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: Trees are the source of life, the beacon for future.

Baba Fakhruddin Suharwardy was the king of an Iranian province, before renouncing his kingdom and becoming a Sufi saint. After several years spent serving his spiritual guru, he sought a place to settle in. According to an old tale, his guru gave him a dry twig and directed him to travel till he found a place where the twig would bloom into a big plant. Baba Fakhruddin travelled far and one day, he planted the twig and slept under a tree, only to awake and see that it had become a beautiful plant. That place was Penukonda.

Like the dry twig of the legend, the once dry hills of Penukonda have been transformed into a sea of green through the re-forestation efforts of SEDS. Planting and helping plant over 2 million Tamarind, Neem, Pongamia, and Jatropha trees, SEDS has effectively converted barren land into a veritable forest. Supporting the planting activity, SEDS's watershed management techniques ensure that the water stores remain even during seasons of drought. SEDS pioneered the restoration of old tanks and traditional water bodies such as farm ponds, as well as creating new watersheds in the area. Villagers who once cut down trees indiscriminately have realized the importance of the green cover and have become the best guardians of Penukonda's trees. 

Baba Fakhruddin's mausoleum still stands in Penukonda today, among all the trees.

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