Welcome to SEDS
SEDS, the Social Education and Development Society, was founded in 1980 by Rajen Joshua and Manil Jayasena as a grassroots development NGO, motivated by the desire to help the poorest of the poor in the drought-prone area of Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh. In the early days, the main focus of the work was on community development by way of non-formal education and small loans to skilled target communities like cobblers, basket weavers, blanket weavers and others. As Anantapur is the second most drought prone area in India and much of its natural resources are depleted, it soon became clear that environmental problems would have to be tackled first, if peoples’ livelihoods were to be made sustainable. Starting in 10 villages near the small town of Penukonda a scheme of pioneering work was developed which aimed to empower local communities and improve their environment. Initially small nurseries were started for homestead plantations and planting of avenue trees along village roads. Re-a-forestation and more sustainable agricultural practices were introduced. From 1990, SEDS started using a more participatory approach, through the formation of Community Based Organizations. Involving the communities more in the effort made them actual stakeholders in the development process of the region. Throughout the years the scope and area of the work increased and the fruits of the sustained efforts became visible in the greener environment and the enthusiasm of the communities. Today, SEDS is working through an integrated rural development approach with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, watersheds, re-a-forestation and natural resource management. This is within five Mandals in the southern part of Anantapur District, in south western Andhra Pradesh namely, Penukonda, Roddam, Gorantla, Somandepalli and Chilamathur. In these 5 mandals SEDS currently supports 125 villages, being some 12000 women and their families, 980 SHGs, 120 VOs & 5 MMSs . Through its sustained efforts SEDS has made a significant impact on the lives of the people in the area and the local environment. The SEDS slogan “Towards a greener tomorrow” has become a reality.
a. Community organization & women’s empowerment
The community development program is the mainstay of all SEDS programs, the umbrella under which all activities are undertaken. It exemplifies the participatory approach that SEDS values so much. Planning and implementing of all activities are done with the focal communities through their village institutions. The community development program has an outspoken focus on women’s empowerment, and addresses the entire community. The foundation of this program was laid in the mid 1980’s when SEDS started Sanghams in the villages. For the community development program SEDS works closely together with the government, assisting in the implementation of programs like SERP IKP, SGSY, etc. The framework of community organization is as such the same with women SHGs at the base, Village Organisations at the village level and Mandal Samakyas at the mandal level. SEDS’ support to these CBOs comes in the form of (1) training and advice and (2) a trained village staff, who help the women take up various issues like health, education, village infrastructure, finance, etc. SEDS sees the CBOs mainly as an empowerment movement, more than as a mere micro-credit movement, which is only small part of that total picture. Every month, trainings are held at the mandal level for interested CBO representatives on topics put forward by them. SEDS staff also follows up VO meetings and organizes targeted campaigns. Through the recently started Mandal Facilitation Centre in Penukonda, SEDS and an elected body of CBO representatives provide information, training and resources on livelihoods, government schemes, education, health, etc. Since a few years a SEDS legal mediation cell is also giving support to women in the area. The SEDS village staff is a group of almost 400 local resource people who support the CBOs in their daily activities. They are from the village, are selected by the CBOs, are paid by them and have accountability to them. This village staff consists of three people. The Village Level Volunteers (VLV’s) are local literates, appointed to work in their own villages as bookkeepers for the micro-credit groups. The Village Health Workers (VHWs) are trained women that give health services in the villages and bring awareness on health and sanitation. The Tuition Teachers (TTs) are young graduates that give tuition to the village children. SEDS trains these local resource people and sees them as the vital link between the NGO and the village. SEDS main effort is to make the People’s Organization efficient, sustainable and in the long term independent, with SEDS as a facilitator and advisor.
b. Towards sustainable livelihoods
SEDS’ experience shows that agriculture as it is practiced cannot be sustainable in these semi-arid drought prone areas. In order to make agriculture viable, various programs have therefore been taken up to tackle various constraints that rainfed agriculture faces. The Dry Land Horticulture (DLH) program is a very old program of SEDS which had lot of success. This program involves village groups in the establishment and maintenance of village community and individual horticultural plots. All the activities are planned and implemented by the SHG’s. The DLH program involves pitting, planting, fencing, watering, manure & mulch application and monitoring. Horticulture plants are procured from well established nurseries and distributed for planting. Besides Dry Land Horticulture SEDS is also promoting cultivation of vegetables in Kitchen Gardens and fruit trees in Homestead Plantations to improve soil fertility, enhance nutrition and supplement family income. Composting is promoted as a measure to improve soil fertility and as an additional income for the farming community. Each VO is provided with a Livestock Capital Fund to support rearing of small animals like sheep, goats and poultry for enhancing family income. Trainings are given on how to keep animals healthy. A fodder program supports this livestock program, with the promotion of Hamata and other resistant fodder crops. Tank silt application is another very old program of SEDS.
Various programs of the past, like promotion of summer ploughing, bio-fertilizers & pesticides, mixed cropping, seed saving, fisheries in tanks, etc. have been implemented.
Recently, SEDS integrated all these livelihood activities in a sustainable agriculture program, with a focus on trainings to farmer groups using Farmer Field School Methodology.
By diversifying the resources that contribute to the family income the dependency on one single crop or activity diminishes and the risks of failure, malnutrition and food insecurity are greatly reduced.
c. Natural resources management and Watershed Development
The watershed program of SEDS is an intense micro-watershed program that includes technical training and increasing environmental awareness of the target communities, soil and water conservation, water catchment and re-a-forestation. Local communities are involved closely in the implementation of these activities through VIDA (Village Integrated Development Agencies)-committees and VO’s. Technically the Ridge to Valley concept is the mainstay of the program. Check dams, percolation tanks and other water bodies are built to contain the water flowing from the ridges. To prevent soil erosion contour bunding, stone bunding, gully checks, agave fencing and additional bund planting is taken up. On wastelands re-a-forestation is done. This is mainly focused on Tamarind, Neem, Pongamia and Jatropha, plants that have an additional value. Over the years more than 2 million trees have been planted on the barren lands of South Anantapur. Fire tracing, a technique to prevent the spreading of forest/bush fires, makes sure the work is not wasted during the dry season. Restoration of old tanks and traditional water bodies, like farm ponds, is an innovative program of SEDS which has been followed up by the government in their Watershed activities. SEDS watersheds are models of increase in biodiversity and biomass, effective water catchment (SEDS watersheds have water year through, even during drought) and soil conservation and enhancement. SEDS has been recognized in the District for the works undertaken and was selected to be a watershed PIA for 18 government Watersheds, which are being completed this year.
Under EED/ICCO SEDS currently focuses on the maintenance and intensifying of work in the existing watersheds (Sanipalli, Gonipeta, Adadakulapalli and Velagamekalapalli) and the implementation of new watersheds in Naginaincheruvu and Bussaiahgaripalli. These watersheds are the lungs of the area SEDS works in.
As education is the base of all development and literacy rates are extremely low in Anantapur District, especially among women, SEDS considers education as a central program for the future. Social education is done in every programby involving the communities as close as possible in every step. Besides this, SEDS also has an education program for youth, through a model English medium school on campus, tuition centres in nearly all 125 villages SEDS works with and a sponsorship program to enable the poorest of the poor to send their child to school.