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 journalist Shamola came for a visit)

Hi. We are Disha and Jasper. And we are working as volunteers for SEDS. We'd like to use this blog as a platform to share our experiences with all of you. Hope you enjoy our journey.

It's our 6th day at the farm and after a bit of morning walk in the beautiful boulevard of our campus, we found ourselves headed straight to the dining area. The aroma of hot pooris and aloo (potato) made the morning air even more welcoming. As a rule, we take our breakfast (here or anywhere) rather seriously. A big one keeps us going through the better part of the day. And one learns to appreciate a non-intrusive tummy when one is about to meet a journalist and visit two villages back to back. 

Shamola, a freelance journalist along with her friend Jayanti, came visiting to do an article on SEDS.
The two villages, Chollemari and Roddam, and SEDS’s contribution to their upliftment were a part of their agenda.

They began their day interviewing Rashna, the owner & creative head of Lilani, a boutique that employs and teaches village women to sew, knit and design clothes, bags, rugs etc. Their philosophy is ‘upcycle’ and their office is located on the SEDS campus. Rashna along with Basha (Creative Manager, Lilani) believes that every woman is naturally creative and with the right guidance can  give life to her thoughts. Lilani has helped 600 women become financially independent so far. To know more about them you can visit their Facebook page.

Next, Shamola and Jayati paid a visit to SEDS’s schools, Anand Vidyalayam. It was lunch time and some very beautiful faces greeted us with curry and mudde on them.

Our next destination was Chollemari, a small village most known for its ‘fish wars’.  Our gracious host, village farmers helped us understand how SEDS offered them solutions like low carbon farming, installation of bio-gas units and how to defend their fish. Basha, SEDS’s legal advisor and Mani, SEDS’s Area Manager were our amazing translators. 

After exchanging a warm good bye at Chollemarri we arrived at Roddam, where we met women of colossal strength.

From working barefoot in the fields or looking for dry firewood to owning a dairy farm, SEDS has helped these women come a long way.  Manil Jayasena Joshua, CEO, SEDS issued ID cards for women to help them open bank accounts without their husbands. This small act helped the village women find their identity and express themselves like never before. 

Photo Courtesy: Disha Kathuria