SEDS, the Social Education and Development Society, was founded in 1980 by Rajen Joshua and Manil Jayasena as a grassroots development NGO, motivated by the desire to help the poorest of the poor in the drought-prone area of Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh. In the early days, the main focus of the work was on community development by way of non-formal education and small loans to skilled target communities like cobblers, basket weavers, blanket weavers and others.

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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SEDS 30th Anniversary

I arrived on the farm on the 20th of December. I had been looking forward to it so much and found a lot of changes on the farm but especially a lot of hard work. With not only the function but also the holidays coming up, everybody was busy making sure that the buildings got a fresh coat of paint, all the new tiles were in place, the field was cleaned up and the farm looked good to receive our guests. Aside from all the handy work, others were working hard to get the activities for the day well prepared. Friends of SEDS came out to the farm early to lend a hand and the farm looked and felt more and more like a happy bee hive with everybody running around, working and discussing. And as always on the farm, we made it a cozy, happy gathering of friends and family despite the pressure we all felt to get everything done.

On the morning of the 30th, the guests and local people started arriving and were invited to go to the VTC center for an exhibition on 30 years of SEDS made by Flip design. At the school, there was an exhibition on the different working areas of SEDS . There were photos, charts with explanations and data and props to explain what SEDS is doing around CDM (the biogas project), Sustainable Agriculture, Watersheds & Reforestation, Mandal Facilitation Centers, Women Empowerment, Education and Health. In addition there was a stall explaining and portraying different artisan products made in the villages with an opportunity to buy.

At 11 o’clock, the new wing of the training center, in memory of Father Vicente Ferrer Moncho was officially inaugurated by his son Moncho Ferrer Vicente, the Program Director of RDT, an NGO from Anantapur. After the opening, we were finally allowed to see Vishal’s documentary on 30 years of SEDS. After all the work he put into it – with the help of others – his enthusiasm was not in vain because we all liked it and several people even had tears in their eyes.

The guests went to the school for a tour of the Mela with explanations by Iris, who coordinated it and the CLO’s responsible for the content of the stalls. It showed data of the different work areas in the 5 mandals. There were pictures and charts explaining what SEDS is involved in for all the work areas. We saw the materials and techniques which are used to make the most of the soil and the fertilizers that are used to accomplish this. The part I liked best were the pictures of Sanipalli and Petakunta from 30 years ago to be compared to the pictures from now. It showed how much work has been put into this and confronted me with the main thing that I learned the last time I was here: it’s one day and one tree at a time and it’s worth it.

Before lunch, the stake holders of the villages had an opportunity to explain to the crowd how they experienced working with SEDS on the self-help groups, the tuition centers, sustainable agriculture and so on. Regretfully I couldn’t understand but it was important for the people to share their experiences and get recognition for their going commitment to change their lives with the help of SEDS.

Then lunch was served in the dining hall of the main house and in a big tent on the field. After a bit of rest and a chance to explore the farm, we were treated to a concert on the courtyard by Karthik Mani and group from Bangalore. This was fusion music of western and Karnatik. As a music lover, this was my favorite part and I wasn’t alone. There was dancing all around.

And finally – after a more than lovely dinner - we all joined in the garden of the main house to portray something else that SEDS is famous for and a reason for people to come back time and time again: a nice dancing party with great music, great people in a cozy, homey atmosphere which makes it impossible for anyone not to join in.

Anneleen Vandebossche,

Belgian Volunteer