Site visits to VIKASANA, ASHRAYA and PRAGATHI and TRUST in Karnataka

by Shimoga Srinath  

Shimoga Srinath with villagers at Pragathi

I went to India during December 2003 and managed to visit four current PPI project sites VIKASANA, ASHRAYA and PRAGATHI and TRUST in Karnataka state. I also visited the office of the fifth project group located in Bangalore that we have just approved and met the people associated with the work. I took many pictures of the project activities during this trip. Here’s my report.

VIKASANA, Tarikere, Karnataka

I visited VIKASANA in Tarikere, about 30 KM from Bhadravatti on December 12 and 13, 2003. Mr. Madhusudan of TRUST, Bangalore also joined me on the trip. We were received by Mr. Jayanna, project coordinator at Birur train station and drove to Bhadravati.  On 13th morning, we met Mr. Varghees Cleates and discussed the progress of our previous Pollution Control Project (1998-2000) and visited the current tank de-silting project (2001-2004).

Environmental and Pollution Control Project:  

VIKASANA helped form various mahila mandal groups in the labor community villages near Bhadravatti Iron and Steel factory and made them aware of the pollution problems near the factory. These groups in turn publicized the issue through marches, appeals and writing letters to the press and to the politicians.  This had a very positive effect in that the pressure from the mahila mandal women helped in getting the Bhadravatti Iron and Steel factory to; raise the chimney stacks to 30’ (in three installment of 10’ feet each); re-distribution of lime waste on Industrial property instead of dumping them on streets close to villagers; install water waste treatment to clean the effluents; stopped burning of tires for cooking; reduced noise pollution by installing silencers

I did meet with the Jagrithi Mahila Mandal women who were quite vocal and proud of their accomplishments and they gave me copies of their appeals, letters to newspapers. They gave me copies of the questionnaire they had prepared for the politicians, who came to the villages in search of political votes. I have had these letters translated and have brought them over.  Particularly, both the president of the mahila mandal, Ms. Shahida and Secretary Ms. Suma were very eloquent speakers and I suggested they should stand for election in the local district politics and affect change from within. One of them was indeed thinking along those lines.

I also saw several soak pits in many of the village homes. These soak pits were quite successful in minimizing the kitchen wastewater drainage on to the streets. We funded about 100 soak pits in several villages nearby in this project.  This little successful experiment of ours (Rs.500/soakpit) has resulted in the local government to help other villages to build similar units.

Participatory Tank De-siltation Project:  

 

Villagers build a tank at Vikasana

During the afternoon, we visited one of the de-silted tanks near Ramanahalli. The soil is used as fertilizer for the fields and has resulted in 50% improved yields of “Ragi”. Met a 90 year old person, Mr. Sahadev, who apparently helped carry 23 loads of silt in one day!  Met the self-help group in the village who showed me sample of the higher yields. The villagers have also taken micro-credit loans for cows, agricultural tools and paid the loans back. Met another similar women’s self help group in Bettadahalli who had a similar story to tell. This group is planning to register with the government to get help to continue the work. Also visited a lake near a Lambani (Gipsy) community where we initiated a fishery cultivation program. They have de-silted about 8 tanks and want to replicate tank de-silting in other areas.

My impression from the trip was that VIKASANA has the support and the respect of the villages they are working in.  They are doing a lot of good work and our projects seem to have made a positive change in the lives of the villagers. This was obvious from the enthusiasm of the two groups of village mahila mandal women that I met.  VIKASANA has about 30 dedicated volunteers and has been supported in the past by Swiss Development Corp. (SDC), NORAD, Norway, Carl Cubal Institute, Germany and ASHA, Australia.

Visit to ASHRAYA, Bommana Gunda Kere (B.G.Kere)

Mr. Swamy holds out some of the compost created by vermi-culture at Ashraya.

Next morning, we drove to Chitradurg (120Km east) and then on to B.G. Kere (about 80 Km north) to visit Mr. M.Y.Swamy of ASHRAYA. We had supported a women’s training project earlier (1997-1999) and are now funding a vermi-culture composting project (2002-2004).  The tailoring program although successfully trained 80 women initially, is dormant now since many of the women have either married or moved on. However about 8 women have bought their own machines with machines through a government program and are earning about Rs. 200/month or more. I did meet Ms. Siddamma who taught the course and encouraged her and Mr. Swamy to re-initiate the training program as she is being asked to additional stitching jobs.

We visited several vermi-composting pits in different villages near by. Most of these pits are 8 x 4 x 4 feet and have dual compartments. They use about 1 kg of worms (about 1000) in one compartment and over a period of 6 months they multiply into 60,000 worms. The compost will be in the market and is used for the benefit of disabled people. Mr. Swamy believes in another six months, they should able to reap economic benefits from this project.

My impression of ASHRAYA is that Mr. Swamy is a dedicated individual and is doing good work. But he does not have the infrastructure of volunteers/mahila mandals base established well to successfully execute projects as I saw in VIKASANA. However, he is working to remedy the situation.

 

Visit to PRAGATHI, Mysore

 

Saplings are handed out by Pragathi.  A soil and water conservation project at right, in progress at Pragathi, Mysore.

Went to Mysore on December 28, 2003 (about 80 Km southwest of Bangalore) to visit PRAGATHI, an organization with whom we have worked for many years. Met Mr. Sharanappa, the director of PRAGATHI and saw the recently completed soil and water conservation project. This is similar to the tank de-silting project in VIKASANA and involves, building bunds, gully-plugs, and farm ponds. We funded 7 farm ponds and over 20-30 gully plugs which are used for water retention. However, some of these ponds were dry due to lack of rainfall. 

Saw many plants with pot drip irrigation and tree plantation program that included Mango, Burma teak, Cashew, Teak, Niligiri and Hercules trees.  Also the de-silted mud from one of the lakes is being used to make bricks. Saw a community irrigation scheme where we funded a pump, motor for use by the farmers. They all seem to be working well and the villagers seem very pleased with the changes brought about by these efforts. In Kalahalli village, attended a youth mahila mandal and saw the micro-credit, vocational training (tailoring) program that PPI funded.  This has supported a tailoring program, petty shop, goat and cattle rearing program.  Here the young women started a mahila mandal savings program by putting in  five rupees/month in the bank and have so far saved about Rs. 25,000. They have used this money to get additional micro-credit loans.

As a result of our support, Mr. Sharanappa has bid on a 1.3 Crore (about $260,000) project contract from World Bank and Karnataka government to help build such similar dry land water shed management projects on a larger scale (Tank de-siltation, Farm ponds, gully-plugs, bunds, etc.) in Tumkur district which is a more drought prone areas in Karnataka. He said they are in the final stages of contract paper work. Apparently, they visited some of the work done on our project, were impressed with the progress and asked him to bid on their project. It is heartening to note that a small $8000 PPI funding over a period of three years, seems have been a catalyst in expanding the concept to lager scale.

Here again, Mr. Sharanappa seems to have the support and respect of the villagers and it was obvious that they appreciate the change he has helped bring about.  He also seems have the infrastructure of volunteer support /mahlia madal group to help facilitate successful implementation of projects in villages.

I could not visit our past program of Tribal Artisan training due to lack of time. Mr. Sharanappa said that the benefits of training have somewhat slowed down due to the lack of availability of bamboos for basket making.  The state government has put a lid on cutting the bamboos from the forest and PRAGATHI is trying to negotiate with them to get a limited supply of raw material released to allow these people to earn their livelihood.  

Visit to TRUST

  

Rehabilitated child laborers receive humane treatment and taloring training at TRUST.

I visited Mr. Madhusudan of TRUST organization on January 1, 2004. We are funding a non-formal education project for kids of laborers would otherwise be normally be forced work during the day. Saw two sites Hulimavu and Aralu. The classes are held at 4 sites with a total of about 100 kids both in the afternoon and in the evening to accommodate kids that have to work. There were about 30 kids at the Hulimavu site and about 12-14 kids at the Aralu site. Mr. Madhusudan said last year about 12 kids from Hulimavu site graduated from these non-formal classes to regular middle schools. One such girl, Sandhya came first in the government middle school!  He has two teachers at the Hulimavu site and his wife who teaches at a regular school during the day, helps out in the evening classes at these non-formal classes.

Visit to VIDYANIKETAN  

  

Vidyaniketan's Reforestation Awaremess & planting program in Balagondanhally.

I visited the offices of Vidyanikaten on December 29, 2003 in the outskirts of Bangalore. We have just funded a watershed management project through them in the villages of  Kanakapura (about 80 Km south of Bangalore). I met Ms. Susheela and Mr. Shivappa, the engineer in charge of the project. Since I did not have the time to go to the village, they showed photographs of a recent government funded project that they have completed.  They are planning to expand the work to another area using our funds.  They also run a school for the children of laborers in the same office building.