KEPPI WITH KALA
We at the Earth Trust have been in quiescent mode over the last 2 and a half months. We worked for three weeks in March of this year and since then we have been waiting. The Nilgiris have been relatively safe. The District Administrators closed all the roads coming up to the hills. Migrant labourers here were amongst the lucky ones, the tea estates and the contractors took care of them.
Our fields have been fallow by default. Which is of course good for them. No farm labourers, no vehicular movement. How does one prioritize between lives and livelihoods? We are indeed passing through and existential crisis moment in the history of our species.
Agricultural activities come under essential services. So we could function. But choose not to. The safety and health of our staff many of whom are single parents - women, came first.
The last village we went to was Kodhumudi. Such a bright bunch of enthusiastic and enterprising village women. We had started a project to teach them to do job-work for another NGO- in Coimbatore; it involved using bits of cloth, No- waste principle. The NGO had sent all their left over pieces. They are sitting here at home. We cannot conduct on-line teaching as many of the women do not have smart phones. But the few who do, learnt to make masks and taught others. We asked them to make masks for their village people and cover only costs. This is going to be the way ahead, inter-dependence and community living . As always it is the women who hold the whole fabric intact.
Our farmers have been calling us and telling us about elephants destroying their crops and produce going waste. The roads have been empty and animals feel safer encroaching. We could not take the risk of exposing our field staff. We have just started operations in very low-key mode.
As a small NGO, we are having trouble meeting our basic requirements as all available funds have been diverted to the Covid-19 requirements and rightly so.
Gowri a student from Madurai, interned with us for a month in February/ March. She had finished her first year of her Masters degree in Social Work (MSW), from The American College Madurai. She came she saw and she was conquered! She was brilliant with the school children of Iduhatty, teaching them about Solid-waste management. Not just the kids but the school teachers also enjoyed themselves !
Mukesh our techie turned organic farmer bought a native-breed cow. He named her Keppi after his grandmother who brought him up. Keppi had Kala, who was named after Mukesh's aunt !! The cow-dung of the native cows is far more potent for the soil and for preparing Panchakavya a soil micro-organism enhancer.
Ramani and her husband, - our farming couple from Gudalur brought their first Vanilla harvest- totally organic needless to say. Small events , but ones that keep us going.
Covid-19 has driven home the fact that safe food spells better immune systems. We are getting more and more enquiries from new customers. It will be a good 3 months before we settle down to a new rhythm.
What is a source of great concern is how to balance lives and livelihoods
SCHOOL KIDS AND SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
RAMANI'S NIMBLE FINGERS HELPING THE VANILLA PLANT
MODELLING HER MASK, RITA FROM MELKOWHATTI