Why we take Environment and Ecology as the most important aspect of our programs?
For the healthy living of human beings in any part of the earth Environment and Ecology plays the important role. Our entire life support system depends on the wellbeing of all the factors in the Environment. Hence, instead of taking only one part of the environment into consideration in all the projects and programs, we take Environment as a cross-cutting issue. However, SVA organizes awareness programs and few field activities from time to time on issues which directly affect local people.
OUR ACTIVITIES ON ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming
Since the inception of SVA, it has been raising awareness among the farmers on the hazardous effects of chemical based agriculture and simultaneously organizing training programs, field activities, awareness campaigns for promotion of Organic Farming (hyperlink).
Micro-watershed Development for Natural Resource Management (NRM)
During 2002-09, SVA implemented micro-watershed development programs with focus on Natural Resource Management in 30 Micro-watersheds covering around 85 villages in 3 blocks of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Nuapada districts of western Odisha. It involved 11,000 households and the activities implemented included construction of water harvesting structures, field bunding, tree plantation, forest regeneration and protection, bio-diversity conservation, etc. along with promotion of livelihood activities based on the local natural resources. The community organizations promoted in the micro-watersheds are actively managing their micro-watersheds and SVA has been supporting them as and when needed. It was part of the Western Orissa Rural Livelihood Project (WORLP) under the Odisha Watershed Mission and funded by DFID, UK.
Promotion of Agro-Horticulture Forestry
Western Odisha being a drought prone region, SVA in consultation with the villagers over several years came to the conclusion that instead of big irrigation projects it is more important to go for appropriate cropping patterns so as to address to the drought problems. With this idea, since 1997-98, SVA has been promoting plantation of horticultural species as well as few NTFP species in the private lands of the farmers. With such activities, even under low rainfall, the farmers have been able to raise their income within a few years while the villages have become greener along with improving the environment. For this SVA promoted community nurseries for raising seedlings that included horticultural, NTFP, medicinal and ornamental species. SVA also promoted regular seed dibbling in village forest lands to fill up the gaps at low cost. In this process, SVA has covered around 750 villages in 18 blocks of Kalahandi, Bolangir, Nuapada and Bargarh districts of western Odisha. In this regard, SVA has published a number of posters, leaflets and books in simple Odia language which have been quite popular among the villagers.
When the tribal farmers who had obtained forest land rights under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, they were converting those lands into mono-cropping fields for growing paddy and other crops. Hence, to stop such practices and instead of that to convert those lands for growing horticultural and few NTFP species, SVA took up a Orchard based development program for 1000 tribal households in Sinapali block of Nuapada district which covered 1000 acres of land. It was supported by NABARD along with convergence of various schemes of the state government agencies. Now all those fields have become evergreen with substantially adding to the livelihood of the villagers while reducing pressure on the adjacent forests.
Revival of Traditional Land and Water Management Systems of Western Odisha
The Kulta (a farming community) Farmers of Western Odisha had developed a unique model of land and water management system that comprised of munda (small WHS), Kata (Bigger WHS), chahala (small ponds withing the crop fields), Bandha (larger pond), Open wells, etc.
This system has been widely acclaimed by researchers during the british time. This system had been very efficient to manage the drought situation and was very efficient for soil conservation and ground water recharging. After independence, most of those water harvesting structures were taken over by government but they were neglected leading to occurrence of frequent droughts.
In the year 1991-92, Shri Jagadish Pradhan (President of SVA) had conducted a study on the state of such structures in 400 villages of Kalahandi and Nuapada districts and initiated a campaign for their revival. After formation of SVA, it has been involved in promoting them. SVA believes that for western Odisha situation the medium of major dam projects are not at all useful to the farmers when compared to their environmental and social impacts. Hence, SVA has launched few campaigns against such dams while throwing the traditional systems as the alternative.
Because of our campaigns, the government also has recognized it and has initiated several programs for revival of the traditional systems.
Jungle Bachao Abhiyan
During the year 1997-98, SVA conducted a study on the role of NTFP in the livelihood of local villagers in western Odisha. It threw light on the major contribution of NTFP in the income and livelihood of the landless and small farmers. However, it also indicated the gradual reduction in their income because of depletion of the forests and the commercial plantation taken up by the forest department. This was a campaign spread over 18 blocks of western Odisha districts where the villagers took up activities for promoting NTFP species in their village forests and to protect the forests. Because of this campaign, there has been growing awareness among the villagers towards promoting bio-diversity in their forests and particularly for promoting NTFP species in the forest lands as well as in their private lands. This campaign also led to the abolition of monopoly trade licence of 45 NTFP items and eventually the gram panchayats were empowered to issue licence for NTFP collection in their respective gram panchayats.
Fluorosis Mitigation (An issue of groundwater contamination and Public Health)
During 1998-99, the first case of Fluorosis was detected in Boden block of Nuapad district of western Odisha. Until then the people of this region had never heard of such a problem. In the year 2002-03, when SVA started a program for micro-level planning in collaboration with People’s Science Institute, Dehradun, with financial support from the PMO, it was discovered that the number of people and villages affected by Fluorosis was quite higher than imagined. Hence, SVA set up a special well equipped laboratory to test all the drinking water sources in Nuapada district and it was found that out of the 603 villages, nearly 400 villages had fluoride content above the permissible limit and almost all the villages were susceptible to Fluoride contamination, leading to a Fuorosis disaster in the district. This report was shared with the state government and because of the media campaigns, government has started a grand project to supply safe drinking water through pipeline to all the villages.
Afterwards, SVA has also conducted sample-surveys in neighbouring districts and working on raising awareness among the public.