After independence, the Indian State assumed the responsibility for “Economic growth and national progress” via adoption of dominant developmental ideology. This development pattern based on western models involving the transfer of high level technology, heavy capital investment only strengthen the pre-existing power structures and feudal patterns.
This Development policy legitimized systematic displacement and dispossession of the resources, labour and in fact the very means of human existence of the dalits, the tribals and the poor. People were forced to replace the socio-cultural fabric and ecosystems which had given meaning to their lives for many years by alien places and were reduced to “nomads” or “misfits”. The development of industries, mines, large dams and plantations has resulted in a situation where there is no control over floods, draught, and other natural calamities.
Koraput is Orissa’s biggest district. A majority of its population (56%) are tribals forming 24% percent of the state’s tribal population. Today Dalits and Tribals form 70 per cent of the district’s population. The District has 18 large projects with about 5, 00,000 acres (2,000 sq.km) of its total area of 26,961 sq.km (or 7.42 per cent) occupied by these schemes. More than one lakh tribals have been deprived of their land including 4, 00,000 acres of forest on which they dependent on livelihood. More than 6 percent of the district population, mainly tribals have been displaced. The quality of life indicators like literacy, life expectancy, employment, health are low among displaced people-the tribals and dalits.
SOVA’s commitment to sustainable livelihood as an integral part of holistic community development has been a part of its Focussed area for more than a decade. Our approach towards achieving sustainable Livelihood is thus two-fold:
(1) Non Farm Activities and (2) Firm Activities.
We stepped in to form self-help groups and village development committees to work together to make the most out of their indigenous resources, such as land, livestock, forest, and income-generating activities.
Our livelihood activities are designed, planned, implemented, and evaluated by the community organizations themselves to ensure stability and sustainability. Over the years, we’ve built strong relationships with community members and watched their skills, capacity, and income levels grow.
Our ultimate goal is to see these organizations become independent of external support such as ours and to take ownership of all their projects.
Farm Activities: Koraput is rich in natural resources like coal, aluminum etc. but the so called developmental projects in the area have left thousands of tribes landless and without a livelihood resulting in migration to other areas.
We build community organizations in 72 villages so tribals can work together to maximize the potential of their natural resources and reduce the dependency on their landlords. All activities are planned and implemented with complete participation of the villagers to ensure their success and sustainability.
Goatery Program: We supply goats to the poorest of the poor villagers, identified by their village development committees. The livestock has helped cultivate more land, reduce the number of migrant workers, and provide additional income.
Mushroom Cultivation: Our mushroom cultivation program provides additional income to farmers. We started the program by constructing mushroom sheds, selling fairly priced seeds and training to individual beneficiaries. The high yield of mushrooms resulted in significant profits for the farmers, who deposited a portion of them into a group savings account to sustain the program. We are now extending the program beyond the individual level to community Self Help Groups.
Grain Bank; Seed Banks: Our grain Bank; seed banks help farmers cope with the lean periods when they have no food to eat. We are helping Village Development Committees store surplus grains and seeds and borrow from each other, rather than their landlords. Not only do the 9 villages where we piloted grain banks now have grain year round, but 23 other villages witnessed the success and have independently instituted their own.
Land Development: At the heart of SOVA’s strategy has always been to work directly with the rural poor, build their capabilities, and introduce and develop new livelihood opportunities.
SOVA takes the integrated approach to resource management and has demonstrated ways to promote the development of natural resources. This approach leads to an equitable and sustainable economic growth ensures household food security, and helps minimise mass poverty.An integrated approach to land and water resources management requires participatory planning with the people, to develop systems and treatment measures that are most suitable to the resources available. The technologies that SOVA has developed are simple and labour intensive and best suited to the people they are designed to serve.In our land development projects, we train farmers on land-leveling and bonding, water conservation and planning sustainable agriculture strategies.
Vegetable Cultivation: SOVA teams, fielded in the undulating and hilly terrains, are working to encourage farmers to take up vegetable cultivation on their small-scale homesteads and near dug wells. These activities provide the poor families with a dependable source of income.SOVA has taken up fruit tree plantation programmes on private lands. Over 6,000 families are currently involved in SOVA’s horticulture programme.
Non firm Activities:
Low Cost Housing: We supply home building materials, like tin roofs and doors to the poorest of poor villagers, identified by their village development committees. The villagers’ then work together to construct the homes using local materials and the materials we provide. So far, we’ve helped in the construction of 90 homes, changing the lives of families that previously had no shelter and few opportunities.
Solar Electricity: We deliver solar powered lights to families through our partnership with Beyond Solar, an American non-profit organization. These lights allow families to save time and money on fuel stocks. In addition, replacing their current light source (kerosene) is better for the environment and safer for their health. So far, we’ve delivered lights to 50 families in the villages of Kerenga block, and trained the villagers in their local language on the benefits and how to use them. The most basic benefits of the lights are immediately recognizable; kids playing in the street, parents socializing, and people continuing their work into the dark hours, which will help them earn more income.
Promotion of Self-help Groups: SOVA supports the formation and strengthening of Self-Help Groups (SHG). These groups can collectively accrue savings to fund income-generating activities such as agriculture, livestock rearing, fish farming and horticulture. A typical SHG is comprised of 10 to 15 members of the community who agree to deposit monthly savings into a fund, a portion of which can eventually be borrowed to fund community businesses.
To support SHGs SOVA provides basic record keeping and financial training and encourages the group to undertake income-generating activities. When the group gains the ability and confidence required to successfully manage their funds, they are linked to local banks. By linking them to local banks they are able to access external funds and government loans.
Although SHGs are not restricted to being exclusively for women, although majority of them are women’s groups. The groups provide a social space for women to discuss common concerns in addition to wider issues. Additionally, this space enables women to develop the confidence that they need to speak out even when men are present. In a village council meeting, this allows women to play a greater role in the decision-making process.