Empowering villages in Rural India

by Seva Mandir
Apr 6, 2011

You have trained people to discuss social issues

a village meeting
a village meeting

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Seva Mandir!!

I have three things to say before we talk about the project you are supporting.

One -we recently participated in a fund raising event on Global Giving UK. The challenge Top 10 wins challenge (1st to 14th March) required the participant projects to raise at least of £ 500 with minimum of 25 donors. Seva Mandir participated with its project “Improving Food Security for Tribal Farmers in India”. This project helps 5000 poor, marginalized farmers in rural Udaipur to have better crops and thus earn more money/food. This is done through a variety of programs including – seed bank program, using organic manure prepared with the help of earth worms (vermin-composting), growing cash crops like vegetables (preparing nurseries) for self sustenance and income generation. You would be very happy to note that this project raised £705 from 31 donors in the Top 10 Wins Challenge and therefore it won a bonus prize of £300. It is a perfect gift on this Holi for our farmers.

Secondly, on the 19th and 20th March we celebrated our festival Holi (festival of colors in India http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi). The festival is also a symbol of celebrating the harvest of winter crop in our region. This festival signifies the end of our winters and beginning of summer. March is also our financial year end and therefore it is wonderful to end our year with lots of support from people like you and having a good harvest at this Holi. And

Finally, this year, at this point of time, Seva Mandir is going through some change. Our ex Chief Executive Ms. Neelima Khetan has stepped down on March 31st. She has spent 25 years with Seva Mandir and the last twelve years as the Chief Executive. The organization excelled during her time and with her leadership marked a number of achievements. Though she has left us due to our constitutional norms, we are very happy to have her as our Trustee on Seva Mandir Board. Her continuing association with Seva Mandir is very assuring for all of us. 

Ms. Priyanka Singh has taken over as Chief Executive of Seva Mandir from April 2011. She has spent over thirteen years with Seva Mandir heading Education and Health program and leading Badgaon Block (a geographical unit for our work). She has a post graduate degree in rural development from the same institute as Ms. Khetan did. She is very capable and a great person to work with. With her deep understanding of issues in rural development and support from all our friends like you, we are very much looking forward to seeing Seva Mandir keep doing its good work in the next years to come. At this point of time, we all look for your continuous support and faith for many more years of working together.

My colleagues have shared with me a note on a village meeting for the project “Building Self Reliant Rural Communities” that you are supporting. I very much hope you will enjoy reading about it.

As you know this project encourages villages to work on various social, political and development issues. One of the strategies is to encourage communities to establishing norms once an issue has been identified. For example – it could be protecting the forests or overcoming the use of alcohol by introducing penalties or ensuring quality education by raising their concerns with the Government or avoiding spending more money on weddings (as a social obligation) etc.

The following incident is one such example where the local communities are attempting to establish norms to ensure ‘good’ for everyone in the society.

The tribal communities in our region are dependent on forest lands for their fodder and fuel wood needs. These forest lands are owned by the Government and therefore the villagers are only allowed to harvest grass and fruits but the felling of trees is strictly prohibited. The forest land also helps maintaining the social solidarity amongst villagers as it is a shared common property resource. Therefore protecting forests is pivotal in this region for all these various reasons.

In Alsigarh zone (big area spread in few km of radius) there has been illegal felling of trees for many years in a patch of forest that has been managed and protected by the villagers in collaboration with the Forest Department (under the Join Forest Management Scheme). The five leaders from village Peepalwas. Kheriya and Undri decided to resolve this issue. Therefore they had a meeting in January this year.

The people from Peepalwas village complained that the forest land is shared by all three villages and therefore it should be a joint responsibility of all these villages to protecting it. Since people from Peepalwas village are working towards protecting the forest but the other two villages are not helping in this process. Peepalwas demanded to resolve this issue as it has been pending since last four months and asked all villagers to follow the rule. The leaders suggested a financial penalty on the offenders after much discussion. They advised for a serious action for recurring offenders. Everyone agreed and decided to further this decision by discussing it with everyone in these villages in the next few weeks.

In addition to the aforementioned issues, the village elders also discussed how a villager’s financial status has been affected by recent high inflation rates. As a result of heavy expenditures on social obligations such as weddings and funerals the people fall into poverty. In weddings people are burdened by the additional expenses of serving alcohol. It does no good to the hosts and the guests. Weddings can be hard on a person’s financial condition because they have to incur such expenses as part of the social compulsions. The alcohol leads to health and social problems.

They also brainstormed on engaging nearby villagers on the same issue, so that this burdening norm could be checked. It was decided to stop serving alcohol during weddings in their villages and later engaging with other villages slowly on the same issue.

This meeting exemplifies changing mindsets of people over the years. It has been possible due to constant capacity building of villagers on various development issues and building awareness. This meeting quantifies the efforts put in by these communities for bringing about the social change.

Thank you so much for supporting this program. With your support these communities are raising concerns and dealing with social problems. These communities are sowing the seeds of ‘better future’ for all of us also by protecting the trees and forests.

We are grateful to your donation and hope to receive a continuous support from you in the future too. We hope that you will be able to visit/write to encourage our new team and leadership.

Happy Holi to you and your family from all of us here.

Warm Regards




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Organization Information

Seva Mandir

Location: Udaipur, Rajasthan - India
Website: http:/​/​www.sevamandir.org
Project Leader:
Priyanka Singh
Executive Director
Udaipur, Rajasthan India
$7,112 raised of $50,000 goal
93 donations
$42,888 to go
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