soils with composts or compost extracts to restore soil microbial community population, structure and functionality,” according to the definition document. Again, farmers avoid synthetic chemicals on which plants can become dependent and fail to thrive naturally. They take soil samples to guide them in finding the right nutrient balance. And they use plants to attract beneficial insects.

4. Lessen CO2 emissions by diverting carbon back into the soil.

As regenerative farmers carefully manage their land and promote a healthy, natural ecosystem, it helps to increase carbon in the soil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, the farmers’ avoidance of synthetic chemicals also helps to combat climate change, as they’re often produced using high levels of fossil fuels. As for livestock, regenerative agriculture involves well-managed grazing practices that lead to better land, healthier animals and lower carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?

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Regenerative agriculture offers several benefits to the global population — and even noticeable ones to us as individuals. These are just a few, according to Regeneration International.

Boosts food’s nutrition

Regenerative agriculture tends to produce healthy, resilient plants. And as consumers, we benefit from this with more nutritious food. The nutrient-dense soil passes on that nourishment to the crops — and our bodies. Plus, thanks to farmers nurturing the natural ecosystem, it’s better able to filter out pollution and chemicals from our food.

Restores nature

Regenerative agriculture is just that — regenerative. Its methods help to improve biodiversity, which “is fundamental to agricultural production and food security, as well as a valuable ingredient of environmental conservation,” according to Regeneration International. Plus, the farmers’ grazing strategies work to restore grasslands that have been degraded.

Benefits local economics

Family farmers have taken a key role in regenerative agriculture. These are people who have a strong working knowledge of their local land and how best to sustainably manage it. So support of regenerative agriculture benefits these farmers and their local economies. Plus, keeping them in business means preserving the more traditional, environmentally friendly farming practices that go back generations.

Combats climate change

Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change around the world. “The current industrial food system is responsible for 44 to 57% of all global greenhouse gas emissions,” Regeneration International says. But regenerative agriculture has the potential to reverse this damage. Not only does it contribute lower emissions than conventional farming, but it has the ability to sequester more carbon in the soil, rather than in our atmosphere.

Feeds the global population

As the global population grows, food production will have to adjust one way or another. Continuing to use conventional farming methods likely would mean more deforestation — and higher greenhouse gas emissions. But shifting to more widespread use of regenerative agriculture could lessen that blow. Regenerative farming conditions work to naturally protect crops from disease, pests, drought and more. This improves yields without having to add chemicals or other factors that can harm the environment. Thus, it could be a way to sustainably feed the global population for generations to come.

Article Credit: Care2

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