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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Low Carbon Farming

In this world where multiple conferences and meetings on reducing carbon dioxide emissions are producing nothing more than hot air (no pun intended), SEDS is looking at new and innovative ways to actually cut down on the output of GHG (Green House gases).
On the 21st and 22nd Zach Willley and Richie Ahuja from EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) from the USA, visited SEDS. They were here to see if SEDS could create a program for Low Carbon Farming (LCF). LCF encompasses different techniques that farmers can implement for reducing their carbon footprint. A possibility that a reduced carbon footprint can be sold off, it is now a matter of putting these carbons on today’s markets. So with the vast expertise of Zach we hope to develop a verifiable method of measuring the GHG offset of farmers in our communities.
What is important to know is that there are universal structures that can easily reduce the carbon footprint of farmers but the methodologies will differ from place to place. Zach who has traveled all around the world (USA, China, Vietnam, India) for initiating these projects and who has an extensive scientific background to handle these things visited SEDS to look at our future possibilities.
During their two day stay, accompanied by Sandeep Loya of the Fair Climate Network, they went through various meetings and on field visits with management, staff and farmers in order to come up with a picture on how agriculture is managed in this part of India.

In the fields

They wanted to learn about the crops which are planted, the different practices farmers use, the soils that are there and how SEDS implements its sustainable agriculture program. Based on this information they hope to come up with a way to make a baseline study of our carbon offset. From there on they can come up with suggestions and techniques on how to reduce this offset. Off course they do not wish that these proposed procedures will harm the farmers in their livelihoods so they need a good idea of what is going on the field.

After their two day visit it was clear that some things can be changed. For example how farmyard manure is stored away and put on the fields. The pits that contain the farmyard manure are open and so release a lot of methane (an even more active GHG than CO2). And when put on the fields the manure usually stays piled up on the surface for a few days, again releasing its methane. So covering up these manure pits and immediately ploughing the fields when the manure is applied could reduce their GHG offset.
They were also impressed on how the sustainable agriculture program already takes up many aspects of LCF, such as low water usage in the Pilot and Demonstrating Activities (PDA) or using biomass as fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers. In the end a lot of research and calculations still need to be done to grasp the whole picture of the GHG offset but it looks like we are going the right way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


To herald in the New Year, SEDS invited the young and elderly for a total make over. On Sunday the third of January they anxiously gathered at the gates of the SEDS farm.

The old men first received a shave and a haircut, the women a mani- and pedicure. After that they got a nice warm bath.

At the same time the sponsored children came streaming in at the front. Each one got their height and weight checked before they were allowed to move on. The games room of the school was transformed into a cinema which played Telugu cartoons.
Outside on the field and in the school there were different activities planned for them. We had art classes, dodge ball and off course cricket.

While they were enjoying the activities the distribution of clothes took place, this year the guests were of Lynn, Ian and Amanda, visitors from Partners in Aid (PIA) Australia.

The elderly also received new outfits, a sari and blouse for the women and a shirt and lungi for the men.
In the meanwhile there was a lot of activity going on in the mess to prepare lunch for the 500+ people. There was chicken, egg curry, curd and a spicy dahl and rassam with rice on the menu.

Everyone enjoyed the food and after the lunch they all got a bag of sweets.