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, February 3, 2011

SEDS CDM Biogas Project

After almost three years of planning, preparation and groundwork the CDM biogas project has started. In this project, SEDS will build 5000 biogas units in the five Mandals of our working area. Using biogas (in this case gobar gas) for cooking has many advantages. For the women who prepare the meals twice a day it is a boon. The traditional three stone woodstove is cheap but it emits a lot of smoke which cause respiratory and long term health problems. These stoves are to be replaced by biogas units which are efficient and non-polluting. Omitting the use of wood for cooking means that families do not have to go out and fetch wood or buy it from a dealer. This will save both time and money. Most importantly, of course it will save the green cover of our area. Also, this being a CDM project, under the rules of the Kyoto Agreement, people will be paid money for the reduction of carbon emissions.

Initially, people were suspicious. Five years ago, the government had launched a biogas program. None of the units built under this program are in working order as a result of the inferior material used and no maintenance. The program was a failure. SEDS will not allow for this.

In the beginning of January, the number of pits excavated on a daily basis was low. But, as the loads of brick and sand reached the villages, the atmosphere changed. More people have come forward and now we have over 200 pits excavated in 8 villages.

On Friday the 21st of January we started with the construction in Mavatur, a village in the Penukonda Mandal. The enthusiasm among the neighbours to observe the first biogas unit being built was great. The experienced mason, who was there to train our masons, was able to build the dome in one day. 33 units in Mavatur have already been completed.

Building these units is just one of the steps in a long and intricate process. First, is the marking and digging of the pit. The digging of the pit is the beneficiaries’ contribution. They can either do it manually themselves, or hire labour or use a mechanical excavator. Sand, bricks and granite chips (jelly) are provided by SEDS after the pit is excavated. Tractors are transporting material to the people seven days a week.

Once this is done, masons start building the dome. The construction of each unit is monitored. After plastering, it is checked to see if the work is up to standard. Once this is done, there is a curing period of two weeks before it can be filled up with cow dung. Finally the pipe and stove are installed. SEDS will monitor on a daily basis the usage of the gas. This data will be entered into the computer. This is absolutely vital for recording how much bio gas is being used. With this information SEDS can calculate the carbon credits generated by the beneficiary.

If a unit breaks down we must be notified immediately to enable repair. A lot depends on the owner of the biogas unit. As SEDS and the beneficiary are active partners in this project, it is essential to keep a two way communication on the upkeep and maintenance of these plants.

SEDS builds the unit, but it is their duty to use it and generate the carbon credits. SEDS and the women are in this venture together and we will need to work together if they are to reap the benefits.

This program is unique as it is not the regular development programs that NGDOs have taken up all these years. This is more an economic plan for sustainable development and to counter climate change.