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, 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