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.

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"