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.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

SEDS: When every drop of water is taken care of, each one of us is taken care of.

"Penukonda" means a big hill. Vira Virupanna Udaiyar, a prince of the glorious Vijayanagar dynasty built the Penukonda Fort. According to history, the Penukonda fort was made the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire for a short time. Inscriptions at Kallodi in Mysore reveal that the rulers had a channel dug to bring water from different sources to Penukonda. The inscriptions also describe a moat filled with crocodiles.  

You can still see the ruins of the fort on the way to the SEDS farm and you can also see the relationship between stone fortifications and water still being maintained today. The Vijayanagar rulers used water to protect their fort, SEDS uses fortifications to protect and harvest water.

SEDS has constructed walls and stone dams to trap and channel rain water from the watershed areas of the hills of Penukonda. Water that would otherwise have run down the hill, wiping away fertile top soil is now channeled and directed into catchment areas where it can be used. SEDS currently works in 220 watershed villages, helping them harvest, utilize and preserve this most precious resource. The water table, which was low down at 50 feet today stands at an average of 8 feet.

As a result, Anantapur has gone from being the second-most drought prone district in India to the green-topped land that it is today.

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