As Anantapur is the second most drought prone area in India and much of its natural resources are depleted, it soon became clear that environmental problems would have to be tackled first, if peoples’ livelihoods were to be made sustainable. Starting in 10 villages near the small town of Penukonda a scheme of pioneering work was developed which aimed to empower local communities and improve their environment. Initially small nurseries were started for homestead plantations and planting of avenue trees along village roads. Re-a-forestation and more sustainable agricultural practices were introduced. From 1990, SEDS started using a more participatory approach, through the formation of Community Based Organizations. Involving the communities more in the effort made them actual stakeholders in the development process of the region. Throughout the years the scope and area of the work increased and the fruits of the sustained efforts became visible in the greener environment and the enthusiasm of the communities.
Today, SEDS is working through an integrated rural development approach with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, watersheds, re-a-forestation and natural resource management. This is within five Mandals in the southern part of Anantapur District, in south western Andhra Pradesh namely, Penukonda, Roddam, Gorantla, Somandepalli and Chilamathur. In these 5 mandals SEDS currently supports 125 villages, being some 12000 women and their families, 980 Self Help Groups (SHGs), 120 Village Organisations (VOs) & 5 Mandal Samakyas (MMSs) .
Through its sustained efforts SEDS has made a significant impact on the lives of the people in the area and the local environment. The SEDS slogan “Towards a greener tomorrow” has become a reality.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The first village which was Konduuvlahali We saw some units that already have been operating for three and a half years. In an interview with the beneficiaries we found out that they were very happy with the installations as it has saved them lots of time from going out and sourcing for firewood.
The first family acknowledged that they still were using firewood. The biogas unit was able to provide in the cooking of the meals but it was not sufficient enough to boil water for washing. The reason for this is that they only have one cow and were not able to get a higher output out of their unit. Each unit requires at least 10kg’s of dung for per day. During the demonstration we saw that the dung needs to be mixed up with water until you get a good liquid mixture. Also other types of (bio) fuel such as rotten vegetables and fruit were used.
During the mandatory tea, we had a chat with the owners. Interesting to note was the heightened sense of status that the owners of the biogas units had. In the past only rich members of the community were able to purchase and use LPG gas tanks. Now these poorer people are able to use gas and their status has risen in the village. Also the biogas was seen as a much better alternative to firewood then the LPG Tanks. One does not have to go to the city for refilling and the danger of explosion is not there.
In the second village, Korepalli and the third, Choutakuntahalli, we saw the excavated pits where the biogas units would be installed.
The duration for digging a pit varied from three to five days according to the people who were able to work on it and the type of soil. It was noted that families who signed up for the program were helping each other in the digging work. These pits measure are about 6 feet wide and about 5 feet deep in a round shape.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
It was a beautiful day, we had a blue sky, the sun shining bright. In the morning the teachers and volunteers had organised different games for the children. They were split up in age groups and competed in all sort off disciplines. There were running games, ball games and many other sports. Some kids were more competitive than others, but everybody was having fun. The best time we had with the water games. We had balloons filled with water which we used to play volleyball and rugby. Off course the balloons burst and it didn't take long for everybody to get very wet. Finally the teachers and volunteers played a volleyball game, cheered on by the children. After such an intensive morning everybody was very hungry and we had a lunch break.
In the afternoon it was time for a little drama. In the week before Children's day, all the classes had prepared something. Now they were excited to show what they had learned. The smallest children performed a song called “Clap your hands”, clapping their hands and stomping their feet. They were adorable.
The children from the first and second class had prepared a very beautiful play called “What do you want to be”. The message they send was that you can become whatever you want but you should have the right motivation. You should not become a doctor to earn lots of money, but because you want to heal the sick. You should not become a teacher to have power over children, but to learn them valuable things. There was a lesson for all of us.
The play of the children from class 3 and 4 was situated in the courtroom. Justice prevailed, they solved the case of a stolen chicken and the lying thief was caught.
The final performances of the day were by one of the older students and the PT teacher. They each did a dance before the whole school. We all watched them together. So, another great day at SEDS came to an end.
Meanwhile there was a Painting and Essay Contest in Penukonda. SEDS was represented by the classes 7th, 9th and 10th. The participants were: Raj Kumar, Deepa, Madhan, Ramanjinamma and Teja. At the end, they all got a certificate of succeeding and participation and had delivered good work!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I am sitting around the table, having a cold beer, caressing one of the dogs, enjoying the nice evening breeze, and wondering how the farm looked like thirty years ago, when everything started - like all modest but heroic stories - from nothing... I can only believe her words, and those of her beloved husband - and I do - and thinking of the picture that I saw in the office: a piece of waste-land, a little house and a couple of trees. This could have remained a forgotten piece of land, somewhere in the middle of South India, that travellers definitely would have avoided on their trip from South to North. But it isn't. Thanks to two people, Rajen and Manil, their ambitions, their ideals, and maybe the most important, the love and respect for each other, this place has become one of these small paradises on earth, that I can enjoy, right now, far away from home, without having planted one tree nor flower seed, without having put a brick one on the other to build a decent house, a school, a hostel, a production house, stables, an office, or a meeting building.
Has this all been realized by two persons only? Of course not, many people have been involved in their project. But Manil and Rajen had the idea, and their message, and the message was good, as no one would have stepped into their project if the message wasn't attractive and stimulating for others to participate. They did not only plant seeds of trees, flowers, crops or whatever, they also planted the seeds of their personal message into the heart of hundreds of people, into the soul of the children they are taking care of, and into the minds of their staff, local and foreign volunteers and supporters, all willing to do a contribution, because they know that it's good.
This reads like a tribute to Manil and Rajen, and it definitely is. And why not? Aren't they one of those anonymous heroes who probably will never get a statue, or have a street named after their name? it's surely their wish to remain in all modesty behind the curtains, rather than being honored on stage, blinded by the spotlights. But nevertheless, we should cuddle them as precious beings in this world that has become too materialistic and individualistic We can't take the efforts they have made for granted, as a palm-tree takes many years to grow, a deserted piece of land even more to become fertile, and the virgin brains of a child need the right input to get educated and to prepare itself for the future. So that the child will remember the place where it once has collected its first seeds, and how it can keep on watering and fertilizing its inner seeds, to become a beautiful and strong plant.
I am patiently waiting for the book to come...
Martin Vansteenkiste, Belgium
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
During his stay on the farm he checked out if the necessary equipment was there for a proper monitoring of the project. Everything was all right in this department. After that came the field visits. Naturally we had to show him what SEDS had already accomplished in 30 years of development experience. This proved to him that we had good rapport with the communities where we would be building the biogas units. After this we showed him some villages and introduced him to the people who will become the owners of these biogas units. During the meetings Ole asked some questions regarding the possible benefits of the project for the people. The women were adamant that a lot of time and money (e.g. rent for an ox cart to carry the wood) would be saved. When asked what they will do with the extra time and money, the women replied that they will invest it in their children. On the question if only the richer families would benefit from the project - at least one cow/buffalo is needed for the working of the biogas unit - they answered that especially the middle class farmers will install the biogas units because the wealthier farmers already have the economic power to purchase normal gas tanks.
The results of the visits proved to be very positive. Ole was convinced that SEDS could take on the project.
A visit to a watershed construction
A CDM meeting in Thurukalapatnam
The significance of his visit should be seen in the broader light of the NGO-financing. The time that development NGO’s can solely survive on gifts and donations is becoming more difficult. Donors are becoming more demanding without understanding individual visions of NGO’s who are living organisms .This gives a lot of organizations insecurity in funding. Alternate resources are thus needed to keep the projects going and the CDM project is one of them. As a substitute of simply being handed over the money, SEDS gets money to invest in the building of biogas units. These units will reduce the CO2 emissions. Reducing the carbon footprint will help in combating the effects of climate change. In stead of burning wood the people will now be able to use biogas for their cooking. Next to the obvious advantages for the families there will also be the carbon credits. This is money coming from countries that have to pay for their excess CO2 emissions, according to the Kyoto protocol. The first seven years the larger part of these credits will flow back to the investors with interest. For these investors it is just business as usual. This is no more charity but business with a social character. This is a shift in the NGO-financing. Is SEDS worth investing in or is it better to put the money in the bank?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
On Sunday the eleventh of October SEDS went to Santa Juturu near Nandyal in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh to help the victims of the devastating floods. After a drought which was the worst in 50 years the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka got hit by the worst floods in a 100 years. The numbers speak for themselves. More than 250 people died. 10 million people had become homeless, nearly two million houses were destroyed. Half a million people have taken refuge in relief camps. Thousands of livestock have perished and vast tracts of agricultural land are under water and crops have been destroyed.
How it begun
In the light of these events some staff members of SEDS wanted to take up relief work for these victims. On Wednesday, Rabani planned to donate some money and make a 1000 chappatis to hand out in the disaster area. A simple collection on the SEDS farm already made 12.000 Rs.
That day, there was also a Mandal meeting. The idea of collecting goods and money from each of the Mandals was put forward. The staff was very enthusiastic about the idea and went to work. The word spread, from all the villages and towns in the area where SEDS is active gifts came in. Mainly rice, money and clothes were donated but also oil, chillies, blankets, mats, millet, etc.
In a space of four days SEDS collected Rs. 44.420, 2020 kg of rice and a truckload of clothes.
Rice is arriving
The only thing left to do was to choose a village where relief was needed. The first place considered was Kurnool city but many relief teams were already busy there. Thanks to the C.I. of Police of Penukonda we got the news that rural areas outside Nandyal were left behind in the help. Santa Juturu was designated as a place that had not yet received help so we went there
Packing the goods & transport
To ensure an easy delivery at the place of the disaster the rice was sorted in small sacks of five kg. Some sacks got an extra ration of chillies. To be sure that the rice would not be spilt the sacks got an extra cover, a work that only ended at eleven thirty on Saturday night.
2 tons of rice
Another job was packing the clothes SEDS got. SEDS staff, people from the office, the girls from the tailoring centre, the hostel children, everyone got involved into the action.
The loading of the trucks began on Saturday afternoon, first the clothes. Due to a delay of a hired Tempo truck the rice bags were loaded at three O’clock Sunday morning.
On our way
The team left the farm by four o’clock. An early start was a necessity because of the long trip ahead. The SEDS team consisted of K.Venkateshwarulu, Shankarappa, P.Sunitha, Hussain Govindamma, Rabbani, Jyothi, Prashanth, Anand, Nagabushna, Venkataramudu, Adinarayana, Gyadrappa, Sridhar, Bhaskar Reddy, K.A.Nagaraj, Iris, Filip, Vishal, Anneleen, Rashna, Narayana, Nagaraj and Melvin. In total it was an eight hour trip.
Despite the righteous nature of our undertaking we weren’t spared some little problems which cost us time. One of the vehicles got two flats and when we almost arrived at our place of destiny, we were delayed for another hour because of a sit-in by some women of a nearby village. They were protesting against the lack of help. It seemed we came to the right place.
Every disadvantage has it advantage, and to make the best use of the lost time tokens were made for the rice handout.
Around us the damage of the floods was clearly visible.
We arrived at Santa Juturu around noon. The road to the village was washed away but restored temporarily. Immediately upon arrival we were confronted with the villagers who had a lot to tell us about their situation. The village consisted of a little centre with rural communities around it. In order to have a safe place for the relief goods a local storeroom was used for temporary hoarding the provisions.
Survey of the surrounding communities
Instead of simply dumping the food and clothes in the village the team took a survey in the nearby communities. The places we visited were not to badly affected by the floods. The water had stood knee high, so maybe not as devastating as some of the images shown in the media. But this did not mean that the communities were not affected. Many people had lost their provisions when the water came into their houses. Every house was visited, there was a short assessment of the damage and questions were asked regarding the family. Based on this tokens were handed out to the families.
Some of the communities were very poor, with more than 80% of the houses consisting of simple straw huts. We tried to help as many people as possible but in the end of one survey we were confronted with the bitter side of relief work. In one community there were not enough tokens to hand out so some families were left behind.
Distribution of the goods
At four thirty, the distribution of the relief goods began. The crowd was not too big but now and then the scene became very hectic. People were scrambling to come first and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. In the end the staff did very well in handling the crowd, showing patience and force in a balanced way.
By the end of the day everybody was very tired but satisfied with a job well done. SEDS and the communities of Gorantla, Chilamathur, Somandepalli, Penukonda and Roddam had helped 514 families of the rural area of Nandyal with food and clothes.
After the intervention the team was invited to have a chat with the Police Chief of Nandyal. The man was very thankful to SEDS. There was a lot of respect towards our way of working. Many relief teams come in and just dump their goods, hoping that the local people will take care of a proper distribution. But often these goods are not given to the people who need it the most. Allocation takes place along party lines or caste. SEDS’ approach of door to door visits was admired a lot because we handed our goods to the needy and we didn’t look at politics, caste or creed.
So a big thank you to the staff who worked without rest for five days and who made this relief operation possible!!!