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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SEDS: Communities shape societies

Going by definitions, there are more than 94 for the word 'community'. Communities can range from a few mud huts on a single patch of ground to a trans-continental virtual Internet group. A community can refer to a centuries-old business partnership, or to the temporary kinship felt by fans at a football match. What is common though, is the sense of belonging.

The sense of belonging is what's integral to the SEDS definition of a community. And the community development program itself is the umbrella under which all SEDS activities are organized. The basic unit of the community-based organizations (CBOs) is the women's self-help group (SHG). SHGs generally consist of ten to fifteen members who organize savings and loan activities. SHGs also spread awareness of various social issues. One or two women of each SHG are nominated to represent their group at a village organization (VO) that handles village issues. VO leaders then become a part of a mandal samakya which deals with things at a mandal (akin to a county) level. Finally, there are mandal facilitation centres (MFCs) that take up legal and government programs, with lobbying and advocacy issues at the Divisional level.

SEDS is involved in each stage of the community organization, delivering facilities and training a village staff of about 400 people, including volunteers, health workers, and teachers. From the mid-1980's when SEDS started Sanghams in the villages, the main effort has been to make the community organizations efficient, sustainable and, in the long term, independent.

[The article originally written by Amit Manikoth, for SEDS's 30 years celebration. This is simply a reproduction.]