Greetings from Seva Mandir!
With this letter, I am very happy to share with you some news and updates about the program you have been supporting.
Since we’ve launched this project on Global Giving, we have managed to raise about $15,000. With a target goal of $40,000, we still have a long way to go. 93% of the population in our work area relies on self-employed agriculture, yet only about 20% of the cropped area is irrigated. In a region as rugged and dry as ours, farmers typically struggle to get a good harvest out of their basic subsistence crops. Our staff is tirelessly working with over 5,000 households, to create a thriving network of farmers who are trained in sustainable agricultural practices that can give the highest yields, while using the least amount of resources.
Below this letter is an exceptional story of how 63 female farmers seized an opportunity to cultivate new crops that contributed greatly to their household nutrition and income, while also reinvesting in the local ecology.
This past year, in the villages of Dob, Nevaj and Atwal, the waters retained during the monsoon season (July-Aug) have given farmers the option of sowing valuable cash crops. These three villages are active in Seva Mandir’s watershed development program, which effectively combats land degradation by preventing water and soil from running off the hilly terrain. These watershed development projects are the prerequisites to guaranteeing that the ecosystem not only remains in balance, but also thrives. As in all of Seva Mandir’s initiatives, local ownership is at the heart of the project. Every participating village has a Watershed Development Committee (WDC) responsible for overseeing the project. Watershed development is a long commitment; it is a commitment to training, to equality in the community, and to the ecosystem. But the rewards are enormous.
With Seva Mandir support, 63 women from the three villages received training on how to grow new cash crops that they have never grown before. The women proposed to cultivate valuable crops such as ginger, turmeric, colocassia (AKA Elephant Ears), yams (ratalu) and safed musli. In addition to receiving Seva Mandir training, the women also convinced their local WDCs to fund their project.
It was a great success. After harvest, the women took their new crops to the markets. They also were able to keep some of the crops for their own household consumption, which introduced a more diverse and nutritious diet to their families. In the end, each woman was able to pocket Rs. 1,000 – 1,500 in profit, after paying back the WDC plus an additional 10% of what they received. In a region where the daily per-capita consumption is less than Rs. 20 a day, this is a substantial amount!
The villages of Dob, Nevaj and Atwal embody much of what is to be aspired in true sustainable development. The villagers united to fight against the degradation of their land. Then, in a society that is traditionally oppressive towards women, the communities let 63 women receive training and lead a project that took advantage of a healthier watershed to cultivate a diverse array of new crops. The communities are actively combining the values of a healthy ecosystem, biodiversity, and gender equality into guaranteeing that they, and their future generations, will always have a meal to eat.
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