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: It's only right to stand up for your rights

1984. A young Rajen Joshua crouched behind a tree, lying in wait for the landlords who beat him up the previous week.

Rajen had come to the wilderness that was the Anantapur of the 70s as a part of the Young India initiative. He had been encouraging the villagers to stand up to the local landlords and claim what was rightfully theirs from the land that they worked on. This didn't go down well with the local landlords who had the authority in the region for decades.

The story of SEDS is often the story of opposition. Opposition to outsiders, to a different way of development, to a different way of thinking. Over the years, Rajen and Manil have had to deal with hostile farmers, corrupt bureaucrats, an apathetic officialdom, false police cases, thieving employees, naxal threats, and even short spells in jail. SEDS is certainly the only NGO that has even run on the proceeds from motorbike rallying, thanks to Rajen's race wins during times of fund shortages.

The success and development that you see around you came about not only with hard work, but with several hard knocks. Looking at the results, we must not forget that the journey has been far from easy and far from complete.  

Rajen never got to confront the people he was waiting for on that evening in '84. Someone had warned them to avoid that route and a few days later, the village brokered a compromise. 

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