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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SEDS facilitating a pump installation

SEDS facilitating a pump installation.

Mallapalli is an average size village in Gorentla Mandal. The population is about 3000 and there are 600 families. It came to the notice of the SEDS staff that there was a problem with the drinking water supply. The village was deprived of drinking water because the only working hand pump could not cope with the demand of the village. People went to nearby M. Kothapalli for their water which is a one kilometer trip. The government was approached but did not come to help.

So SEDS facilitated the VO to address this problem. We gave them instructions where to apply for help and how to make their case. The work started in February 2010 and ended on the 15th of April. RDT from Anantapur was notified and they drilled a bore well, 460 feet deep, cost Rs. 30,000. The Panchyat President bought the submersible pump and the pipeline for Rs. 20000. The cost for the labour for laying the pipeline to the village and installing 6 taps and a starter for the pump was Rs. 8000. This was paid for by the Village Organisation(VO), Adima Yesoda Lakshmi. In this VO 23 SHGs are present with a total of 230 members.

The new bore well
The hand pump is replaced
Some of the labourers and the VO leaders

After some counseling by SEDS these women were able to do the necessary work themselves. The experience they gained in this process, where to apply, who to consult, how to make their case and how to finance the project, will serve them well in the future and might even be more valuable than the water they got.

This is a case study on empowerment and will be used as an example to other Village organisations.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture: Lead Farmers Training

From 22nd March the till the 3rd of April SEDS held its Farmer Field School. This school is organized for the 25 Lead Farmers of the villages we work in. to learn new practices and teach them to the famers in our working area. Currently we are working with 507 farmers. The farmers belong to the marginal (below 2.47 acres) and small (2.47-4.93 acres) famers. Out of a total of 507 farmers, 64 % belong to scheduled tribe (ST), scheduled caste (SC) and backward caste (BC), these are all down trodden communities. Also there are 102 women farmers participating in the program. We hope to double the farmers we work with by the middle of next year.
The classes of the lead farmers consist of practical and theoretical courses about sustainable agriculture (SA) practices. All these classes are lead by our in-house SA team who has got hands-on experience. The farmers are taught a range of topics. They gain knowledge of the different aspects of topsoil and subsoil, notice the importance of bunding, get to learn composting, find out how to take care of seeds, observe the diseases in plants and how to treat them, become skilled at intercropping and crop rotation, prepare enriched farm yard manure, see how to rear Azolla, and so on, … . As academic teaching can get a little abstract, field visits and concrete experiments form a large part of the course. Out in the fields the farmers quickly can see the real benefits of the SA practices. For example, a simple experiment shows the protection against erosion offered by a green cover and stonebunding.
The field visit to Guddipalli showed them the advantages of System of Rice Intensification (SRI). This system will effortlessly accumulate the rice harvest. The rice is transplanted at least 15 days after germination to avoid trauma to the roots. Instead of randomly planting rice on the field, rice is planted in neat rows each plant 40 cm apart from the other. As expensive planting equipment is not available for the small and marginal farmer we use the simple technique of a rope with a marking at every 40 cm, cheap and just as effective. Finally the ground is kept moist instead of saturated. Throw in some Azolla, a nitrogenous fixing fern that grows in the water and after harvest can be used as cow fodder, and you have the right combination for a good harvest.
Then it was up to a field of groundnuts where the different ailments of the plants were identified and solutions were suggested by our staff.

The clear pattern of SRI
Examining the groundnuts

The last stop was in Thungodu where SEDS is building a new watershed. Here the farmers were shown how soilbunding and reforestation will transform a barren landscape. These techniques are important to our farmers as most of them have dry lands. Adding a small orchard to their farm or planting trees as a natural boundary will increase their incomes and biomass production.