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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Re-using plastic!

From months of collecting plastic bags on campus and storing them in bags, I finally came up with a useful idea I thought would be worth trying.On the 15th  of July we had the first of the few heavy showers we have had for the year and it was a welcome gift from the heat and dry from the first half of the year. So,  for all of us who had to go about our usual daily chores, it seemed like we were in need of something to cover and protect us while allowing us to enjoy our daily routine in the rain.
And I thought about all the plastic collected and wondered if we could turn them into hats and rain coats and shoes! I also came across  this webpage of some designers in South America who made boots out of recycled plastic bags and were quite fashionable and it inspired me to think of simple useful products for the people in rural areas who are really not equipped for the once in a year rains. 
 So, without wasting any time we got to it and made a couple of hats. Initially the girls at the centre were a bit apprehensive but once the samples were done they seemed really excited by them and it encouraged me to seriously want to take this idea forward. So we made a raincoat next. Next in line may be the possibility of making gum boots based on the same idea.

 By working with recycled plastic bags I hope to be able to find an alternative for all the plastic waste that goes into the dumps in our cities and towns. I would really like to target the villages around the SEDS campus, and on the campus itself as a start.

As of now collection for the plastic is something that needs to be looked into on a more defined manner, and using them in more innovative ways. We will look into areas where we can introduce a system of collecting plastic from homes that would otherwise just be thrown  into a bin for the garbage trucks to collect.

Friday, September 14, 2012

PIA Sponsor children new sports outfits distribution

On Wednesday the 05th of September, Mr. Dr. Savepalli RadhaKrishna’s birthday, we celebrate Teachers’ Day in India. On this occasion we distributed the sports outfit to the Z.P.H. [G] Mekalapalli Coco Team.

In the morning at 10:30 in the SEDS campus, we invited the Z.P.H. [G] Mekalapalli School Coco team students, P.T. teacher Mr. Catmaiah and Biology teacher Mr. P.S. Prasad. In the presence of Mrs. Manil Joshua, Ms. Rashna Joshua and Mr. Prashanth the outfits were distributed. Last year they won the cup in the event of GRICKS (AP govt. conduct sports events). PIA-SEDS wanted to encourage these students for their achievements and studies. For this reason we designed new outfits for the Z.P.H. girl’s coco team. PIA – SEDS sponsored the sports dresses.

The Head Misses of Z.P.H. [G] Mekalapalli School and the whole teaching staff would like to thank PIA – SEDS for this encouraging support and sponsoring the outfits.

The coco team consists of 12 students. In the team two girls from our PIA sponsor children program are also participating, being

1. 478/11 Ramya 6th
2.  578/12 E. Sravani 6th.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Farming for the Future – SEDS enters the world carbon market!

The landscape around SEDS looked green and relatively lush on our recent visit in July. They recently had  three solid hours of rain. But in reality, this part of Ananthapur in southern India is enduring its second longest drought on record and follow-up rain is desperately needed if the crops planted in that recent rain are going to succeed. The increasing uncertainty and unpredictability of rainfall, made worse due to climate change, makes the Partners in Aid-funded watershed work even more important. But we have been able to do more.
Partners in Aid was fortunate to receive a bequest two years ago and that enabled us to assist SEDS to embark on a new project – Low Carbon Farming. This was the focus of my visit in July and a very exciting one due to its possibilities.

Farmers are seeing the impacts of climate change first hand and they recognise that big changes are ahead. Fortunately, with many developed countries introducing carbon trading schemes, farmers who change their farming practices can benefit from these schemes and earn additional income. This has never been done with small holding farmers. While developed countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or buy offsets, farmers who farm their land in ways which also reduce greenhouse gas emissions can sell their ‘credits’ on the international market.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has established a set of standards which must be met before farming can be described as low carbon and emission reductions can be sold. SEDS has been training farmers in sustainable practices for some years. It was then a small step for  them to turn to actively practising low carbon farming, keeping diaries of input and outputs, and reducing the amount of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide produced by their crops. These diaries will be Examined by UNFCCC-recognised officials and random checks of farms to ensure that the practices are valid. By early 2013, the process of validation should be complete and trading can begin!

This is ground breaking work and the model is being examined for application in other poor and drought-prone countries. SEDS has again taken the initiative to make this opportunity available to farmers to make their livelihoods more sustainable and increase their income. SEDS has joined with four other NGOs undertaking the same work, and is being supported by the Fair Climate Network, based in southern India. http://www.fairclimate.com/. Together they have the volume of emission reductions from many farmers to attract a carbon investor. While we are yet to follow the example of so many other countries which have carbon trading schemes in place, Australia’s Emissions Trading Scheme, due to commence in 2015, is seen in India as being a benchmark for other countries to follow and one which will enable a truly global trading scheme which will benefit not only the planet and future generations but in particular the poorest of the poor.

Old farm techniques are new again
We were fortunate to be able to take part in a farmer meeting in the village of Patharlapalli. This farmer collective had gathered in the home of the lead farmer, for their monthly training and discussion meeting. Twenty farmers had taken time out of their working day to participate; one had brought along two sons to learn the new approach. Each had brought along their farmer diary containing details of their crops and practices.
SEDS community development workers Mani and Imran ran the meeting, checking on the progress of low carbon farming practices in their ground nut and red gram crops, and teaching farmers how to use the new sprayer. They had previously been shown how to make an organic pesticide from neem, a useful oil plant in the region. Imran checked each farmer’s diary to ensure it was being filled in correctly and farmers asked questions. It is essential that diaries are completed properly so they can be validated and they legitimately sell their carbon credits.
Towards the end of the meeting one farmer said that these ‘new practices’ were just like the old ways, and they were the best ways! After a shared lunch of vegetable rice and coconut chutney (on disposable palm leaves), the sprayer was officially handed over and the farmers went back to work. It is hard for us to understand how difficult it is for farmers to leave their work to attend a meeting like this. They may be the sole farmer and bread-winner and time away is time lost. Providing lunch is a big incentive. They will convene again on the same date next month for another check-in, Q and A, and some training.

Step by step guide to Low Carbon Farming
1) Farmers learn new techniques in field schools, for example use of organic pesticide and fertilisers, low tilling, and multi-cropping. Monthly meetings and training take place.
2) Farmers mark out their farm plots with white stones so they are clearly visible. These plots are mapped by GIS (geographic information system).
3) Farmers keep diaries of their crop season – water, fertiliser, pesticide use, types of crops, spacing etc. Lead farmer assists those who are illiterate.
4) A Carbon Laboratory is established in the region. On a nearby farm, crops are planted under the same conditions as other farms in the region. Emission reductions measured on these crops can be generalised to other farms.
5) Greenhouse gas emissions are measured on control and experimental crops and compared. The emission reductions for Low Carbon Farming plots are measured and applied to farmers’ crops.
6) UNFCCC-recognised officials verify the lab measurements, the farmers’ practices and the emission reductions.
7) If OK, the farmers can sell their emission reductions, with the help of SEDS.
8) Farmers have an additional income stream.

Amanda Stone
Project Coordinator

"September Partners in Aid Newsletter"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New opportunities in Anantapur District through biogas

An Indian woman bent under the sun, searching for firewood in a groundnut field with a child strapped on her back - this is a daily image in Anantapur District, India. These people depend on firewood to cook and agriculture as their labour. But the drought, the increasing crop failures and livestock deaths imposing high economic losses and undermine food security. People here are most vulnerable to climate change and they will get far more severe as global warming continues.

Promising new opportunities for mitigating climate change and creating large new markets for agriculture have emerged through the production of biogas-units. The use of biogas for cooking has a lot of advantages. For the women who prepare a meal two times per day it is a blessing. Traditional cooking with wood is cheap but it causes a lot of smoke and in the long term also health problems. Biogas must replace the wood. This will save time and money.

This collection of pictures was taken by Jan Beyne, one of the volunteers in SEDS. In the last six months he did research on the social economic impact of biogas on smallholders. 170 people (85 biogas users and 85 non-biogas users) were interviewed with questions about their social and economical life in relation to biogas. The statistical analysis will be published later on. But from the first numbers and graphs, we can see there are some significant social, economic and environmental benefits:

Social benefits:

 Reduces drudgery to women who spend long hours and travel long distances in search of fuel wood
 Increases women and children's overall health situation by reducing smoke in kitchen, thus eliminating health hazards from indoor air pollution
 Improves education of children as women have more time and resources to nurture their children and send them to school

Economic benefits:

 Higher productivity of workers as they have adequate cooking fuel supply
 Will provide employment to local communities through construction and maintenance of biogas units
 The project will reduce cooking time, thus providing women to take up other activities

Environmental benefits:

 Improves the local environment by reducing uncontrolled deforestation in the project area
 Improves local surroundings through better waste management
 Will lead to soil improvement by providing high quality manure
 Reduces deforestation, preservation of pasture land,
 Avoided global and local environmental pollution and environmental degradation by switching from non-renewable biomass to renewable energy, leading to reduction of GHG emissions

Happy family with a new biogas-unit.

Woman and child cooking on biogas-stove

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Republic day

The 26th of January SEDS commemorates the date on which the Constitution of India came into force replacing the Government of India Act 1935 as the governing document of India on 26 January 1950. It is one of the three national holidays in India. While the main parade takes place in the national capital, New Delhi, the anniversary was also celebrated at the school in SEDS.

The morning started with speeches from Henry, the principal of the school, and the staff. Afterwards the children prepared a talent show, where they were performing songs and plays. In the afternoon, everyone played games on the field.

The patriotic fervour of the people on this day brings the whole country together even in her essential diversity. Every part of the country is represented in occasion, which makes the Republic Day the most popular of all the national holidays of India.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Annual Christmas clothes distribution – PIA

In the morning of the 2nd of January 2012, 179 children came to the SEDS campus for the annual Christmas clothes distribution. After wishing each other a happy New Year, the children were divided into four different groups; green, blue, pink and white. In front of the school the first group went for an individual picture and received their new clothes. In the meanwhile the other groups went for art classes, outdoor games, measurements and indoor games. Thanks to PIA, SEDS and the VTC Centre who made the clothes, all the children started 2012 with a magnificent new outfit. In the end every one of them got a lunch of chicken and eggs at the SEDS campus.

Registration and distribution of ID cards
Handing over new clothes
Group picture: everybody wave those hands!
Yummy lunch!

Art Classes: Origami of Santa Claus