Category: Work

A little action for that big smile…

It was a hot day today and I was reluctant to go for a field visit. But work has to go on and a meeting was to be facilitated in one of our villages. We reached and waited only to find out that people who had agreed to come yesterday were now caught up in some other work and the meeting was cancelled. I was annoyed and decided to go back when Mr. Sanjay (our staff) suggested that we meet some children and follow up on their status.

Since we had put substantial effort into the children in this village, I was hoping to receive some good feedback. We visited Dasrath, who is 3 years old and has Cerebral Palsy. I was hoping to see him in a better position but we met him in the same state as a lot of children with disabilities, neglected, alone and on his bed.

Children with CP are usually required to have different positions which benefit their posture and various other things but since there is no one at home to take care of him when his parents go to work, he spends the entire day lying down, unable to interact with anybody. His parents are generally supportive people but since progress is very slow, they tend to give up and the other obligations are prioritised. This added to our frustrations but we stopped to talk to his siblings and his uncle and explained the benefits of making him sit and teaching him to interact.

As we planned to leave with our frustrations, Mr. Sanjay decided that it was not enough if we just visited over and over again and explained the child’s condition and he wanted to go further.

Please follow the photographs to see what happened.

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This is how he stays, alone
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He seemed excited about sitting but needed some modification for balance.
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Mr. Sanjay initiated the modification
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The kids joined in….
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The uncle took over and the structure was complete.
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He was seeing people from a different angle and hence more interactive.
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Modification for support made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The problem was that he had to made to sit, the usual solutions are fancy items like CP chair or corner chair which are non-available locally  and even if available, unaffordable. A small idea by our staff and half an hour of our time changed the way Dasrath looks at things now.  The family has promised to make other modifications as well.

When we work with communities and work towards empowerment, we focus so much on “Helping them to help themselves”. We talk and explain and then expect them to act and get frustrated when change does not happen the way we expect. We sometimes miss the umpteen opportunities to initiate change a different way Sometimes, action has to be initiated from our side as well, a nudge; a little hand-holding can go a long way. It does not have to be resource intensive, simple gestures and initiatives can make a world of difference.Untitled8

As I left their house, I left my frustrations behind and carried with me the image of his smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Reading, God Bless

(Consent was taken from his parents)

Agro-ecological farming & sustainable food production

The Malthusian concept of population growth putting pressure on finite natural resources and resulting in resource scarcity has been considered simplistic. As Thomas Malthus said, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. In the contrary, a group of economists argue by saying, the high & increasing population would put pressure on food production and that would lead to more technological growths and agriculture intensification. This concept has led to innovation in the area of agriculture and over dependency on modern technology, giving birth to the great ‘green revolution’. Green revolution technology was exploited in many cases and focused very narrowly on the yields(& only economic aspect) and neglected environmental sustainability and other ecological factors. As a result, today, 2.6 billions of people have been affected by 2 billion hectares of land degradation caused by large-scale agricultural practice associated with green revolution. As we see today 70 % of freshwater withdrawal is for agriculture purpose. The aim for higher yield, misuse of fertilisers and pesticides has caused soil degradation, water pollution and has put unhealthy food on our plates. The food that we eat today is not only toxic but also costs us high in terms of natural resource degradation. Although the green revolution has contributed to the reduction of poverty in developing countries, the success is not evenly spread, as rich and large land holding farmers are benefited more whereas the conditions of poor remain unchanged.

At this juncture, the question is, is Agroecological practice, which is a sustainable or environment-friendly method of food production an answer? Agroecological practice is a process learnt from nature, which integrates crops and livestock with the natural environment. For example, crops such as maize, wheat, sorghum, millet and vegetables are being grown alongside trees such as Acacia, Sesbania, Gliricidia etc. These agro-forested trees provide shade, improve water availability, prevent soil erosion and add natural fertilisers to soils. If the approach is understood well and practiced can increase yield up to double or triple the time.

duck
http://practicalaction.org/

Another example of this concept is, using ducks instead of pesticides in rice cultivation. Ducks eat weeds, weed seeds, insects and other pests and at the same time their droppings provides nutrients to rice plants. It has been a success in some parts of Bangladesh as farmers have experienced 20 percent higher yield without the use of harmful fertilisers and pesticides.

Agriculture-interconnectedness
http://www.groundswellinternational.org/

Agroecological practices can be a promising way for sustainable food production. It can produce high yields with less natural resource degradation, protect the environment, promote social and economic development, therefore promoting sustainable development. However, it is complex and requires capacity building of farmers in understanding the whole process. But at the same time, it is also evident in many places that local farmers have a better understanding of local eco-system and with little scientific inputs they can take up this approach and succeed.

Agriculture intensification and industrialised agriculture have failed to keep their promise, rather than meeting the global need for food production, it has been costing us our future. On the other hand, Agro-ecological practice with behaviour change such as reducing the massive global food waste (roughly one-third of the total food produced) can meet the global need for food production.

Thank you

God Bless…

For more information: Assadourian, E., Prugh, T., Starke, L., Institute, W. and Institute, T.W. (2013) State of the world 2013: Is sustainability still possible?. Washington, DC [etc.]: Island Press.

The Invisibles – Now you see them, now you don’t

In any project, selecting the target area is crucial as it determines the kind of people we would be able to reach out. With this in mind, we in the CBR project set out for an exploratory visit to the project area. The task sounded easy but as our team set out, there were various challenges varying from broken roads to overflowing rivers and finding most people in the fields busy with agriculture. But nothing could compare to this particular challenge, “not finding People with Disabilities”. Most villagers we had asked claimed there were no people with disabilities in our village, some claimed “oh that lame man, I think he died a couple of years ago or that mental child, I don’t think she survived”. Most people we met seemed very sure there were no people with disabilities in their village and some even proudly stated so.

It should actually be good news, unfortunately it isn’t. According to the WHO statistics, 15 % of every population world-wide has a disability (World Report on Disability). According to our secondary government records, at least 1-2 % of every population are people with Disabilities.  But in our experiences, they are often not found, people do not know them, they are forgotten or invisible. Often, families hide the fact that they have a child or an adult with disability in their families they feel ashamed and this often leads to them being neglected, uncared for. And without any care, they deteriorate further, are constantly dependant, a burden to the family and finally lose all dignity.

But during one of our visits, a call came through to one of our staff from the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre. He urgently wanted names and contacts of a few PWDs. I wondered why there was such a hurry to find random PWDs. I found out that, since the Independence Day was coming up in 2 days, they wanted to distribute some aids and appliances from the Department of Social Welfare. So suddenly, PWDs were in demand, it may be a good thing and someone in need could actually benefit. But what annoyed me was that the PWDs were sought after for a day or two in a year.

We met the officer in charge and he expressed that this would be an opportunity to showcase the activities of the department. It felt like the PWDs in need were on display for the world to see what the Department could achieve. There would be photographs and news reports and heaps of praise but the PWDs would go back to being invisible. However we referred a young girl with severe physical impairment who would benefit from a tricycle. I found out today that she couldn’t go and receive the tricycle. I wonder if she will be on record somewhere, if she will ever be sought out again, if she will ever get another chance, if she and many other PWDs be visible throughout the year.

Some may argue that at least they are getting something, I disagree, and they don’t need our pity or charity to be given something. They deserve better, a better life, a better future and better attention. The least we can do is to acknowledge their presence amidst us and make them more visible.

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Thank you

No more “Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life”…

For ages, development, social work, social change and many other professions focusing on empowerment have had the old Chinese Proverb as a guiding Star “ Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life”.

We have followed this in our work and have communicated it strongly as a principle. But just today I came across a very interesting modification to this principle. This has been outlined in the “Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change”.

Barefoot

Source: Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change pg no: 6

Often a lot of development activities done under this banner, end up teaching the community to fish claiming that it is sustainable. In working with People with disabilities in our project, it means that providing services makes them dependent for life but teaching them skills makes them independent or empowered for life. But in this complex society that is undergoing constant change, the skills that they learn are dependent on the circumstances. As long as the river or the circumstances are favorable, they would be able to use their skills but when things change, they either have to learn new skills or end up where they started.

But as this new twist to the Chinese Proverb suggests, organizing of Community would help them come up their own solutions. This is often overlooked in development activities. We say we believe that Community has strengths but often don’t act on it. This often leads to project driven interventions which have quicker results but often last only till the situation remains the same.

We in the Community Based Rehabilitation Project are moving to the next phase and are planning to expand our work and follow the Community Organizing (CO) process with People with Disabilities. In our previous experience, the CO process has been difficult and time taking as it does not yield immediate results. But coming across this new twist to our guiding principle has been encouraging.

I am looking forward to this new phase in our project and although the future looks hazy and the task is huge. I hope as a team, we would develop an attitude that, people, even the most helpless ones have inherent strengths that can be developed. I pray that as we move ahead, we will be able to facilitate our communities to come together for social change, no matter how difficult the work gets. This we believe would result in transformation and restore hope.

Happy Reading

God Bless…

Finger Millet – No longer strange…

This is the third year of promoting Finger Millet in the region. Previous year 126 farmers harvested finger millet which had a good impact on the local population. Being a drought resistant crop, around 400 farmer bought seeds and 126 could harvest 3.4 tons (confirmed data). Previous year the rainfall was quite low, due to which the rice cultivation was a complete failure. But finger millet survived the dry conditions and returned quite a good amount of produce. We witnessed very clearly, how finger millet survived when rice could not even give any return. You can see the photograph of a field where millet and rice was cultivated together but the result was quite astonishing.

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Right side field is the rice field which is even a lower land but it has failed where finger millet in the left side field has grown so well.

This is evidence, which we are now using to motivate our farmers to restart this traditional drought resistant crop this year. We have developed a small 4 minutes movie to promote finger millet among local population. We have completed millet recipe demonstration in 30 villages which was to promote millet as a nutritious diet in rural area. Millet recipe demonstration has influenced a large number of women and men to restart the crop and use it as a major food.

Due to extreme heat during April and May, our common promotional programmes were not very successful as bringing people together was very difficult. Therefore we thought to do the promotion in each village separately.

Photographs of promotional programmes:

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People have been very responsive to finger millet compared to previous year. We are half way through the promotion and see a lot of interest among people. I think more than 500 farmers will be ready to cultivate finger millet this time. Not only this but some of the farmers from our villages are requesting Pearl millet and Great millet seeds which are traditional drought resistant crops. It is an amazing experience of the project to see the interest of so many farmers to restart these traditional crops. It is a major behaviour change among people in two to three years of time. They are not only talking about the drought resistance capacity of these crops but now they know the high nutritional components in these crops.

As we know only knowledge will not bring behaviour change but knowledge with repeated action is required to bring change in behaviour, we are ensuring that families eat millet. And this effort has brought some amount of success this year. One of the evidence which made our team feel so happy was the response of our farmers who don’t want to sell millet but want to keep it for food. Recently, we wanted to buy 2 quintals of finger millet from our target area. When we asked some of our farmers who had more than 50 kg production, whether they want to sell some amount,they refused saying that they want to eat. These same farmers two years back were asking if they cultivate finger millet where can they sell it and complaining about the unavailability of market, now don’t want to sell. This is a major behaviour change among some of the families regarding consumption of finger millet we have experienced.

This year we are doing our best to promote this crop as the condition seems to be drought. If they don’t get anything else, some amount of finger millet can be produced. This will not only secure their food for some months but also add to their nutritional needs during drought.

We are also looking for pearl millet and great millet seeds to make available for our farmers. We will be continuing this through the coming months and would update about the progress.

Thank You

God Bless….

Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

Today is World Environment Day and this year’s theme is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” wow… what a beautiful theme!! Are you observing? It is not necessary that you observe it grand…just a simple decision to minimise the usage of natural resources in daily life is enough…have you taken any decision? Have you told anyone about this? If you are organising a big programme for the day, it is awesome, if not, a small step is also great.

Oh we humans!!! How long can we be careless?? Oh we Indians!! How much water, electricity and fuel will we waste?  How many forests will we turn into plain lands? How much natural resources will we exploit in the name of development? When will we stop this for the sake of ourselves? Do we want more lives on earth or we are going to be the last??? It’s up to us…

So let’s decide! Be a good steward….Use with care…minimise usage…maximise living…

English http://www.unep.org/wed/

Thank you

God bless…

A Beautiful Transformation…..

Two days back I had a discussion with our Community Animators about development. They all are from the target villages and have been working with us since 1 . 5 years. I asked them to write what do they mean by development and when can they call a particular community developed? And I told them to discuss in the group and make a final presentation.

What came out from the discussion was unbelievable for me at that time…. They said a community can be called developed when it has following aspects:

Education for all, enjoy good health, organised, have capacity to solve own problems.

Stewards of natural and physical resources, Have a monitoring system, participatory decision making.

Have trust, Leadership, Respectful, Have a vision, hard working, Honesty, Take responsibility and

Selfless (concern for others)

Food is secure for all, Proud of their own community and themselves

Maintain cultural values and give importance to community gatherings.

Active Participation, Equal opportunity for marginalised people, continuously growing and Learning

Aware about own problems and weaknesses, Able to take action and accepts changes

Lives with Dignity

I was amazed to hear this from them as I had never expected this response from our field staffs.

When I asked what they think about physical development of the community? They said if a community has all these characteristics, automatically the physical/infrastructure development will occur. But if it has all natural and physical resources available but don’t have above characteristics then it will fail to manage the resources it has..and it will never prosper…

A Change from within can bring a huge change outside….That’s what it is…

This is a huge change in their perspective from the time they have joined…I am glad as the project is able to bring some beautiful changes in the lives of our field staffs whom we see as future leaders in their own communities ….

They have not been taught all this but they have learnt it from their experience….A beautiful transformation has happened within them and I hope this will bring transformation in their sphere of influence too….

Thank You… God bless…

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Photo Courtesy : Rachel

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Adaptation vs. Migration….Let’s hope for the best…

There has been constant decrease in rainfall since three years in our project area. Previous year the rainfall was significantly less, which affected the agriculture up to a great degree. Lots of water sources dried up by the month of October and there was very less water available for winter crop. This caused high number of migrations and if this continues many more will commit the same in near future.

Now the area looks dry and most of the water sources have dried up. There are few wells and tube wells which are active but most of them are drying up. In few days the situation might get worse. There is no water available for agriculture and in few months there would be drinking water crisis for both human beings and animals.

The community is not prepared for this. If they face a severe drought, they will have nothing to do but to depend on government and some NGOs or finally migrate for food and water. That will be horrible…

At this juncture, we are trying to help the community to prepare drought mitigation plans at the village level. In communities we have started the Participatory Assessment of Disaster Risk exercises and presently, we are facilitating vulnerability and capacity assessment. This would help the villagers to have a plan for the anticipated drought by next month.

People are participating actively in this activity, which has been a great experience for me. We don’t know how much impact we would be able to bring in this matter. But we hope the community would be able to make an action plan and execute it. We could have done it a year before but could not do for some reasons. Now our prayer is that the community may adapt best to this situation and improve their resilience.

We would be continuing this activity intensively and I will share my experience in a regular basis…..

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There used to be a small water stream through this channel before two months and now it has completely dried up.
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This view is from the other side of the same stream
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This is the first time in my three years, I saw this pond being dried up…
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This is the view of a village community…you can see the dryness….

To be continued….

Thank you

Water- the Elixir of Life or May be Not…

This was my first visit to Chukru, a small village in the Palamu district. Although I had heard quite a bit about the village, it did not prepare me for what I saw and heard. Here is an account of my experience of my field visit, a very familiar but tragic tale.

Chukru is notoriously well known as the village, with record number of people affected with Skeletal Fluorosis, a condition caused by extensive exposure to Fluorine content in the water. A limited exposure would lead to the dental condition, Fluorosis but a chronic exposure could scar you for life. But Chukru is not only famous for this issue but also the extensive amount of work done on paper and feeble attempts in reality both by government and non- government agencies.

It is said that almost every NGO who initiated work in the Palamu district (one of the most backward districts in the state) had visited the village, made promises only to never come back. The people of the village, frustrated have lost hope and are afraid to trust any more.

I had visited the village because our staff shared that they were finding it difficult to reach out to people (we work with people with disabilities and their rights) as they didn’t want to even access their rights which were available.

Here are lives of two families I met, which is a representation of almost every family in the village.

Upendar is 9 years old, a happy go lucky kid just catching few minutes of play before school started. As I stopped to chat with him, I found that both he and his brother Ajay have been victims to this dreadful condition. Although other discussions held in the village showed that most people who were affected, manifested symptoms only after their twenties.

As we talked, his mother walked in nonchalantly (not a usual sight in the village, especially when there are strangers in your house). She didn’t seem expectant at all, giving me the feeling that she was used to people interviewing their family. Still determined, I sat to talk to her as well. She shared of her three children, both the boys were the ones affected.

The family had also spent a lot of money in treatment and finally gave up as they did not get any medical help.I told her that I had met her son and that he was a bright kid. She beamed as she proudly declared that she was determined to give both her sons good education, as it was the only source of hope.

The other family I met were a couple both very old and had lived with this condition for almost 30 years. In addition to this, they also do not have any children and are dependent on each other. Both of them shared they had adjusted to this life and have no expectations of any change.

A crowd had gathered around us and people were enquiring was this the meeting that was supposed to happen. I was surprised as we did not plan any meeting, when we found out that another “NGO” had come to hold a meeting to discuss the issue. People shared that this was a non-stop happening as the village has been a constant attraction. They asked me what would I do, I didn’t have an answer.

We explained that we are not here to solve their water crisis rather to work with people who are already affected. We enquired if the people had taken any steps, they shared that they had protests, marches but each time same promises were made to shut them up. I have no clue what we will be able to do in this village as everyday people are still drinking the same infected water and just waiting for the worst to happen, a destiny they feel that cannot be changed.

We, in the project don’t want to be just another NGO with promises, the magnitude of the problem scares me but am reassured by this very familiar verse “My Grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in your weakness”. I am not sure of the way forward but one thing I know is that for any sustainable change to happen, it is absolutely necessary for people to be part of that process. I believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel in Chukru; it’s just a matter of time till we reach there.

If you are reading this, I would appreciate any thoughts, feedbacks and experiences you might have on similar issues.

Thank you

God Bless.Photo5972

BeLiEve, tAlk & wAlk the talK…

download
A must read book

“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”
― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

While working with the community, we also find ourselves imposing our ideas on them. We start by facilitation but in the process, lose our patience and try to get quick decision so we end up imposing. This also happens because we do not trust their ability to think, reason and take decision. We fail to believe that they also know things and have better knowledge about their situation and solutions than any of us.

Until now even after two years of work with the communities, I have constantly failed to trust the community fully and believe in their ability to take decision and implement them successfully. Neither have I seen any of our leaders doing this. We talk lots on this and believe in this principle as well but when it comes to practice we are way behind…

It has been a struggle and I have no idea how long will it take to change this attitude within us? We may seem like a facilitator and a companion to them(communities) but if we do not practice what we believe in, this would keep them in the same condition, dependent and in bondage for a life time.

Therefore, I would request my friends and new emerging fellows committed to work with poor communities, let us practice this value and trust the capacity and enormous potencies of the community. We can be a part of their struggle for liberation with the attitude of a leader not as a superior being….

Let us believe, talk and more importantly walk the talk….

Thank you

A long way to go….

The year 2014 is going to end in few hours. We are entering another new year with lots of hope, promises, and so many wonderful feelings. There are lots of things to remember, lots of good and bad and many more beautiful experience. But the word that was popular and one that I heard often in this year was ‘Development’ I think. The whole country was busy with election and so many promises had been made. The year ends with the very popular phrase ‘development for all’. That’s a good statement, in fact a beautiful one and a beautiful idea too.

The ‘development for all’is not impossible but I struggle with the idea every day. While working with the community I struggle to keep up the hope in my everyday work and life. The big concern is whether it is real or just a dream which would never come true. I am not against those promises made by the government and political leaders, I am not saying, it is a false hope that have been given to people but it is hard for me to believe that ‘development for all’ can be achieved with the present thoughts and attitude towards it.

What is development? I am not asking the definition!When to call a particular community developed, is a big question. What does development mean for those who are promising and for those who are hoping or expecting? Is the development all about the infrastructure, factories, business and international relations,economic development etc? In the name of development so many things have been happening but the poor are still poor or becoming poorer. Their struggles are increasing day by day with new troubles. Instead of the growth, new social and environmental problems are being added to their lives every day. What is then the development everybody is talking about?

Don’t you think development means much more than what most of us actually think? When can one say a community is developed? It might differ from one person to another but the basic thing about development would remain same. I think the development is when; peoples’ participation increases, they are part of decision making, there is opportunity to grow and use their potential, willingness to take initiatives, able to dream, there is education and awareness, people are contributing to the growth of the community, identifying and addressing their needs by themselves, community is improving their living condition without external help, able to manage resources effectively, participation in planning, implementation and evaluation of the community based programmes, able to facilitate others, enjoy good health, able to think freely, able to respect all human beings, able to communicate, able to maintain peace with one another and with the environment, has a good value system, there is a sense of security and there is justice. I would say a community is developed when I see all these. But I leave it up to you to think and define development.

For this to happen, I believe it should start from within. And it would be possible when we choose to work with people at their same level not as a superior being, trying to help them. Our superior attitude would never bring the change that we desire in our communities rather it would push them to deeper oppression.  This might be possible only when they are facilitated to think on their own rather than imposing our thoughts on them.

I am not finished yet… I also will be sharing with you what the community thinks about development.I will continue this through my future posts but till then I leave you to think about your own version of development.

The dream of ‘development for all’ is not going to be achieved overnight….It is a long way to go….but no matter how long, let us make our contribution towards this as far as we can…. Where ever you are, you can make development happen….and that could be a part of your New Year resolution….Take care and share your thoughts….Have a blessed year ahead….

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God Bless….

Community Based Recipe Demonstration…

Harvest of finger millet did not end the millet promotion activity for this year. People of our villages have long forgotten most of their own indigenous recipes. As we are promoting finger millet as a drought resistant and highly nutritious crop, we needed to make sure that Finger Millet getting into their mainstream food. We had already developed a recipe book for the community but most of the women could not follow the instructions given in the booklet as they could not read. Hence, we decided to do community based demonstration of millet recipes.

Yesterday, for the first time we demonstrated finger millet recipe in one of the hamlets of Champi village.  16 women participated in the programme and showed great interest to learn some of the recipes. It was a great time for us in helping them to cook and learn and it was also an opportunity for us to strengthen relationships with the community. This was the first demo in village and we would be doing it in all the 30 villages in coming months.

There are some of the photographs of the event, have a look….Thanks…

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Arrangement before the demonstration
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Mr. Jogendra setting the fire
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Preparing Dalia (porridge)
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A woman sharing the prepared food with participants

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Finger Millet Puri was the last item we demonstrated
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A woman distributing puri among participants

God Bless…

Harvest of Finger Millet – The Wonder crop

Once again, it’s time for me to share with you about the wonder crop (Finger Millet) that I had already shared in two of my posts in the past. As I had shared that last year we were able to encourage 46 farmers to restart the traditional crop, this year also we have been able to keep up the work.

In the beginning of the monsoon we were able to promote the crop in quite a big manner.  We promoted it in different occasions in the area which was quite successful and 433 farmers (360 from the project area) bought finger millet seeds made available by the project. Out of them around 300 farmers did nursery and eventually, 133 farmers were able to harvest the crop this year.

Our expectation was obviously higher but 46 farmers last year to 133 farmers this year is a good indicator for the project to see the outcome. In 30 villages the production till now is 2.18 tons and we are yet to get the data from some more farmers.

But at the end of all this, it’s not the statistics but the fact that farmers are restarting this crop is important to us. Here, where their major crop like rice failed terribly due to low rainfall; finger millet has given them good yield. Harvest of finger millet would definitely contribute to their food and nutritional security this year but most importantly it will help them to understand the importance of adaptation in current situation. Farmers are improving their resilience by adopting drought resistant crops could be the key success for the community and for us as well.

It is a small move towards our goal but a beautiful beginning to help increase resilience of community towards rapid climate change.  Increased trust of the beneficiaries would lead us to support the community more effectively in the adaptation process through coming days.

There are few photographs of this year cultivation and harvest, have a look…. God Bless….

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Courtesy: Mr. Umesh

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Women of a village harvesting Finger Millet
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Another Woman Harvesting
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Finger Millet
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Drying

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Finger Millet after cleaning

[ I take this opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Jeevan Kuruvilla, our former Project Director for his huge effort and interest towards this cause ]

Thank You

International Day for Persons with Disabilities – 2014

December 3rd is observed world wide as the International Day for Persons With Disabilities and the UN theme for the year is “Sustainable Development, The Promise of Technology”.

This day provides a platform to bring to light People with Disabilities, their abilities, their issues, their opinions. It also provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to assess themselves to see how far PWDs have been included in development both as beneficiaries and as agents.

This year’s theme is interesting as it focuses on Development that should be sustainable and a giant contributor to development- ICTs(Information Communication technology). The focus is also on present and upcoming technology, to see if they are inclusive and also how far technology can be used to improve inclusion and facilitate better participation of PWDs. We believe that higher level of participation from all sections of society would result in Sustainable Development.

As part of our work, we celebrated IDPWD a day earlier. This was done so that PWDs from our areas could be involved in the programs done by the government on 3rd December. It was an interesting day, we had approximately 250 participants, all People with disabilities from about 35 villages spread across 2 districts. The program was organized with an aim to create awareness regarding disability to the general public and to help PWDs experience and explore new things.

We also had the privilege of the participation of our District Social Welfare Officer, who also has the reputation of being a young, enthusiastic officer with special regard to disability affairs, the District Disability Rehabilitation Officer and the Block Development Officer.

Along with this year’s theme, we also focused on practical needs for PWDs, we had sessions and stalls showcasing different livelihood options, things to keep in mind when planning for livelihood. Another stall depicted Community Based Aids and Appliances (these can be made at home using local resources) and also information on rights and schemes.

Below are pictures from yesterday’s program, Happy Reading.

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Registration of Participants
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Starting the programme with prayer
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Lamp lighting by Chief Guest
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Welcoming the gathering by Mr. Prabodh Kujur
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Honoring guests
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A view of participants
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A special song by a Participant
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Stalls on livelihood and adis and appliences
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Speech by Chief guest (District Social Welfare Officer)
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Display of Aids and Appliances which can be made locally
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Session on Livelihood by Mr. Abinash Biswal
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Session on Aid & Appliances by Mr. Ebez George
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Session on Home based therapy by Ms. Sheron

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God Bless…..

A Face in the Web

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A lot has been written and debated on the vicious cycle of poverty and disability and has always been of interest to me as well. Often we get lost in the academics of these concepts that reality doesn’t affect us as much. But during my field visit yesterday, I happened to meet someone caught in that web, a face in that vicious cycle.

Anshu is a 2 year old girl with delay in developmental milestones. I had met her during one of our assessment camps for Children with disabilities. She was accompanied by her mother. In the initial interaction, her mother seemed surprisingly knowledgeable. I later found that she was a trained health assistant and had been working for about 6 years. I even took the liberty to assume that the child was getting good care at home and that everything would turn out ok. But unfortunately, not everything is as we see it. A long interaction and a visit to their home showed the other side of their lives.

Anshu is the only child in her family, her father lives in Kerala in South India, where he with many other men from the village had migrated in search of jobs mostly unskilled labour. Her mother is hopeful that her daughter would recover. She had quit her job as a heath assistant to take care of her daughter and is dependent on her husband.

But this is not all, Anshu has a heart condition, when asked if they had taken any treatment, her mother explained that they had gone to Ranchi (about 150 kms away) but couldn’t admit the child as they did not have money and had to come back. She said when they had saved enough money there was no one to accompany them. Her father visits once a year and that could be a time for them to go for treatment but this year due to lack of rains, there has been no agriculture and it also means that her father would not come home this year.

As we observed the child playing cheerfully, it was heart breaking to watch her stop and gasp for air. I offered her a biscuit, her face lit up but she was too tired to come and take it from my hand. As we talked, am disturbed by the thought of how much longer would the child be able to hold on? I pried her mom on if they were planning to have other children, her reply was surprising, she said they wanted to wait till the child is independent otherwise they wouldn’t be able to take care of her properly. I am not sure what is the right reaction or suggestion. I left quietly with a promise to come back. I only can whisper a prayer that the family would win the race against time cause every time I remember that family, I am left with an image of little Anshu waving but her little heart beating so rapidly that it was visible from where I stand.

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Thank You

Helpless Silence

Today was another wonderful experience during my field visit to Tarwadih, one of our target villages’, part of the Community Based Rehabilitation Project. Our Physiotherapist and I had a meeting with parents of Children with Disabilities in the village. The challenging task was to get people to come together. But I was surprised to see most of the parents had turned up obviously with a lot of expectations.

The meeting was one of the firsts to facilitate a caregiver’s support group in the village. The meeting started and the discussions trickled into the difficulties faced by parents. As the parents shared, there were issues that we had heard before, worry about the future, physical condition of children, lack of awareness and many more. The one sharing that caught my attention was from a mother; her daughter Fareen is 12 and is like any other girl her age, playful and yet shy and smiles sweetly as her mother mentions that  her daughter has Speech and Hearing Impairment. She continues very softly that her main concern about her daughter was that she continuously got into fights with other kids, her siblings, the neighbourhood children, children at school and this affected her relationship with other families. This was an unusual sharing and I kept wondering until it struck me that, the daughter couldn’t communicate and probably got frustrated and hence the fights. I can’t imagine being unable to talk, express what’s on my mind. The place I live has very bad cell phone signal and every day I hear almost one person complaining about it including myself. The inability to communicate cripples our lives and frustrates us. But unable to communicate for life… that’s unimaginable. I could only sympathise with her. Of course I would never know how she really feels.

Although I had come across many people with speech and hearing impairment, this affected me because they had come to the meeting with a lot of expectations. But since we do not have the expertise,there is little we can do for her physical condition or her schooling and more importantly her communication.

Circumstances and opportunities break or make people. Many people with Speech and Hearing Impairments learn to communicate and continue to live their lives without any barriers. . But for children like Fareen continue to be in unfavourable circumstances hidden in remote villages struggling to meet their basic needs and lack even the most basic opportunities. So the big question arises, do we just give up? Her mother didn’t. She came to us with a glint of hope in her eyes. It’s her hope that gives us the courage to look beyond and find ways to break through the helpless silence.

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I am not exactly sure how much we will be able to do but hope that whatever we do would make a difference in Fareen’s life and many, many more children like her.

May God Bless…..

Agriculture- The Gamble

This year, we have had delayed rains, almost a month late. This has particularly affected the cultivation of the kharif/monsoon crops. Fortunately farmers have used their indigenous adaptation strategy in this situation. They have cultivated some of the drought resistant crops such as Corn, Pigeon Pea and Millets. The Corn was coming along well but just when the flowering started, there was scarcity of rain, might affect the yield in the coming months. Farmers are now hopeful about the other crops that they have cultivated. But the situation of those crops is unsure as well. Just last year the Pigeon Pea looked promising but the unseasonal rainfall during the  flowering period reduced the yield to just half of what was expected.

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You can see cracks on the field

Now the farmers are left with only option of the winter crops although most of them don’t have lands available. The obvious reason is that, the lands will be available only after the monsoon crops have been harvested. But since the cultivation was delayed by a month, the harvest would also be delayed by at least a month eventually leading to delay in cultivation of winter crops.  The most severe consequence would be caused by the frost in the month of January. The heavy frost during January destroys some of the vegetables. It would a repeat of last years’ experience as unseasonal rainfall destroyed many crops and vegetables.

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Previous year spoilt potato farm

So farmers are now burdened from every direction. The rain crop has been a failure due to late and very less rainfall affecting the timing for agriculture. The delay in winter crop seems obvious which would have severe consequence from frost. Farmers are hopeless in this situation and can’t dare to hope because of their horrible past experiences.

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Pearl Millet in our hospital Campus

They can only wait and see what happens as they have done their part and now have to let nature take its course.  No wonder agriculture in India is a gamble. And for this region it is a biggest gamble, If they get good yield, their children would go to school for an another year,  if not the education stops as families migrate for livelihood. That’s what has been happening to all our poor farmers every day. But the state is happy with their unreal statistics. Nothing has done for these communities to deal with the current climate change. The people who are the least responsible for climate change are the ones who have been affected the most. At this point of time government has to do justice by improving the adaptation skills of the community and help them in developing contingency plans.  If government doesn’t look beyond and reach out, the green revolution which was started to combat food insecurity would become the biggest reason for famine.

May God bless the land…..That is our only hope…

Thank You

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: A Humbling Experience

It was one of our usual field visits, only a new village. But the reason for the post is quite different as it’s not the usual experience. It’s one of those instances which give you mixed feelings, heart warming yet cruelly disturbing.

Hope you feel mixed emotions too as you read on.

I was on a field visit to Nawagarh, one of villages with our physiotherapist. We were looking to meet children with disabilities, especially those with whom we could work toward some physical rehabilitation. These visits are especially painful as we get to see children with impairments that could have been prevented, disabilities that have been caused by lack of basic services or means and families undergoing lifelong suffering due to ignorance and proper guidance.

Today was no different, meeting hopeful families just to tell them that there is no cure or just encourage them to keep looking after their children. One of our visits was to Tamana Khatun, a 10 year old girl with severe Cerebral palsy affecting both her cognition and her movement.

Like every other visit, a group of women, children had gathered to watch us speak to the family and meet Tamana. When asked for her family an elderly man explained the situation of the child, emotionless as though he had read the facts of a medical chart.   I formed my own opinion of him as the father in law, the head of the household who hardly cared about a girl with Cerebral Palsy. His following comments confirmed my opinions about him (So I thought!!!). He blatantly announced that the family hadn’t paid attention to the child since she was a girl and it would be pointless spending money on something which would provide no return.

I was a little shocked that he spoke so openly, as people try to pretend to care in front of outsiders. We then asked to speak to her mother and the mother was not to be found among all the women spectators. She came through after a while of searching, a small frail lady in her early twenties. Although she answered our queries about her child’s condition, she didn’t seem to grasp the reality of the situation and the therapy plans for her daughter. It was only the old man who kept responding.

I was annoyed at the irony of the situation, a mother who cared but couldn’t fully comprehend the therapy plan and an old man who was able to understand but didn’t care. As we turned to leave, I stopped to privately ask the mother, how many other children she had and if they could help out in therapy. She said Tamana was her only daughter, that came as a surprise- ONLY DAUGHTER, Something didn’t seem right, so I enquired about her husband, only to find out that he had deserted her after their daughter was born. I just had to ask the next question, whose house was this? And who was that old man? Her answer humbled me, this was her father’s house and that old man was her father.

The man who said he didn’t care and didn’t want to spend on a girl was in reality taking care of two girls, his daughter deserted by her husband and his granddaughter who has cerebral palsy. His actions spoke way louder than his words. His words were from a deep rooted culture but his actions from a deep rooted love.

As we were driving back, various thoughts flooded my head ranging from embarrassment and guilt at assuming the worst of someone to knowing that humanity still had a chance as long as there was love and that no matter who we are, it’s our actions that speak louder than our words.

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Thank You

Finger Millet – the wonder crop and God’s precious gift…

Finger Millet is one of the most precious gifts from God to the Human kind, said Dr. Haider, Professor, Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), Ranchi. The capacity to resist drought and its high nutritious values make this a wonder crop in drought prone areas in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition.

I had mentioned previously that we were able to help 46 farmers restart the crop previous year. This year we got more than 300 requests for finger millet seed from our project area. We found there were so many other people interested to restart Finger Millet outside our target villages too. As we had around 300 farmers to cultivate finger millet this year, we had organized an interface meeting with BAU on 17th where Prof. Haider addressed the farmers. Prof. Haider shared some important information on Finger Millet and its significance in the region. Following this, we had a question- answer session with farmers where they discussed their difficulties in millet cultivation and about different methods of Finger Millet cultivation.

This was a good beginning before monsoon and would help many farmers to restart the crop and motivate many others in the region also. Many realized that Finger Millet is not just one of the other crops but it is a crop with extreme significance for this region. This is a beautiful beginning but we hope to see the result in the field, villages and families through coming years.

We are not only trying to promote food and nutritional security among this drought affected region but also to help bring this traditional crop back to the mainstream. This is not just a crop but a wonder crop.

These are some of the photographs of the interface meeting:

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Dr. Jeevan, our Director welcoming the guests and farmers
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It was first time to see so many people gathering for a millet programme
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Dr. Haider lighting the lamp
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Cake cutting….It was Finger Millet cake made by Dr. Jeevan

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Prof. Haider interacting with farmers
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Dr Savita, BAU interacting with farmers

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Final words by Dr. Jeevan

 

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Stall for Finger Millet seeds and other millet products

 

Thank you

Abinash