The Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD), is a nonprofit organisation founded in 1985 by C. Achutha Menon, Kerala’s former Chief Minister; K.N. Raj, Economist and Chairman of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS); Laurie Baker, Master Architect; and T.R. Chandradutt, Social Activist.
COSTFORD’S mission is multi-faceted and includes:
COSTFORD is dedicated to changing the social, economic, and political position of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in society. In the mid-1980s, COSTFORD focused heavily on improvement of housing and made significant gains in providing alternative philosophy and technologies for providing cost-effective, energy efficient, and more appropriate housing for culture and climate for all income groups.
By the late 1990s, COSTFORD, with the Main Office in Thrissur taking the lead at the District Centre level, embarked upon second generation programmes in extending assistance to weaker sections of society. By 1997, studies indicated attention needed to be focused on empowerment of women. For example, they were not properly compensated for their work in the home and often lacking skills to earn income outside the home. The economic potential of women needed to be increased with emphasis on education, skill-based training, and support services addressing their particular challenges in society.
COSTFORD, in past 30 years, has steadily progressed in establishing capacity training programmes for both women and men. It has assisted over 25,000 people from all walks of life in awareness of and ways to effect positive societal change. Participants have included social workers, engineers, home-based women, architects, construction workers, technologists, state government officials, students, panchayat raj representatives, visitors from other states in India and abroad, etc.
COSTFORD has engaged in studies ranging from evaluation of the status of women in the state to evaluating building materials suitable for disaster-prone areas (i.e. earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.). COSTFORD has also regularly disseminated knowledge and information relating to results from its studies, especially in the area of appropriate technologies for the culture, climate, and natural features of local environments.
Local Economic Development (LED) is a constant concern and COSTFORD has contributed its expertise and training abilities to foster such activities as women’s micro enterprises for home appliance repair and training in basic masonry techniques for tribal peoples, especially women.
COSTFORD is also active in networking with other NGOs, government agencies, and profit-making organisations interested in contributing to the upliftment of society. COSTFORD helps marginalised and disadvantaged individuals and groups connect with legal support, counseling, etc. when needs arise. COSTFORD will also initiate campaigns when necessary, such as helping establish community discussions after communal riots as a way to defuse tensions and re-establish nonviolent means of restoring community harmony. When there are natural calamities, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, COSTFORD also lends assistance, especially in helping repair damage and create more durable, safer structures.
In summary, COSTFORD works on a wide spectrum of activities in the community for fostering societal change in the direction of greater equality, peace, and therefore more sustainable ways of living, especially for marginalised and disadvantaged groups.