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, August 12, 2014

Disha Kathuria: SEDS from the eye of a volunteer (The day after it rained)

One of the best things about working with SEDS (apart from the incredible food that is) is, that you meet new people from all over the world, quite often. Sometimes it is old volunteers lending a helping hand and other times it’s new ones coming in to learn and share. All in all, there’s always something to look forward to. Aswas when one fine morning, Filip, an old volunteer of SEDS from Belgium,dropped by for a few days.  

The day started with Varun Kumar (data entry), Imran Basha (Low CarbonFarming/LCF coordinator), Filip (ex-coordinator for LCF) and Jasper discussing about carbon credits and how to improve them. 

The discussion went well. In fact, it seemed like a good day for anything. It had rained last night. And the farm was a dream within a dream, obliging to our heart’s desires.

The campus is always brimming with energy. All one needs is a profound appreciation for life’s simpler things. And the days of our life would overflow with little perfect moments. And it was pretty perfect to simply watch the lovers of the soil till it, sow in it seeds of hope and laugh like there is a wonderful tomorrow. They were sowing groundnut seeds that day.

Jasper decided to return to the soil. With him were men in white and women in fluorescent colors with mud under their feet and seeds in their hands. We understood for the first time perhaps, the true meaning of the phrase, work is worship. The farmer in his slow march, with time as the finishing line, seemed to be lost in meditation.

That day we understood, it’s not the feet, but the road you walk on that matters.

Photo Courtesy: Disha Kathuria