The Earth Trust

Earth Trust works to give tools to tribals and villagers to farm their land in a sustainable way, to develop responsibility for Primary Health solutions with traditional answers and to give rural children inspiration, skills & passion for revitalising their communities & land. Email: earthtrust@gmail.com
Jul 6, 2016

Health programme at Melkowatty

THE TALL PLANT IS AADUTHODA IN A TERRACE GARDEN
THE TALL PLANT IS AADUTHODA IN A TERRACE GARDEN

 

 

Melkowhatty Health Programme April 4th to 22nd June 2016

When Vanya Orr our Founder started the first Health programme, the target audience was a woman from the village who perhaps was allowed to study up to the 10th standard before she was married off and sent away. In her “In-law” village, she stayed in the back ground and only after repeated visits to the village and talking to the Head-man would she be allowed to attend the Health Module programmes.

Today’s programme attendee has definitely passed High school at least, some of them hold a basic under-graduate degree. But other factors remain the same—we still have to navigate the village hierarchy with patience and tact. The one big change is that because of information being disseminated by the State Government through radio and by various TV Channels on Health and Nutrition, the women are informed Our work has become more interesting and challenging. This has helped us grow as well.

The Melkowahatty programme was inaugurated on 4th April 2016. The size of the audience augured well. But the number of young women who participated regularly were seven in number. We have decided to carry on regardless of numbers, because even one informed mother/wife makes a difference.

They learnt about their bodies and nutrition. This is part of our regular modules which covers all the systems like skeletal, reproductive, urinary system, skin, digestive, nervous etc. This usually needs 13 sessions. The theory classes are held in the mornings and the post lunch sessions are for practical demonstrations and interactive sessions. These are handled very well by our team who are conscious that we are not teaching students but informing women and empowering them to take responsibility for their health. There is a lot of banter. This also serves to prevent everyone from staying in a mild state of post-prandial stupor including our Health Team!!

While the women were learning about their skeletal systems, one of the participants –Bharathi- around 30 years old was sharing with the class her difficulties with her back pain. Mala and Meera – our health team members, taught the class basic yoga postures, breathing techniques and pressure points that relieve pain. We always tell the women that the best time to deal with any ‘dis’ ease is right at the onset. If it persists, they go to a doctor or Vaid. She-Bharathi- diligently follows the simple regimen and now she is pain –free. At Kilkowatty, Amudha- 50 years old constantly needed to wear a belt to help deal with the pain of a prolapsed disc. She attended our programme,  learnt to prepare Helichrysum oil and peacock oil. She has been using. With mild yoga asanas and regular application of the medicated oils, she is able to be ‘beltless’ for extended periods of time. She prepares Ashtachoornam and gives it to her family members and friends--- she is our ultimate success story. She has learnt, has imbibed and is now sharing it with more people. Helichrysum grows wild here. The truth is – practically every single plant that grows here has medicinal value------------.

As mentioned in our project, we distribute medicinal plants/ herbs /saplings to each participant. These are grown in our Resource farms at Kollimalai and at Holabettu.Kollimalai is where Kothas- a Tribal community lives. They were traditionally blacksmiths and later became silversmiths. But it is a dying art now. Most of the land there is owned by them. These lands cannot be bought or leased by non-Tribals. However, there are pockets of privately held ‘Patta “lands and the Earth Trust farm at Kollimalai is one of them.

The women with their herbal gardens!!

The first week of June brought a lively young visitor- Mihika Chachani – a Field intern of the first ever Global Giving India team. In her short visit, accompanied by Nimmi –our Project Director, she had a jam-packed schedule and we at Earth Trust took her to some of our main project sites. We have received valuable feed-back which will become part of how we function in future. 

End June- 22nd to be exact, we started our ‘Advance ‘course as well. Those who participated were taught reflexology, massaging techniques, making basic oils for home use from plants and herbs that grow around their houses or from the medicinal herbs distributed by Earth Trust to the women. They practice on each other needless to say. They learnt to prepare Ashtachorrnam and Trikadugu choornam. Both are age old regularly used recipes from Ayurveda.  As the name implies in Tamil, Aaduthoda (Aduthoda Vasica) is a plant whose leaves are so bitter, that even goats do not eat them. It grows very comfortably her in the hills. The women were taught to make syrup from them for use in bronchial infections. Vidya – about 30 years old has a 5 year son who was suffering for nearly a fortnight with a dry cough which no amount of cough syrup helped. She was reluctant to use the Aaduthoda syrup for her child—naturally, as she would her whole extended family to contend with had anything untoward resulted! She finally did and the kid improved dramatically. The tragedy of our times is that all these simple concoctions had been part of routine home remedies for centuries and now we need to‘re’ discover them.

A base –line survey of the village is underway. We are planning to conduct a basic health camp in the village with the assistance of a big teaching hospital from Coimbatore

We are meeting with village Headman and committee members to discuss holding a Medical in Melkowatty.

Our next programme starts in Nanjanadu.

PROUD GARDNER WITH A HAPPY MEDICINAL  PATCH
PROUD GARDNER WITH A HAPPY MEDICINAL PATCH
ANY SPACE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR OUR LADIES
ANY SPACE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR OUR LADIES
MIHIKA  FROM GLOBAL GIVING INDIA AT MELKOWATTY
MIHIKA FROM GLOBAL GIVING INDIA AT MELKOWATTY
MEERA DEMONSTRATING REFLEXOLOGY ON VIDYA
MEERA DEMONSTRATING REFLEXOLOGY ON VIDYA'S TOES

Links:

Jun 28, 2016

REPORT FOR HE PERIOD APRIL 1ST TO END JUNE 2016

 

There was a time when it would rain 6 months in a year in the Nilgiris.  There was a time when the South west monsoon would set in on June 1st, regular as clock-work. No more. This year, the monsoon has still not set in. On our resource farm, there is a spring and by careful conservation Jaikumar our farm manager and Jayalakshmi our manager in charge of medicinal plants and herbs are keeping things going. Our farming thrust is taking off---- Nimmi our project director is going full steam ahead with sussing the market, creating niche markets for baby carrots and peppinos in nearby Bangalore. Thirty new farmers have joined us-- meaning that they have started the transition from inorganic to organic agricultural practices. Our Farming team is run off its feet--- mentoring, monitoring and travelling long distances to remote areas. Kookal Thurai is a farming belt near Kotagiri- a big town in the hills. It is an aggressively chemicaly- driven vegetable growing area. The first farmer from there has approached us for guidance. This is a significant event for Earth Trust. We hope it becomes the thin edge of the Organic wedge there. A group of farmers from Erode, a town in the plains 270 km away, visited us. They were part of a co-operative called ‘Uyir’---Life.

On the Health Programme front, Mala and Meera our health workers are busty at Melkowatty village. Around 20 women attend both the Income Generation programme training and the health Programme. The basic course having been covered, they are running the Advance Course which includes teaching massaging techniques and preparation of medicinal oils based on traditional recipes with value addition. The 3 month course teaching the women to knit, sew and other soft skills is over. We are having a base-survey done to facilitate a one-day health check-up camp. This is being organised by Earth Trust in association with a teaching hospital in Coimbatore.

We celebrated World Yoga Day in the Government school at Odaikadu on 21st June-the Summer Solstice. The total strength is around 68 children. The Middle-school, 6th to 8th standards has around 20 children. They participated in the celebrations. The Head-master and senior teachers could not match the children’s effortless bending and stretching!!These children are from the lowest economic strata.

Our shop- Earth Trust Organics is picking up and at 11 in the morning on our market days- Mondays and Thursday, there is frenzied activity—farmers bring in their produce, customers dropping in, consignments being packed and sent to our buyers in Chennai Calicut, Bangalore and sometimes even as far away as Mumbai.

We sign off for now. As soon as the photographs come in, we will send them.

Mar 29, 2016

Report for November 2015 to March 2016

Report for the Period November 2015 to March 2016 

This is the time of the year, mid- November to mid –February that the Badaga villages in the Nilgiri Mountains of South India host “Hubbas” – festivals. They celebrate their ‘Hethai’, - grandmother / Tribal ancestress who has seamlessly morphed into the Divine Feminine. The festivities are held in different villages at different times. In India, many of our gods and goddesses are comfortably anthropomorphic as well!

All this translates to staff taking leave and schedules going haywire. Nimmi our Project Director is generally in a tizzy trying to juggle people and timings around.

 

Changing climate is a reality, not just a buzz-phrase to include

For as long as the older folk in the villages remember, forest fires came and the grass lands underwent burning. Pastoralists point out that fire was an integral part of grassland regeneration. But for the last seventy-eighty years, the fires have been man-made. Over the last quarter of century, there seems to be a periodicity of three years between occurrences. The last one was in 2015 and the next one could be anticipated in 2018. But this year, we again had fires last month--------. This time, it was because some people had burnt forests to stop leopards from coming for their cattle. Because of strong wildlife protection laws, the leopard population has increased. Same stories worldwide, only latitudes and longitudes differ. There are no easy answers.

We at Earth Trust are looking to provide a tentative road map for the next decade which will factor in changing climate patterns combined with dwindling natural resources and political lethargy. Towards this end we have been talking to individuals who are concerned, can think ahead and anticipate. We hope these conversations will lead to many small-scale positive impacts which will cumulatively add up to comprehensive adaption to the effects of climate change. At the end of the day, a farmer wants to be paid, a Tribal person wants the freedom to gather and live as he has always done. Women want the security of a roof and meals for their families. Words like ‘Climate change’- an incontrovertible fact- have no relevance to them in the abstract. However they certainly observe and can relate to changes that are happening around them. It is Earth Trust’s responsibility to help counter worst-case scenarios with appropriate action. The challenge lies in eliciting a ‘what-next’ reaction and not an ‘OMG what shall we do?’ one.

 

Farming Programme

Changing and unpredictable weather patterns mean that traditional times and rhythms for sowing and harvesting that have been followed for generations do not work anymore. This again is a challenge for our Farming team. They have to constantly re-invent, customize and provide inputs to farmers.

Over these past years the numbers of farmers under the ET umbrella has grown. More and more of them want to be part of ET and Biogain- Biodynamic Organic Growers’ AssociationI In Nilgiris- a co-operative of farmers who follow our protocols for Organic/Natural farming. This is for 3 main reasons:

  • The credibility and dependability established by Earth Trust, thanks to Ms Orr, over the last 10 years,
  • Public awareness of the ill-effects of consuming chemically grown fruits and vegetables/produce, basically consuming poison, has increased due to efforts by both the medical fraternity and the media.
  • Neighbouring states like Kerala have been considering banning vegetables/fruits/produce from the Nilgiris because of very concentrated chemical residues.

To provide assured marketing support for our farmers, Earth Trust opened a new shop on the 4th of February 2016. (News article at http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/earth-trust-opens-organic-outlet/article8190684.ece). This is a big step forward. Nat and Mo—sounds like a vaudeville act!!—are two very bright sparks volunteering at the shop. They are International high school students at Lawrence School Lovedale, Ooty. Nat is from a farming background in Colorado and Mo is from Thailand. They are learning firsthand about all activities of ET.  Sale of Organic produce from 01.4.2014 to 31.03.2015   was: Rs.15, 86,410.00= 23,752.24 U.S. $.

 

The Central Government Horticultural Research Station (HRS) in Ooty (also affiliated with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore- the nearest big city in the plains) has approached us to collaborate on a Geographical Indicator Research Programme for ‘Malai Poondu’-hill garlic, specific to the Nilgiris.

 

On November 30th, 2015, Earth Trust was invited to participate in a programme conducted by BERAS (http://www.beras.eu/about-us) titled Western Ghats-Nilgiris Biosphere Regional Level Seminar on Ecological Regenerative Agriculture (ERA), Sustainable Food Societies(SFS) and Diet for a Green Planet-“Food from a living soil” We participated as these are all an integral part of the Earth Trust vision.

 

Health and IGP

November 2015 through March 2016, the Health programmes –primary health care –for women were in full swing in Bembatti and Ithallar villages. Our time-table for our programmes have to accommodate all the Hethai festivals. Earth Trust was invited to the Hethai festival at Bembatti held on the 11th and 12th of January. You can see our staff dancing with gay abandon with the locals. Our Health Team and IGP (Income Generation Programme) have started their three-month long training programmes for women in Melkowatty village. Both these programmes run in tandem, 2 days of Health training and 3 days of IGP training. The inauguration was a lively affair. There was an elderly woman in traditional attire in the front row, busily knitting away during all of the ceremonies—perfectly comfortable with herself!! She was a fitting example of IGP – optimal use of time and indirect savings. So much for speeches and lengthy soporific introductions!! All the older people were nostalgic about the taste of the food they ate as children.

 

Eco-club

Suresh of the Eco club and Nimmi our Project Director organized an awareness event in connection with ‘World Sparrow Day’ at Mountain Home School in Ooty. We had an inter-school competition where the participants had to create out of waste material an object that birds would use. Predictably, there were bird houses and feeders. The first prize was awarded to the entry which did not use any nails. The School Board Examinations for 19th and 12 standards are held during this time. So we have decided in future to create a Nilgiri Sparrow day that will not clash with exam timings. The usual rounds of visits to 14 Middle level Government schools are ongoing. The Blue Mountain School children were taken to Pillur dam and treated to a ride in a coracle- a country boat that is just a piece of leather over a frame.

 

Behind all the light-heartedness, the operational activities of Earth Trust continue. It is the end of the financial year for us. We are wrapping up accounts, collecting bills for expenses, hassling our staff for their reports so as to send a consolidated summary to you-Global Giving and to our other potential funders; preparing the schedule of all activities for April 1st 2016 to March 31st 2017. We have also let 3 of our staff go – lack of sustained funding being the mail reason. There is always another year ahead.

 
   

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