I visited the main office of the organization Unnayan. Everybody was there, meaning Secretary Rashmi Mohanty with his team of 9 motivated staff members. It is nice to see that almost none of the staff members have left since my last visit. I will give an overview and summary of the visited projects.
When I was there they were implementing a government program: the installation of 1200 toilets. For every toilet, the government gives a subsidy of 2200 Rs. The family has to provide for 300 Rs. The total cost of a toilet is 2400 Rs. Thus, the profit for Unnayan is 100 Rs per toilet.
Pani Panchayat: irrigation, farmers committee
Unnayan has realized 5 irrigation systems in total. I visited the irrigation system of 150.000 m2 behind the office of Unnayan and had a meeting with a couple of farmers who use those fields. On these grounds a total of 12 farmers are active. They manage the project independently and can provide very well for the maintenance of the pump and the machine. To do so they have a group account where they are obliged to save and of which the members can borrow money. Thanks to this irrigation system there are three harvests per year. Unnayan gives the farmers training: 2 to 3 sessions/year covering diverse subjects. There is also a test field of Unnayan of Hybrid paddy. The farmers are very pleased with the trainings that are facilitated by the government. They receive training when a new hybrid or species of plant comes on the market. They like to stay up to date when it comes to new methods, now for free, but if necessary they are willing to pay for it. The group also acquired subsidies of the government for a plough machine, 90% government, 10% farmers group. There is definitely a progress noticeable. Previously these farmers had to work somewhere else in order to have enough food for their family. Now they can provide for themselves, help their closest family and market a part of their harvests. The biggest improvement is the fact that all the children go to school. The parents really want their children to have a different life than they had and they realize very well that the only way to reach this goal is through education.
Self Help Groups (SHG) were established because they have better accessibility to banks. The banks have more trust in SHG because then they have the guarantee of the whole group, a better reimbursement and a lower risk that the projects will fail. This way the groups can save money and take initiatives themselves. The farmers can borrow money from the group. The general working of the SHG is very good; there is a good collaboration and transfer of knowledge within the group.
In the field of education, a fantastic evolution is noticeable! The motivation of the parents has changed very positively. 90% of the villages have their own school, both boys and girls aged 5 to 21 go to school. In school, they learn how to read, write and count in their local language as well as in Orissa and English. Most of the youngsters go to high school after primary school. Because their parents are mostly illiterate and can’t help their children with their studies, they recently started up evening schools, where a teacher helps the kids with their homework and gives them extra training if necessary.
6 or 7 villages are equipped with rope making machines. The selling price of 1 kg of rope is 35 Rs. The villages that have electricity usually go for the pressing of sal leaves, because of the higher profit. 90% of the villages have electricity.
In our program, 21 sal pressing machines were provided, now there are 150 machines at hand. Some of them were obtained through loans but others were also purchased individually. The people have received training from SHG established by Unnayan. This way, the knowledge is passed on. It is a very solid operation and the people are happy with it.
In total there are 5 or 6 families that breed goats. Only families that have enough space to keep the animals in a shed during the night are qualified, because of the many foxes and sometimes even tigers (fortunately I haven’t seen them!) in the region. Unnayan has purchased a male goat in order to breed bigger and stronger goats. Most families have 4 to 6 goats for their own consumption.
Every family has chickens for their own consumption, not for commercialization.
Cows are mostly used to work on the rice fields and not for the production of milk. After the birth of a calf a cow gives a maximum of 3 liters of milk per day. In that case, the people milk a liter for their own use and the rest is for the calf. Cost of a cow: 10.000 to 15.000 Rs, depending on the weight.
The traders come to the villages. When people have to travel to the nearest marketing place themselves it takes them too much time in comparison with the extra incomings. There are a few good negotiators in every village that first explore the possible prices; afterwards they pass it on to the others so that everybody can sell their goods for the same price. There is however also an individual sale, because there is a difference in quality and therefore different prices. They should examine the possibility to centralize the goods in a cooperative that buys the goods and then resells them.
The last 2 years some local people have taken initiatives without the help of Unnayan. An example is a banana plantation for which a family has contracted a loan of 25.000 Rs for the installation of a hydraulic drill with a hand pump and the plantation of banana trees. Two years later, they have already reimbursed 12.000 Rs, meaning their plantation is very profitable. Almost every family has a kitchen garden where they grow vegetables for auto consumption.
This is still a problem but already much less than before. Especially the women are rebelling against it. Previously they would drink a lot everyday, nowadays particularly during festivities. In case of alcohol problems, this is often discussed in group and they look for a solution together. In case the wife is being abused, it happens that she takes the initiative to get a divorce. They need to pay a lot of attention to this problem; the men should also become persuaded and it should be made more debatable amongst male groups. With regard to domestic violence, a very important progress has been made.
As I have learned from my visit, this operation is very poor. This has to be solved, maybe by making regulations for the users. For controlled cutting it might by handy to appoint one or several people with knowledge and make them responsible for controlling the forests.
During a gathering I asked a few families how they could demonstrate the amelioration. The answer I mostly got to this question was that there is no emigration anymore of the young people to the cities. There are little young people that leave for the city for good, sometimes they leave for a couple of weeks to earn an additional income. I actually noticed that there were more youngsters there during my visit than before.
Contacts with the government
Many projects have already been realized; there is electricity in almost all the villages. It is important to maximize the support of the government. In order to do so I recommend to form a group of leaders from all the villages to make plans for the region and to define priorities and discuss with the government what should happen where. Up until now, this happens individually or with the support of Unnayan. For more independence these requests should happen in group, that way they stand stronger in order to obtain a program. The discussion of the water supply is very important, for the moment there is a shortage of drinking water and irrigation.
The last evening I had a meeting with some women groups. It consists of 8 groups with 14 to 16 women per group. Most of these women don’t own land or a very small property and have insufficient income to get by. These women have to go outside the village to work after their work on the rice fields. Unnayan has given them night work, the making of incense sticks. That way, they can have an additional income during the night after their daily chores the whole year around.
I was very pleasantly surprised to experience so many positive changes. It already started at my arrival when I got to greet all the former staff members. This was already a good sign and I believe it is important. In good organizations there is little turnover of staff. This is very important for a trust to grow through a long-term collaboration. Just like during last time, I saw a motivated and socially engaged team, which is fantastic after all these years.
When it comes to the realization of the different targets and the achieved results I can give you my warmest congratulations. The most important goal; to make the local tribes more independent and to give them sufficient knowledge and incomings so that they can have an autonomous life has been reached in all the villages. During my visit to the SHG, these women made clear to me how their future has changed. All the SHG have a bank account, most of the families have an account, they motivate their children to go to school, there is little emigration of the youth and alcohol abuse has diminished significantly. These are fantastic results.
There is a very strong group feeling; the people help each other when necessary. In emergency situations, the villagers give a loan to the members of the group in need; so that they become able to bridge the expenses. If a family has personal problems, they are fixed together.
Last but not least I would like to thank everybody for the warm welcome, open communication and information. We want to wish them a lot of success with the realization of their projects. We hope that the inhabitants of the region can look forward to a better, more secure future and we would like to thank the people of Unnayan for supporting and helping them with this.
We wish them many warm greetings and a lot of success!
Hilde Van kerckhoven