News in Detail

Learning exchange on PLD process

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Catholic Social service society of Jammu and Kashmir is working for the poor and marginalized populace from past 3 decades. Since its inception the society had been at the service for the socio-economic development of the target population. Over the years the society has witnessed many transition shift in its approaches. The agency being known for charity approaches in the form of providing aid and support during need and emergencies had realized and felt the need to establish it as a professional agency. After a series of meetings, dialogues with the stakeholders, it transitioned itself as a need based agency with more people centric developmental approaches. The partnership with various developmental NGOs and INGOs, the agency could reach out to many areas with its approaches and strategies in the form of developmental projects.
With the continuous efforts and desire to become professionally sound agency and with the global shift to see the development from the lens of rights based angle, CSSS transitioned itself and developed its capacity to make significant contribution towards the development of the marginalized section of the society and standby the community initiatives towards ensuring the rights and entitlements.
Theses shifts in the approaches had been instrumental in ensuring more participation from the community in the programs. The involvement of the people gave a boost in the empowering process. But participation alone didn’t ensure the programs to sustain and it was noticed that after the project exit in many intervention areas, the programs didn’t continue after certain period of time and only fraction of initiatives sustained benefitting only certain populace.
With the aim to make the programs successful, it was very important that community own the programs. The efforts were made to make the people transition ready to take the ownership, the agency initiated its facilitation with series of meetings, consultations, deliberations with all the stakeholders. Many initiatives were introduced in the form community led monitoring and evaluation programs where the community took the lead role in framing and developing the tools and indicators to ensure the progress, monitor the community initiatives and evaluate the programs that are being implemented in their respective areas.
Gradually the process ensured the community take active role even in program development, implementation strategies and make significant contribution towards the sustainability of the programs.
As the agency transitioned its approaches from service delivery to community led development approach, it required to build the capacity with regular technical inputs and exposure to understand all the nuances of people led development approaches.
With the kind support and guidance from partners like MISEREOR, an exposure program was designed to equip the staff with more information, knowledge and exposure to facilitate people led development in its operational areas to make the programs more sustainable and make the community transition ready to take the ownership of the programs.
The exposure was designed in consultation with the development support partner Misereor and one of its partner, Keonjhar Integrated Rural Development and Training Institute (KIRDTI) based in Odisha. Keonjhar is one of the district of Odisha which is located 250 kms away from the Bhubaneshwar city. The district is well connected by road and also connected by rail but only for transporting of goods.
A three member’s team comprising of 1 Program Manager, 1 Project Associate and 1 Community Mobilizer were selected for the exposure program. The exposure was scheduled from 21st January 25th January 2019 with the following objectives:
To learn and understand People led Development approach through institutional as well field-based learning.
To observe the relationship between farmers group and organization/NGO.
To understand the people led development strategies adopted by the organization at grassroots level.
To read and understand the PLD documents maintained at institution as well field level.
Day 1: The program began with the orientation by the institute KIRDTI and followed by the learning exchange by both the agencies. The orientation was attended by the team members from KIRDTI including the Directors, Project Coordinators and the community mobilizers.
Mr. Duskar, Director of the institute welcomed all the members in the orientation program and the visiting team of CSSS. Then he shared about the Institute and its emergence and how it evolved from a Social Activism and shift towards project holder. He shared that he started his journey in the year 1989 by joining the agitation led by the Tribal groups in one of the forests against the smuggling of the forest woods. The incident not only gave him the opportunity to understand the community but also helped him learn their culture, their way of living. He stayed with the community and till the end of the agitation. During his stay he learned how the people have their own way of living, their own decision making bodies that is completely different rest of the state and the zeal among the people to stay together and protecting their own forest where they live have inculcated the sense of learning more about the equation between the people and forest. He lived with the community and travelled through the forests and learning more about the forest dwellers and eventually became the part of the community and the people as their own members.
He learned how the administration and the industrialists started to encroach the forest land in the name of development and forced the forest dwellers to move out from their habitations. Since Keonjhar is one of the major mineral producing Districts of Odisha. Iron ore, Manganese ore, Chromate, Quartzite, Bauxite, Gold, Pyrophillite and Lime Stone are the major minerals found, it attracted the industrialists to flourish their business and then along with the administration they are strategically encroaching the lands, using their labor force without being paying the wages and many other atrocities followed. The tribal lands are under the custody of the state and the forest dwellers are deprived of their lands. Secondly, as per the law if the tribal forest land needs to be used, then they need to be settled with another forest as compensatory measure.
The atrocities against these people, moved him to work for the groups. He along with the few volunteers from the community, travelled to the nearby forests and learned that the same strategies of forceful were happening in most of the people. Many deaths due to hunger took place in those forests. Then he along with the volunteers started mobilizing funds for the cause. He was amazed by the initiatives that were taken by the people without any kind of facilitation and support to fight for their forests and their fellow forest dwellers in the nearby forest areas.
In the year 2006, KIRDTI was established and they started taking projects from the development agencies to supplement the support for the cause. The team members of KIRDTI also shared that the people led development approach is not the kind of initiative they have started, the learned the process from the people by living and staying more with the people. Understanding how natural tendencies of the people to come together and fight for their own cause have astonished the civil societies change their strategies of work and programs.
Both the KIRDTI team and CSSS team exchanged knowledge about their respective organizations, their structures, about the projects, strategies to carry out the programs through presentation. After the sharing, the field visits were planned for the next two days to explore more about the people, their culture, and their process of organization and the revival of their traditional farming.
Day 2: The team along with the KIRDTI staff visited on of their operational area. The name of the village was ‘Baxibarigaon’.The people gathered mostly the members of the CBOs (Rangapat anchalik krushak sangathan) welcomed the team with their traditional song and bouquets prepared with leaves and flowers of their own forests and they also tied the wrist bands prepared by the women with leaves and some paddy and cereals pasted with local gum/adhesives. The team interacted with the farmers and learned how they organized themselves, what made them come together for the cause, the challenges they faced. When and how did the start reviving their traditional farming etc.
The members from farmers collective shared that they grow each and everything in their forest lands except the salt. They had more than 100 varieties of paddy seeds they used to cultivate. They never use any specific fertilizer, manures or the pesticides. The shift from their traditional cultivation started with the use of modern variety of seeds in the form of hybrid and HYV seeds. The farmers witnessed the rise in the quantity of crops productions. Many of them shifted to modern seeds. After few years many farmers noticed that they are getting more production by the use of hybrid seeds but the nutritional value is not as much as they used to get from their traditional one. One of the farmer shared that their traditional rice could be eaten barely with salt, onion and green chilies that was the taste. The new varieties rice doesn’t have any taste even with the vegetable curries. After having food they could walk miles and do laborious work but with the new they started feeling week. The use of new one brings diseases like gastric and other stomach ailments. So they use to share these things with the others and then they realized that out of the more than 100 traditional varieties only 20-25 varieties are left in practice and rest are diminished. So few progressive farmers decided to protect their forest land and its productivity and also to revive those 20-25 traditional varieties that remained with them. The journey was not so easy since many others found the new varieties lucrative as it gives more profit out of it. The progressive farmers and others came together and did a comparative analysis of both the varieties with the facilitation from KIRDTI. Both the groups pointed out the profits and loss of the produce. The comparative presentation was eye opener for many farmers. The like -minded progressive farmers then formed a group with only two objectives:
To protect the forest land from the state and other private bodies and get the ownership of the land.
Revive the traditional farming and their culture to live a healthy life with dignity.
These groups of farmers then decided to campaign about the same in the nearby areas. These farmers were able to form people’s organization at village, panchayat and district levels. The total strength of the CBOs is now 220. They conduct and participate in various district level, state level and inter- state level forums to exhibit about their traditional practices and to propagate about the common issues. They exchange their learnings and challenges in these platforms.
The women folk who were also part of the meeting shared how they are living better and healthy life after the revival of their traditional farming. They witnessed that the common diseases are drastically reduced and are easily curable by home remedies. They no longer have to visit the doctor for normal diseases.
Day 3: Visit to Chuttung Village Committee. Chuttung village is located 70 kms away from Keonjhar town. It is forest village. The team was welcomed by the people with a tribal song. They had displayed many varieties of seeds, vegetables and herbs they use regularly. The team had a good learning by interacting with the members. The people also demonstrated how they filter the waste seed from the good one with simple technique.
Few members took the team members in their respective agricultural field where they have grown all the essential items with their traditional approaches without using any chemical and fertilizers and with natural manures they get from the field.
Key learnings:
Learned the people led development process from the perspective of the institution and from the lens of the community. The initiatives taken by the people especially in case of protecting the forest land and with regard to the revival of the traditional farming has lasting change and how the people have evolved from ‘beneficiaries to agents of change’.
The process needs to be followed at every step of intervention to ensure the ownership of the community with minimum facilitation support.
Learned about many varieties of seeds and agricultural produce that have best nutritional value and better self-life but due to the invasion of modern techniques and hybrid seeds and chemical use are becoming extinct.
The community specially the progressive people needs to demonstrate their expertise and traditional approaches to generate knowledge amongst the fellow progressive farmers and they are require exposure to learn more about the processes.
Agency needs to ‘start with what they know and build with what they have’ to ensure the community to be transition ready to take the ownership of the programs that are sustainable and can bring sustainable changes.

Exposure de-briefing cum capacity building program at CSSS:

An Exposure de-briefing cum capacity building program was arranged for the project staff on 04. 02. 19 at the CSSS office to share the learnings and develop future plan of action to equip them with all the knowledge regarding the entire process of people led development approach and about the need and importance of reviving the traditional farming. The key members of the CSSS and the field level staff attended the program. The program started with sharing by the team who were part of the learning exchange program. Various techniques like group work and discussions were used to inculcate knowledge regarding the process where community take the lead role and the role of the worker in mobilizing the same. All the staff have developed common understanding on the process of people led approach and the revival of traditional farming.
The program helped the staff in exchanging their views on the project activities and its strategies from the lens of community led program and their role in facilitating the same in their respective projects. They also learned how the key persons and the like -minded progressive farmers knowledge needs to be acknowledged, respected and with minimum facilitation their leadership could be developed so that they become the agents of change.