ACADEMY OF DEVELOPMENT SCIENCE
KASHELE POST, KARJAT TALUKA, RAIGAD DISTRICT
MAHARASHTRA 410 201
Academy of Development Science (ADS) is a people oriented Science & Technology organisation concerned primarily with problems faced by village communities; particularly tribals, landless and small & marginal farmers. It is a registered Society and Charitable Trust. ADS campus is situated near Kashele village in the Karjat Tribal Block of Raigad District. ADS has been working on rural development issues in Karjat and Murbad Talukas of Raigad and Thane Districts since 1979.
ADS is committed to rural work based on an appreciation of many positive features of rural life and society. It sees a big challenge in revitalisation of the rural economy whilst strengthening its ecological base. It draws inspiration from the rich and diverse indigenous cultures and knowledge systems.
ADS is actively involved in a wide range of rural development activities aimed at addressing problems faced by tribal communities in Raigad and Thane Districts. Details about the situation of tribal communities in the region are given in Annexure I. Poverty is an overriding concern.
The thrust areas of ADS are: traditional medicine and primary health care; ecological agriculture and conservation of plant genetic resources; nutrition and food security; employment generation; education; natural resource management; community video; and women's empowerment.
Projects implemented by ADS have provided direct benefits to people from over 150 villages, apart from numerous indirect benefits. Some of the ADS programmes have influenced Government policies. For instance, the ADS Grain Bank programme was taken up by the Government of Maharashtra for replication in all tribal regions of the state. Subsequently, even the Central Government began replication of the Grain Bank programme across 14 states in India. Unfortunately, the Government Grain Bank programme has turned out to be a failure and now the Government is once again seeking inputs from ADS for bringing about improvements in their programme.
ADS has also built capacities of NGOs working in other regions and enabled them to replicate some of the innovative programmes. For instance, work on traditional medicine, medicinal plants, grain banks, seed conservation, bamboo craft, food processing, etc. is being replicated by NGOs in different regions.
ADS has thus played, and continues to play, a key role in developing innovative approaches for development of the socio-economically marginalised tribal communities in India.
Over the years ADS efforts have been supported by agencies like Misereor, Germany; Onaway Trust, UK; Rainforest Information Centre, Australia; BothENDS, Netherlands; Oxfam (India) Trust, Nagpur; Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai; UNDP, New Delhi; Ministry of Rural Development, New Delhi; ETC Foundation, Netherlands; Department of Science & Technology, New Delhi; CAPART, New Delhi; Intermon-Oxfam, Spain; IDRC, Canada; Cebemo, Netherlands; NORAD, New Delhi; etc.
2. ADS ACTIVITIES IN BRIEF
TRADITIONAL MEDICINE AND PRIMARY HEALTH CARE
Local health traditions (also termed traditional medicine or folk medicine) were once common in the tribal region. Every village had atleast one sueen (traditional birth attendant) and more than one vaidu (folk practitioner). There was also a large body of knowledge of simple home remedies. These Local Health Traditions (LHTs) were community-supported, autonomous, oral in nature, self-reliant and based on the use of local resources, mainly plants. For instance, there are reports of over 300 medicinal plant species being used by tribals in Raigad District for their primary health care needs.
Promotion of Allopathic medicine and utter neglect of traditional medicine by the Government and mainstream medical institutions has literally wiped out local health traditions prevalent in tribal regions. Academy's efforts are aimed at revitalising local health traditions without disturbing their autonomy. Regular training programmes are conducted for vaidus, housewives and tribal youth interested in learning about herbal medicine. Village level aushadhikaran (medicine preparation) camps are organised to train women in simple processing techniques for the treatment of common ailments. ADS also organises training programmes on herbal medicine for NGOs, Community Groups, Schools, etc.
A dispensary and pharmacy have been set up on ADS campus for treatment of patients from nearby villages. The dispensary is managed by tribal vaidus. The pharmacy is engaged in processing of herbal medicines.
A medicinal plants garden and nursery has been established on 20 acres of land in view of the unavailability of medicinal plants to people for health care needs. ADS has hence undertaken work on conservation and sustainable utilisation of medicinal plants. More than 450 medicinal plant species are growing in the garden. An ethno-medicinal herbarium, raw drug and seed museum have been established. Saplings of over 100 different medicinal plant species are raised and distributed every year. A number of visitors, mainly school/college students, medical students, Ayurvedic doctors, botanists, etc. visit the herbal garden throughout the year to learn about medicinal plants.
ADS is engaged in building capacities of NGOs from other regions through training programmes on traditional medicine. A number of such NGOs are now involved in meaningful work on traditional medicine and primary health care. The concept is thus gradually spreading to other areas.
Over the past year ADS has been concentrating on the health problems of women and children using traditional medicine. A team of women health workers has been working in 20 villages for the treatment of gynaecological problems. The results are encouraging. This line of work needs to be developed further so that, women and children, who are a marginalised section within the tribal community, have access to better health care and nutrition. This is extremely important in the present context where a large number of malnutrition and starvation related deaths of small children are being reported from different tribal regions of Maharashtra.
ADS work on traditional medicine is acknowledged as a pioneering effort in the field of community health.
ECOLOGICAL AGRICULTURE AND AGRO-BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
ADS is engaged in promoting ecological agricultural practises amongst farmers in the tribal region of Karjat Taluka. Indiscriminate and widespread use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides by tribal farmers is a cause of concern. Efforts are being made to demonstrate the benefits of ecological agriculture. The importance of compost, vermicompost, green manures, etc. is being communicated to farmers. Demonstration and field trials are being organised.
Another area of concern to ADS is the erosion in genetic diversity of food plants. Government policies to promote Green Revolution technologies have contributed to erosion in genetic diversity. Many traditional crop varieties cultivated by farmers have disappeared while many others are on their way out. The loss of genetic diversity is perhaps the greatest crisis facing agriculture since man began domesticating plants for food.
Efforts are being made by ADS to promote conservation traditional crop varieties. Over 500 traditional varieties of rice, millets, pulses and tubers/rhizomes have been collected from the Konkan region of Maharashtra. These are maintained in a field genebank and seed bank. Seeds/ planting material are distributed to farmers every year.
ADS has now taken up work on conservation and promotion of traditional vegetable varieties. Seeds of over 20 different vegetable varieties have been collected. Seed multiplication and evaluation of individual varieties is in progress. Seeds will be distributed to farmers during April-May. Efforts are being made to encourage cultivation of vegetables in homestead gardens for addressing the nutritional concerns of tribal families. For instance, saplings of Tinda (Coccinia spp.), supposed to be rich in micronutrients, and Drumstick (Moringa oleifera), rich in Vitamin A and other trace elements, have been planted by over 1,000 women in their backyard gardens.
Training programmes on seed conservation are being organised for farmers and NGOs in efforts to encourage replication of the work in other regions. ADS has, as a matter of fact, facilitated a network of NGOs based in different parts of Maharashtra on the issue of seed conservation. Some of the network partners have been able to do meaningful work on conservation issues. For instance, a Parbhani-based NGO has documented the status of traditional crop varieties and agricultural practises in Parbhani District through biodiversity competitions in schools.
ADS is also a member of a South Asian network of NGOs (South Asia Network for Food, Ecology and Culture, SANFEC) based in Bangladesh. SANFEC is engaged in conservation of agro-biodiversity and food security issues.
2.3 MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT: AN URGENT NEED IN TRIBAL REGIONS
Poverty and backwardness are major issues confronting tribal communities in Raigad and Thane districts of Maharashtra. Basic needs like adequate food, proper shelter, education, primary health care, etc. are beyond the reach of a large number of people. There are no sources of employment in the region with a result that a majority of tribals are poor and fully dependent on land (agriculture and/or forests) for their survival. Situation of the landless is worse.
Agriculture in the region is subsistence based and consists of rice cultivation on low lands and millets on gentle slopes. On an average, agricultural produce supports partial food needs of families for not more than 5-6 months in a year. Forests provide game, fish, crabs, fruits & nuts, wild vegetables, tubers & rhizomes, honey, etc. to the tribals for their food needs but widespread deforestation in recent years has reduced the availability of these uncultivated foods. Deforestation has disturbed the subsistence economy of tribals and they have been forced to look out for alternative sources of livelihood.
Gainful employment within the region can prevent migration to cities besides improving the standard of living of local communities. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of employment opportunities in the region with a result that some people periodically migrate to other regions in search of work, some stay back but resort to 'destructive' employment (tree felling, etc.), while a majority remains unemployed and poor.
A need is thus felt to generate meaningful and environment-friendly sources of employment for tribal communities in the region.
2.3A FOOD PROCESSING CENTRE
Tribal regions are endowed with a wide variety of fruits and other Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). Semi-processing and processing of the fruits and other NTFPs can provide gainful employment to tribals. With this in mind, ADS has established a food processing unit with a production capacity of 50 tonnes per annum. Fruits (karvanda, mango, amla and jamun) and cereals (Nachni, Ragi or finger millet) are processed into products like pickles, jams, squashes, chutney, murabba, candy, satva, malt, etc. The unit provides fulltime employment to 15 tribal women and youth. It also provides seasonal employment to tribal women through sale of fruits and work in the unit during peak seasons.
The Nachni satva and Nachni malt can play an important role in addressing malnutrition related issues amongst small children. ADS is creating awareness about the need for increased use of Nachni in the diets of pregnant women and small children.
The food processing unit has done innovative work in developing and standardising several food products. The enterprise demonstrates benefits of standing forests and encourages growing of fruit trees on barren, sloping lands.
2.3B. RURAL TECHNOLOGY WORKSHOP
Academy has established a rural technology workshop to impart training to tribal youth and women in various technical skills like fabrication, black smithy, carpentry, lacquer ware, bamboo, cane and construction technology. The workshop has been registered as an independent co-operative society. The co-operative provides fulltime employment to about 20 tribal persons.
A bamboo resource centre has been established to develop various marketable products from bamboo and to train tribal people in bamboo craft in efforts to generate employment for forest dwelling communities. The centre has developed a wide range of bamboo products. More than 50 people have been given training in advanced skills. The centre is promoting plantation of bamboo on barren lands.
2.4. NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Tribal regions of Raigad and Thane have witnessed severe degradation of natural resources over the past 20-30 years. Alienation of tribals from forests and illegal tree felling by vested interests are perhaps the major reasons. A degraded environment offers little potential for livelihood opportunities.
ADS is implementing a Watershed Development Programme in three locations. ADS is concerned about restoring the ecological balance of the area for improved livelihood opportunities to local people. Village Watershed Committees are responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the programme. The programme involves awareness generation, capacity building, community mobilisation followed by soil / water conservation work, tree plantation, social development, employment generation, etc.
ADS is also trying to address issues of forest conservation. Efforts are being made to create awareness about the importance of forests. Saplings of native tree species are raised in nurseries and distributed to farmers. The distress sale of private forests by local tribals to forest contractors is prevented through the creation of a forest conservation fund. Cash loans are given to farmers who are considering sale of their private forests for meeting emergency cash needs. Farmers are expected to repay the money over a period of 4-5 years and, in return, undertake to protect their forests. Awareness and networking programmes on Joint Forest Management (JFM) are also being organised by ADS.
ADS promotes growing of fruit trees on barren/ sloping lands of small & marginal farmers. About 40 fruit trees and 500 other trees are planted on one-acre of land. The choice of species is such that they serve diverse day-to-day needs for fuelwood, fodder, small timber, etc. Fruits make an important contribution to the nutrition of poor families apart from providing income to farmers. Fruit tree orchards have so far been set up on over 200 acres of barren land.
A major constraint in promoting growing of fruit trees in tribal regions of Raigad and Thane Districts is unavailability of authentic planting material (saplings and grafts) of different fruit tree varieties. Academy is trying to address this problem by setting up a Community Genepark and Nursery of fruit trees and bamboos suited to the region. Different varieties of Mango, Jackfruit, Cashew, Jamun, Amla, Guava, Chikoo, Karvanda and Bamboo species have been planted in the Genepark and these are being used to raise grafts and saplings for distribution to farmers in tribal regions.
Academy also promotes decentralised village-level nurseries owned and managed by local farmers, mainly widows. The nurseries are a source of employment to the poor women. The nurseries serve as a source of saplings/ grafts for various plantation programmes undertaken in the region.
2.6 FOOD SECURITY
Lack of food security is a major problem for tribal communities in Raigad and Thane Districts. There are reports during the past three months of severe malnutrition and starvation related deaths of small children in Thane, Raigad and many other tribal regions of the state. Xerox copies of related reports are annexed.
Livelihoods of tribals are woven around hunting/gathering and subsistence farming. Forest produce plays an important role in the food security of tribals. However, large-scale deforestation has resulted in depletion of forest resources and this has had an adverse impact on the livelihoods of tribals. Food grain yields from subsistence-based farming are not enough to meet the food needs of the family for the whole year. The periodic cycle of food grain shortages represents the "lean period" or "lean season" for tribal families. This is a period of starvation and hardships for tribals.
Tribals have been borrowing food grains from sahukars or moneylenders to tide over the food scarcity. The moneylenders charge an exorbitant interest rate on the grain loan and force tribals to work on their fields as bonded labour. The fields of tribal people get neglected in the process, resulting in lower yields, further marginalisation and a continuing cycle of exploitation.
Deeply concerned about these issues, ADS began looking for viable alternatives to meet the food needs of poor families during the lean season.
2.6A GRAIN BANKS
Grain Banks were considered as one of the possibilities to address food security concerns in tribal regions. Grain Banks are village-level institutions, which ensure availability of food grains to members during the lean period. ADS initiated the Grain Bank Programme in 4 tribal hamlets during 1987. By 2002, ADS has established 132 grain banks in 120 villages of Raigad and Thane Districts. Grain Banks have promoted food security amongst small & marginal farmers and have reduced their dependence on sahukars.
ADS provides the initial grain loan and entrusts management of the grain bank to a Village Panch Committee consisting of village elders. Each grain bank achieves self-reliance by repaying the grain loan to ADS over a period of four years. The grain bank is fully self-reliant from the fifth year onwards. Details about the implementation of the Grain Bank programme and its impact in villages have been given in a small booklet published by ADS. Copy of the booklet is being sent by post.
The Government of Maharashtra was highly impressed by the success of the ADS Grain Bank programme and it has taken up replication of the Grain Bank programme in all tribal regions of Maharashtra through the Navsanjivan Yojana, which is aimed at reducing malnutrition and starvation in tribal regions. However, the Government Grain Bank Programme has turned out to be a failure due to faulty design and poor implementation. ADS has pointed out the weaknesses of the programme to Government officials in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, New Delhi, in efforts to bring about fundamental, pro-people changes in the programme.
ADS has also facilitated a network of NGOs in Maharashtra for setting up grain banks in different regions. ADS has organised several training and capacity building programmes for these NGOs. A large number of Grain Banks are now slowly taking shape in different parts of Maharashtra.
ADS efforts to set up Grain Banks, to facilitate replication through other NGOs and to influence Government's policy on food security are thus paying rich dividends. The ADS Grain Bank programme is today acknowledged as a successful and innovative food security intervention in India.
2.6B UNCULTIVATED FOODS
ADS has undertaken a study on uncultivated foods consumed by tribal communities in Raigad District in efforts to understand the role of uncultivated foods in the food security of poor families. The study has brought out the fact that tribals consume over 100 different uncultivated foods (vegetables, fruits, tubers/rhizomes, fish, crabs, etc.) throughout the year. The hunting/gathering of these uncultivated foods calls for specialised skills and understanding of nature and natural processes. The foods, their recipes and collection methods are closely linked to social, cultural and religious aspects of tribal groups. Uncultivated foods meet between 40-50 % food needs of poor tribal families, particularly during food deficit periods. Women are mainly involved in the gathering, processing, preservation and cooking aspects of uncultivated foods.
Uncultivated foods thus play an extremely important role not only in food security but also in nutritional security. Uncultivated foods provide food during food scarcity periods to poor families and make available a wide range of nutrients in the diets.
The valuable knowledge about diverse uncultivated foods is gradually disappearing, as the younger generation does not see any reason to learn these survival skills in their pursuit of "formal" education through 'schools'. Efforts need to be made to document and disseminate this knowledge to the younger generation.
2.7. SCHOOL EDUCATION
Academy has set up a formal school. In addition to conventional subjects, children are taught skills like bamboo work, nursery/ grafting techniques, etc. The aim is to give enough opportunities and freedom to the children to learn and to develop their own interest and also to generate in them an understanding and love for nature. The school strives to make education a meaningful and joyful experience for children.
It is expected that over the years, the school will extend its responsibility and create a centre for training teachers in activity based teaching, science education and rural technology.
2.8 WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVES
ADS is engaged in addressing issues of women's empowerment in villages of Karjat and Murbad Takuka. Efforts are being made to establish Self-Help Groups (SHGs) of women to collectively address problems faced by tribal families and to seek active participation of women in village development activities. Awareness programmes are organised on Panchayati Raj for increased participation of women in Gram sabhas.
100 SHGs have been set up so far. Tribal women have enrolled as members and are involved in savings & credit programmes through which they can seek assistance to meet emergency cash needs. Women have sorted out issues of drinking water, electricity connections, roads, etc. and are taking active part in cleanliness drives in villages. Sanitation, clean drinking water and nutrition are slowly bringing about positive changes in the lives of tribal families. Women are seen taking a lead in village and social development.
2.9 COMMUNITY VIDEO
Lack of food security, severe malnutrition, starvation deaths, land alienation, low land holdings, lack of employment, depleting natural resources, drinking water contamination and shortages, lack of access to proper health care facilities, socio-political marginalisation, etc. are some of the major issues in the tribal context in Raigad and Thane Districts of Maharashtra. These problems receive scant attention from the mainstream media. In cases where some important issues are highlighted by the media, the coverage is often biased and fails to address the root cause. Consequently, the action programme to remedy the situation turns out to be nothing more than a 'stop-gap' arrangement. In this context, it becomes important to effectively highlight problems faced by tribal communities.
ADS is training a team of tribal women film makers to document and highlight problems faced by marginalised tribal communities. The community video team has so far made documentary films on agro-biodiversity; uncultivated foods of tribals; grain banks, malnutrition, traditional agriculture and fishing. Documentation of issues by tribal women themselves gives a realistic presentation of causes and probable interventions. The project will also attempt to document and revive traditional forms of communication, mainly songs and dances, prevalent in tribal cultures.
Involvement of local tribal women as film makers provides a 'local' perspective to the films, reflecting the beliefs and aspirations of local tribals.
2.10 WORK WITH THE KATKARI COMMUNITY
Katkari, Kathkari or Kathodi is one of the three 'Primitive Tribal Groups' in Maharashtra along with Madhia Gond and Kolam. Katkaris are socially and economically on the lowest rungs of the development ladder. Most of the families are caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty, indebtedness and bonded labour. Most of the Katkaris are landless and depend on labour for their livelihood. All able-bodied men, women and children work as bonded labour on brick kilns in far away places. Life on brick kilns is harsh and exploitative. Government programmes fail to reach the Katkaris.
ADS is collaborating with NGOs and individuals in Raigad and Thane District to address issues facing the Katkari community.
Government agencies have acknowledged the important role being played by ADS in the field of rural development. The Tribal Development Department, Government of Maharashtra has bestowed the "Adivasi Seva Sanstha" (organisation devoted to the cause of tribal welfare) award on ADS for its sustained work for the tribal cause.
The Maharashtra Foundation, USA has selected ADS for its prestigious award in recognition of the important work done by ADS on environmental issues for over 20 years.
ADS plays an important role in capacity building school/ college students and NGOs. Many students and NGO representatives visit ADS throughout the year to gain practical knowledge about medicinal plants, herbal remedies, seed conservation, bamboo craft, food processing, grain banks, etc.
Amla candy, a fruit product developed by ADS through its own inhouse R&D, is today a major fruit product sold by several manufacturers in different parts of India.
Nachni satva and Nachni malt, the two weaning foods developed by ADS from Finger Millet, have shown great promise in addressing malnutrition amongst children in tribal areas.
The ADS Grain Bank programme has demonstrated a decentralised and viable alternative to the Public Distribution System. The ADS Grain Bank programme is being replicated by NGOs and Government agencies in different parts of India.
The traditional medicine programme of ADS has played an important role in demonstrating the contemporary relevance of indigenous medicine in meeting the health care needs of poor communities. Several NGOs have been trained by ADS and the programme is now being replicated in different parts of India.
ADS has developed a wide range of products from bamboo and is engaged in training programmes for artisans. Bamboo has the potential to provide gainful employment to tribal artisans.
The Community Video team has made short films on important issues like malnutrition, agriculture, uncultivated foods, grain banks, etc. The video films can be used to highlight the development problems in tribal areas and to influence Government policies.
An ADS study on tribal foods has demonstrated the important role of uncultivated foods in the food security of tribal families, particularly the landless and the marginalised. This holds out an important lesson for policy makers and planners.
ADS has been able to influence Government policies, to some extent (e.g. grain banks).
The most important achievement of ADS, perhaps, is the elimination of moneylenders and the empowerment of tribal communities.